Amir Khan to face Terence Crawford on April 20 at MSG
By Mike Smith: In huge news that is still developing, Amir Khan (33-4, 20 KOs) will be challenging WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) for his title on April 20 at Madison Square Garden, in New York, according to Boxingego. It’s still not official that Crawford will be defending against Khan. Until Top Rank makes the announcement for the fight, boxing fans still need to take this as just a rumor.
This is an interesting fight. Since Crawford is the champion, and his management at Top Rank are the ones with the money offer for Khan, it means this fight is going to be on ESPN PPV, and not on SHOWTIME or FOX.
Crawford defending against Khan is a huge, huge fight for the boxing public, even though it’s not necessarily the best fighting the best at 147. Errol Spence Jr. is considered to be the top guy at 147 right now. Crawford is a newcomer at welterweight, and he’s got a lot to prove still.
Earlier on Friday, ESPN reported that Crawford’s promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank revealed that he’ll be fighting on April 20 in a “very interesting” fight. Arum says the negotiations are close to being finalized. However, he didn’t want to reveal the name of the opponent, but Khan’s name was mentioned by ESPN as the guy that Crawford will likely be facing next if the negotiations are finalized.
Khan hasn’t done anything to earn a title shot against WBO champion Crawford. Khan struggled in his last fight against Samuel Vargas, and before that he beat a journeyman in Phil Lo Greco. Khan hasn’t beaten anyone talented enough for you to say that he deserves a title shot right now. Khan is ranked #4 WBO, #5 WBA and #8 WBC. This will be a voluntary defense for Crawford. It would have been nice to see Khan beat a good contender or two at 147 to earn a title shot against Crawford, but that’s not happening. There would be too much risk involved right now if Khan were to face a good quality contender at welterweight like Josh Kelly, Egidijus Kavaliauskas, Kerman Lejarraga or Kudratillo Abdukakhorov. That’s not say that Khan couldn’t beat those guys, but it wouldn’t be easy. He could lose to one or even all of those fighters. That goes back to the belief that Khan doesn’t deserve the title shot, given that his two wins over Lo Greco and Vargas were against lesser opposition in what were supposed to be showcase fights.
If the Crawford-Khan fight takes place on April 20, it won’t be a good deal for Khan’s Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who had been hoping that Amir would face Kell Brook (38-2, 26 KOs) next in a large stadium fight in March or April in the UK. Hearn says there’s more money for Khan to make fighting Brook, 32, than there is for him to fight Crawford. Khan is rumored to be getting $3 million for the Crawford fight. This is on top of what could be $10 million to fight Brook. If Khan just takes the Brook fight, he would get the $10 million, but he wouldn’t make the extra cash from fighting Crawford. A loss for Khan against Brook would make it pretty much impossible for him to face Crawford, as Top Rank would likely be interested in giving him big money with him coming off of a loss. If it was a sure thing that Khan could beat Brook, then it would be no big deal for him to fight him first followed by Crawford, but appears Amir lacks the confidence to take that risky fight first. Eddie Hearn is going to be an unhappy camper once he hears from Khan that he plans on fighting Crawford next instead of Brook.
Where does this leave Kell Brook?
Khan choosing to take the fight with Crawford leaves Brook out to dry, putting him in a position where he may be forced to face the lion’s in the 154 pound division. It’s no secret that WBC junior middleweight champion Tony Harrison and unified IBF/WBA champion Jarrett Hurd are both VERY interested in facing Brook. They’ve basically offered to give Brook an immediate title shot. Jermell Charlo, before he lost his WBC 154 lb title to Harrison December 22, was also offering Brook a title shot. All these champions want to give Brook a crack at their titles, and he’s shown no desire to fight any of them. Brook was previously able to ignore those challenges due to him taking two tune-ups to get ready for the cash out against Khan. That was the whole idea behind Brook facing his last two opponents Sergey Rabchenko and Michael Zerafa. Khan had his own two soft touch tune-up fights against Phil Lo Greco and Samuel Vargas. After those fights, Khan and Brook were supposed to face each other in the first quarter of 2019. But unfortunately for Brook and Hearn, Khan has changed the script by electing to take the fight with Crawford instead. You must imagine that Hearn has to feel a little bit betrayed right about now, as he signed Khan with the belief that he was going to match him against Brook in a big money fight. The Khan vs. Brook fight will still happen, but it might be under less desirable circumstances than if the fight were to take place now with both guys having won their last two fights. If Khan gets sparked out by Crawford, the Khan-Brook fight suddenly will be seen in a different light by the boxing public in the United Kingdom.
It sure looks like Khan doesn’t fancy the fight with Brook. But it appears that Khan is going to safe the Brook fight until he’s ready to cash out for one last payday. It’s so obvious what Khan is doing in swerving the Brook fight until the end of his career. It’s too bad. The fans would prefer to see Khan fight Brook now rather than waste time facing Crawford, and likely losing to him.
Khan, 32, was out of the ring for two years after suffering a vicious sixth round knockout loss to Saul Canelo Alvarez in May 2016. Last April, Khan returned to the ring and destroyed journeyman Phil Lo Greco in the first round in a fight that was over in thirty nine seconds. In Khan’s second fight of his comeback against fringe contender Samuel Vargas, he was knocked down in the second round, and struggled the rest of the way in beating him by an unimpressive 12 round unanimous decision last September. Although Khan won the fight by the scores 119-109, 118-110 and 119-108, it was a poor effort from him.
Crawford, 31, is a very talented fighter, but one that is watching his career fly by without getting the big fights that he deserves. Crawford has been a pro for 11 years now, and he’s still been involved in a huge fight. Khan is hardly a big fight, but it’s a huge one for Crawford, whose best opponent to date is Yuriorkis Gamboa. Crawford unified the light welterweight division recently, but he won his four titles during an especially weak period in the weight class. Crawford won his four titles by beating these guys: Thomas Dulorme, Julius Indongo and Viktor Postol. None of those guys are major players at 140 today. This might be as good it gets for Crawford if he’s able to fight Khan. You hate to say it, but Crawford might not ever get a better fighter than Khan for him to face in what’s left of his pro career. Crawford is with Top Rank, and they don’t do a lot of business with Al Haymon, the manager that has many of the best fighters with him. Khan wants the fight with Crawford badly enough to cross the pond to take it, but he’s a special case. The other Haymon fighters compete on FOX and SHOWTIME. Perhaps if enough noise is made about the Crawford-Khan fight, it could lead to some of Haymon’s other fighters (Errol Spence, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, Adrien Broner and Manny Pacquiao) electing to face Crawford. It’s extremely doubtful that’ll happen. Most likely, this will be the first and last big fight for Crawford unless he moves up to 154 or 160, and puts himself at the mercy of the bigger fighters in those weight classes.
If Crawford-Khan doesn’t take place, then Top Rank boss Bob Arum will likely match Crawford against Egidijus Kavaliauskas, Luis Collazo or Mike Alvarado. Yes, believe it or not, Alvarado and Collazo have been mentioned as potential options for Crawford, which is scary. It just shows how bleak things are right now for Crawford when it comes to opposition. That’s why this could be the first and last big fight for Crawford unless he gets lucky and some of Haymon’s fighters chose to fight him. The network issues makes it highly improbable that any of Haymon’s fighters will choose to cross the pond to face Crawford.
Crawford vs. Khan: Is this worthy of PPV?
Matching an unpopular champion in Crawford against a fighter that the U.S casual boxing fans are unfamilar with for a PPV fight on ESPN would seem like a recipe for disaster. It’s not a PPV worthy fight in this writer’s estimation. Whatever shine Khan had on his career is now gone. His career has gone belly up since his losses to Lamont Peterson in 2011 and Danny Garcia in 2012. Everything that’s happened with Khan’s career since then has been like a bad dream. Khan has been taking tune-ups largely for the last six years, and the only elite fighter that he’s faced during that time was Saul Canelo Alvarez, who knocked him cold in the sixth round in 2016. Top Rank throwing a ton of money at Khan to get him to fight Crawford might not workout the way they hope. Top Rank is obviously thinking that Crawford vs. Khan will bring in a lot of pay-per-view buys on ESPN. It probably wont’t for the reasons this writer has given. Crawford isn’t popular outside of Nebraska, and Khan is little more than an aging over-the-hill fighter, who spends a lot of his time traveling the world in extended vacations and not fighting.
The reason why Khan has been so inactive since 2013 isn’t due to injury problems. It’s because Khan takes so many vacations. He’s more busy enjoying himself than he is in training and staying busy fighting. Like any profession, if you treat your job in a part-time manner, you’re not going to do as well as the people that live and breath their jobs. It’s unclear whether Crawford fits that category, but it doesn’t matter. He’s less flawed that Khan, and he’s been busier with his career. Given the dismal options for Crawford against the likes of Collazo, Alvarado and Kavaliauskas, Khan is world’s better in terms of bringing in a few PPV buys. Crawford vs. Khan is still a very poor fight for PPV. It’s too late in Khan’s career to be fighting on PPV, and he’s never been a popular fighter in the United States. Khan was on his way to becoming a star in the U.S in 2010, but his loses to Peterson and Garcia wrecked things. Khan probably would have been knocked out by Marcos Maidana in their fight in December 2010 if referee Joe Cortez hadn’t inserted himself into the fight in the tenth round after Amir was badly and on the verge of being stopped. Cortez was pulling Maidana off of Khan while he was trying to finish him. It looked very strange the way the tenth round played out with Cortez getting in between Maidana while he was trying to finish Khan.