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Terence Crawford signs multi-year deal with Top Rank, faces Benavidez on Oct.13

Terence Crawford

By Chris Williams: WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford has reportedly signed a multi-year deal with his promoters at Top Rank. Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) is extending his existing contract with the promotional company.

The new deal for Crawford is said to be highly lucrative, according to his trainer Brian McIntyre to ESPN. Crawford has captured world titles at 135, 140 and 147. He recently won the WBO 147 pound title in defeating Jeff Horn by a 9th round knockout last June. Horn is also promoted by Top Rank, so it was an easy fight to make.

Unfortunately, this is a move that could greatly limit the 30-year-old Crawford’s ability to fight the other top welterweights in the division, as they’re signed with different management and fight on different networks. Crawford fights exclusively on ESPN, and that will continue to be the case. His fights are now often streamed on ESPN+. That’s the app that boxing fans pay $5 per month to subscribe to. Crawford believes all the top welterweights will eventually face him, but that could be a mere dream for him.

Crawford has been a pro for 10 years and he’s yet to be involved in a major fight. Up to now, Crawfords biggest career fights were against Ricky Burns, Raymundo Beltran, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Viktor Postol, Felix Diaz and John Molina. In other words, Crawford has never been involved in a major fight against a big name opponent during his career, and that will likely continue to be the case.

If Crawford stays with Top Rank his entire career, it’ll be interesting to see if he ever faces a big name fighter. 10 years has flown by in lighting speed for Crawford during his boxing career, and he’s still never fought anyone. You have to imagine that the next 10 years could fly by just as fast for Crawford without him facing a star fighter. By that time, Crawford will be 40-years-old and likely over-the-hill.

If the best that Crawford can hope for is to fight the no name contenders in the WBO’s rankings, it would be disappointing. A smarter move for Crawford would be for him to vacate his WBO welterweight title and then look to get ranked high by the IBF and WBC in order to force a fight against the likes of Spence, Danny Garcia or Shawn Porter. Those are he fights that Crawford needs to become a star, but they’re not likely ever going to happen due to the politics of boxing.

”I am the best fighter in the world, hands down,” Crawford said via ABC News. ”Top Rank is the biggest promotional company in boxing. This was a no-brainer for me and for my team. All of the super fights that the world wants to see will happen. Mark my words. Like I’ve seen before, I want all the champions in the welterweight division,” Crawford said.

Crawford wants to fight the top welterweights Errol Spence Jr., Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, Amir Khan and Keith Thurman. However, those fighters are with manager Al Haymon, who rarely works with Top Rank, and they fight on Premier Boxing Champions on Showtime as well as Fox and Fox Deportes.

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Crawford’s promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank says he’s going to continue with his efforts to make a star out of the Nebraska native. Crawford’s next fight will be against fellow Top Rank fighter Jose Benavidez (27-0, 18 KOs) on October 13 in Omaha, Nebraska. That’s not a big fight. It’s another level one for Crawford despite Benavidez having a flashy 27-0 record. His wins have come against poor opposition for the most part, and not against Haymon’s talented welterweights.

Crawford-Benavidez won’t attract much interest from the boxing public, especially if it’s not on regular ESPN. You can argue that it’s still too early for Crawford’s fights to be shown on ESPN+, because he doesn’t have a large fan base outside of Nebraska. One reason for that is the lesser opposition that he’s been facing during his career. Crawford needs to be put in with the likes of Spence, Danny Garcia, Porter, Amir Khan and Thurman, but that doesn’t look like that’s going to be happening anytime soon if ever.

According to Dan Rafael, Crawford’s minimum purses for his fights nowadays are more than $3 million per fight.

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Rafael and McIntyre believe that Crawford will turn into a huge star, but that not ever happen without being able to fight the high profile welterweights that aren’t signed to Top Rank. Crawford is a counter puncher, who frequently moves around the ring, changes stances constantly and focuses mostly on boxing his opponents. Counter punchers aren’t typically thrilling to watch, especially when they’re moving around the ring and focusing more on showboating than slugging. Arum did well when he had all action fighter Manny Pacquiao signed to his Top Rank promotional company for many years. However, Pacquiao is old at 39 and no longer the thrilling fighter that he once was. Arum needs a replacement for Pacquiao in terms of pay-per-view potential, but Crawford hasn’t been able to step into the Filipino’s large shoes to become the star for the promotional company that he once was. The combination of Crawford’s fighting style and Top Rank’s likely inability to match him against Haymon’s top fighters may ultimately hurt his growth as a fighter. Crawford will still be a good fighter even if he never faces Khan, Thurman, Porter, Spence or Danny Garcia. It in fact could be better for Crawford that he doesn’t fight Spence, Thurman and Porter because he could lose to them. Those guys can fight and they would give Crawford a lot of problems with their punching power and pressure fighting.

Crawford’s fight against the 26-year-old Benavidez was announced on Thursday. Arum is excited about his Top Rank match between the two fighters. However, Benavidez will likely be badly over-matched against Crawford, and it could be one of his less interesting fights to watch due to the lack of competitiveness. Benavidez has fought only one good opponent during his eight-year pro career and that was against Mauricio Herrera, who he beat by a questionable 12 round unanimous decision in 2014. Herrera to win the fight by four rounds against the Top Rank promoted Benavidez, but the judges gave Benavidez the victory. Benavidez has looked better in beating five journeyman fighters that his promoters have matched him against. There hasn’t been any good opponents put in with Benavidez since his close call against Herrera, but that’s understandable because he looked so poor in that fight.

”The Crawford-Benavidez fight is an old-time grudge match,” Arum said. ”These are two elite fighters who don’t care for each other, to put it mildly. They will battle each other at a fever pitch. I can’t wait to watch the action.”

I wouldn’t say that both fighters are elite level. Crawford is elite, but Benavidez is more of a bottom fringe contender level fighter in terms of talent. Benavidez was beaten by journeyman Herrera in his only decent fight of his career, and he’s matched against nothing but poor opposition since then. As such, you can’t call Benavidez an elite level fighter. Benavidez is rated #1 WBA and #14 by the WBO, but he hasn’t beaten anyone good to receive those rankings other than his controversial win over journeyman Mauricio Herrera. Benavidez’s younger brother is David Benavidez, who holds the WBO super middleweight title.

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