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Arum wants Errol Spence Jr. vs. Terence Crawford fight in 2019

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Errol Spence Jr Terence Crawford

By Chris Williams: Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is counting on the interest in a fight between former unified light welterweight champion Terence Crawford and IBF 147 lb. champion Errol Spence Jr. to build slowly over time to where it’s a big fight for the boxing public. Arum thinks the Spence-Crawford fight will be big by 2019.

The 86-year-old Arum figures the interest from fans in a fight between Spence (23-0, 20 KOs) and Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs) will have increased by next year. With Crawford fighting on ESPN and Spence building his fan base on Showtime Boxing, Arum sees a fight between them being a big affair in a year from now. Arum is also interested in matching Crawford against unbeaten WBA/WBC welterweight champion Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman. However, Crawford likely will need to wait until after Spence has fought Thurman for him to get a shot at fighting the Florida native. That could mean that a fight between Crawford and Thurman might not happen until 2020 or 2021. Thurman wants to use the entire 2018 as a “get back year,” and it’s anyone’s guess what he’ll do if he loses to Spence in 2019. For all we know, Thurman might react in a same way by choosing to use 2020 as a “get back year” with him taking easy fights. That means Crawford might have to wait until 2021 to fight Thurman if the fight can even be made.

Arum said this to RingTV.com about a Spence vs. Crawford fight in the future:

“A fight, maybe a year from now, that everybody will want to see – it will be a big pay-per-view fight – is Terence and Spence. It’ll be bigger in a year. Would I like Terence to fight [Keith] Thurman? Yeah, sure. So we’ll see.”

To have Crawford’s fan base built up, he’ll need to fight on regular ESPN, not PPV. He’ll also need to be put in compelling fights against fighters that the boxing fans want to see him fight. That means he needs to face guys like Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Amir Khan and Adrien Broner. Unfortunately, those are fights that have almost no chance of being made. Crawford is not going to be fighting any of those fighters anytime soon if ever. It’s more likely that if Crawford beats Horn to become the WBO welterweight champion, Arum will match him against his Top Rank fighters initially in Konstantin Ponomarev, Manny Pacquiao and Jose Benavidez.

Whether Pacquiao will agree to being a stepping stone for Crawford is the big question. It’s a horrible way for Pacquiao’s career to end with him being fed to Crawford or Vasyl Lomachenko, but this is what happens when you stay around too long. You potentially are matched against up and comers and become food for them. If those guys stay around the sport long enough for them to get old, you can bet they’ll be in the same position Pacquiao is in now in being put in with younger guys to help build them into stars. Crawford will gain nothing from fighting those little known guys in terms of building his brand. After Arum has matched Crawford against all available Top Rank guys, then he’ll likely be matched against the likes of Bradley Skeete and other obscure contenders in the World Boxing Organization’s top 15 rankings. Crawford will not become transformed into a star by beating up little known fighters unfortunately. That’s the entire problem that Crawford and Arum has. For Crawford to become a star, he needs to fight well-known fighters on regular ESPN.

Since Arum only has 1 fighter that is known that he can possibly feed to Crawford in Pacquiao, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll ever be turned into a PPV star or even have his popularity increased. Some fighters never make the jump to PPV, and Crawford it seems be one of those guys. That doesn’t mean that Crawford won’t pull in good ratings on free television on ESPN. Depending on how Crawford fights, he could bring in good ratings on a consistent basis. However, Crawford will have to stop counter punching as much and stop running around the ring like we’ve seen from him in the past. He’ll need to be a more fan friendly fighter by going after his opponents like we saw in his last fight against Julius Indongo. If Crawford can fight like that every time he performs, he’ll increase his fans in the boxing world. Arum will of course need to match Crawford against well-known opposition to help build his brand. The fans aren’t going to be impressed if they see Crawford fighting unknown guys each time he fights.

Crawford is fighting WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn on April 14 on ESPN pay-per-view at Madison Square Garden in New York. Crawford will likely be a big favorite to beat the 29-year-old Horn. Arum’s decision to make Crawford vs. Horn a PPV fight card means that fewer boxing fans are going to see the match, because neither of these guys are stars. Arum is sticking Manny Pacquiao on the undercard fighting Mike Alvarado, but that fight is not going to pull in many PPV buys. It’s a bad match-up. You would have to believe it was Arum’s idea to make Pacquiao-Alvarado, because that’s not a fight that too many promoters in this day and age would likely make for a PPV card. It’s a rotten fight if you get boxing fans to purchase the Crawford vs. Horn card on ESPN PPV.

Arum put Crawford on HBO PPV in the past in matching him against Viktor Postol in 2016. The fight did horrible results on PPV. The outcome of that fight showed that Crawford is light years away from becoming a PPV star. Putting Crawford on ESPN PPV against Jeff Horn isn’t going to help make the Nebraska native a bigger star, because so few boxing fans will wind up seeing the fight. Casual fans are not going to want to pay to see a non-star in Crawford face an obscure fighter like Horn, and they, of course, will have zero interest in paying to see an over-the-hill 39-year-old Pacquiao fight a shot 37-year-old former WBO light welterweight champion Alvarado. The card will be invisible to a lot of fans. It’ll be as if Crawford never fought at all. Instead of having the Crawford vs. Horn fight on ESPN PPV, Arum should have it on regular non-PPV. Arum is putting the card before the horse in trying to turn Crawford into a star. To build a fighter into a star, you first have to let them be seen on regular cable. Once the boxing fans are hooked, then you start charging them to see Crawford. Arum is doing it the opposite way around, and it’s doomed to failure. The whole idea behind having Crawford-Horn and Pacquiao-Alvarado on ESPN PPV seems like a confusing mess. I’m surprised Arum would even make this move.

I don’t have much faith that Arum is going to match Crawford against the right opposition and use the right platform to turn him into a big enough star for a fight between him and Spence to be a mega-fight by 2019 or even 2020. If Arum is going to have Crawford fighting on ESPN PPV from now on regardless of who he’s facing, the fights are going to be seen by very few boxing fans. Unlike HBO PPV, there might not be a replay of the ESPN PPV cards on regular ESPN a week later. That means the only people that will see Crawford’s fights on ESPN PPV are the ones that order them. I can’t see Crawford’s popularity rising with him on PPV fighting obscure fighters the casual boxing fans have never heard of.




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