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Tererence Crawford: Who’s next for him?

Amir Khan Terence Crawford

By Mike Smith: Terence Crawford did what boxing experts expected him to do last weekend in dispatching an over-the-hill, inactive former light welterweight champion Amir Khan in six one-sided rounds at Madison Square Garden in New York. The fight was a mismatch the moment Crawford’s promoters at Top Rank signed the past his prime Khan (33-5, 20 KOs) for the fight.

The bettors had WBO welterweight champion Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) as a tremendous favorite going into the fight last Saturday, and he proved them right by toying with Khan and sending him down to defeat with a low blow in the sixth. Some think Khan quit. It doesn’t matter now. Khan’s trainer Virgil Hunter didn’t want the fight to continue, so it was stopped 30 seconds after the low blow from Crawford. The only surprise in the fight was the way it ended.

The future options for Crawford would seem to be good, but not great obviously. With Top Rank not being able to setup fights with the talented welterweights from Premier Boxing Champions, it limits the options for Crawford. Yeah, he still is ranked highly with Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound rating at #2, and he still holds the WBO welterweight belt, but those things are meaningless with the casual boxing fans. They only care about seeing excellent fights involving talented guys that they follow. Khan hasn’t been an attraction in the U.S in eons, and never really was a big draw, which made an odd choice by Top Rank for Crawford. They chose a guy whose best days were behind him 2,500 yesterday’s ago. Khan hasn’t been a factor in boxing since his loss to Danny Garcia in 2012, and that was seven years ago.

Here are the REAL options for Crawford’s next fight:

Kell Brook: This is easily the best option for Crawford’s next fight. Brook (38-2, 26 KOs) wants the fight with Crawford, and he’s a fighter that would bring money from the UK via Sky Sports Box Office PPV. There’s money for Crawford and Top Rank to make from using Brook as an opponent. Although Brook’s career has tanked as a result of him quitting after suffering eye injuries in his fights against Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence Jr., he’s still a former IBF welterweight champion and well known among the casual boxing fans in the United States. Brook beat Shawn Porter by a 12 round decision in 2014, albeit a controversial bout that was filled with constant holding from the British fighter. Brook is a BIG upgrade from Khan in the talent and punching power department. He’s also a guy that would have a chance of beating Crawford. There might be some hesitation on Top Rank’s part in making this match, because isn’t a guaranteed win for Crawford. This would be an actual opponent that possibly beat him. It would depend on how well conditioned Brook is, and whether he’s weight drained from getting down to the 147 pound weigh-in limit for the fight. Brook hasn’t fought at welterweight for two years since his 11th round knockout loss to Errol Spence Jr. in May 2017. He’s been fighting at 154 for the last two years, and not staying all that active. His two fights at 154 were against over-matched opposition in Michael Zerafa and Sergey Rabchenko. Brook initially said he was going to take over the 154 pound division when he moved up in weight. He’s not done that. He’s been coasting, and looking like he lacks direction and an ambition.

Luis Collazo: The 38-year-old former WBA World welterweight champion Collazo (39-7, 20 KOs) is the guy that Top Rank Boxing had originally planned on matching Crawford up with for his April 20 fight date on ESPN. When Crawford rejected that fight, Top Rank was able to get Khan to agree to take it after offering him a whopping $5 million purse. Now that Khan has been wiped out, Top Rank will likely turn their attention back to the New Yorker Collazo, unless Crawford still has no interest in fighting him. Collazo is about as bad an opponent for Crawford as his recent past opponents Khan, Jose Benavidez Jr., Jeff Horn and Julius Indongo. It won’t increase Crawford’s popularity by fighting Collazo, but it’ll at least be consistent with the type of opposition that Top Rank has been matching him against. Collazo has a three fight winning streak in the last three years in beating Samuel Vargas, Bryant Perrella and Sammy Vasquez. The last time Collazo fought an elite level fighter in Keith Thurman in July 2015, he was stopped in the seventh round. Collazo did have his moments earlier in the fight in almost dropping Thurman with a body shot. But once Thurman got warmed up, he thrashed Collazo until the fight had to be stopped. Khan defeated Collazo by a one-sided 12 round decision in May 2014. It might be difficult for Crawford to get motivated to fight Collazo when he realizes he’s been soundly beaten by Khan and Thurman in the past. But if this is all Top Rank has for Crawford, then he might not have a choice but to take the fight. This is in keeping with the type of fighters Crawford has been matched against since he signed on with Top Rank many years ago. He’s been matched against a lot of B-level fighters, and for some reason, Top Rank hasn’t put him in with the elite level guys. For example, at light welterweight, Crawford never fought Regis Prograis, Josh Taylor, Maurice Hooker, Kiryl Relikh, Jose Ramirez or Ivan Baranchyk. At 147, Crawford hasn’t the talented guys in Spence, Thurman, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter or Manny Pacquiao.

Egidijus Kavaliauskas: This guy is Crawford’s #1 ranked contender with the World Boxing Organization, and he’s promoted by Top Rank. If nothing else, Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs) has a pretty good chance of getting the fight against Crawford for those reasons. Nicknamed the, “Mean Machine,” Kavaliauskas, 30, looked terrible in his last fight against Ray Robinson on March 30 in Philadelphia in fighting to a 10 round draw. Kavaliauskas was exposed by Robinson in that fight, and he was lucky not to have been given a loss. You can argue that Kavaliauskas deserved to lose to Robinson in that fight, but he came into the match as the A-side fighter and that obviously means a lot in boxing. Kavaliauskas wasn’t supposed to lose, so him getting a draw was for all intents and purposes a loss. It sure looked like Kavaliauskas lost the fight. The judges scored it as a draw, but it looked like a gift draw. This would be a BAD option for Crawford to fight, considering that he’s coming off of a draw. However, the casual boxing fans likely won’t be aware of Kavaliauskas’s last performance, and it’s possible that Top Rank and ESPN and can build up a Crawford-Kavaliauskas and sell it to the casual fans the way they did with the Crawford-Khan mismatch. It’ll be a lot harder for Top Rank and ESPN to build a fight between Crawford and Kavaliauskas, because the Latvian fighter is a complete unknown with U.S fans. Khan at least had been fighting in the U.S since 2010, and was a former two-time world champion. Khan had been involved in fights against Saul Canelo Alvarez, Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson, Collazo, Paulie Malignaggi, Marcos Maidana, Breidis Prescott, Chris Algieri, Marcos Maidana, Devon Alexander and Samuel Vargas. The only fights that Kavaliauskas has under his belt against recognizable opposition was against David Avanesysan and Ray Robinson. Kavaliauskas stopped Avanesyan in the sixth round in February of last year, and then beat Juan Carlos Abreu and Roberto Arriaza. Top Rank should have pulled the trigger on the Crawford vs. Kavaliauskas fight after the Arriaza fight rather than letting the Latvian fighter face a talented guy in Robinson and get exposed. It was clear from watching Kavaliauskas’ fights before he met up with Robinson that he was a flawed with fighter that was going to lose once Top Rank matched him against someone with reasonably good boxing skills. It’s not a surprise that Robinson made Kavaliauskas look like he had two left feet, and it’s also not a surprise that Robinson wasn’t given a win.

Jessie Vargas: Former two division world champions Vargas (28-2-2, 10 KOs) would be a long shot for a fight against Crawford, because he’s already scheduled to face 38-year-old former two division world champion Humberto Soto (69-9-2, 37 KOs) this Friday, April 26 on DAZN on a Matchroom Boxing card on DAZN at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Vargas, 29, recently signed with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom USA promotional company, and he’s big ideas of rejuvenating his career. Matching him a much smaller, and older 38-year-old Soto in a catch-weight fight at 151 is part of Hearn’s plans of getting Vargas ready for a world title shot against WBO junior middleweight champion Jaime Munguia for later this year. Top Rank will have a hard time getting Vargas and Matchroom to alter their plans and take a fight against Crawford next. It’s definitely possible that Top Rank can lure Vargas into taking the fight with Crawford, but it might require that they throw crazy money at him like the $5 million they gave to Khan. Would Top Rank give Vargas that much to fight Crawford? It’s to imagine that they would. Vargas hasn’t won a fight in two years since his victory over journeyman Aaron Herrera in 2017. Vargas’ last two fights have resulted in 12 round draws against Thomas Dulorme and Adrien Broner. Vargas might even lose to Soto.

If Top Rank wants a good opponent for Crawford that will increase his popularity, they might need to try and either have someone like Jose Ramirez come up from 140 to face him or he might need to move up to 154, and try and get a fight against the likes of Erislandy Lara. Jarrett Hurd, Tony Harrison and Jermell Charlo are all busy. Golden Boy likely would never match Munguia against Crawford, especially after the Mexican KO artist’s last fight against Dennis Hogan. Lara would seem like the best option for Crawford.

Few boxing fans figured that Crawford would win by a low block knockout. They thought he would knock him out in a normal manner. Whatever the case, Crawford and Khan both came out of the ring the worse for wear, with neither distinguishing themselves in the contest. It’s never a good thing for a fighter to win on a low knockout in a fight shown pay-per-view. For the many boxing fans that paid $70 to see Crawford defeat Khan, they’re not happy with the way it ended. This wasn’t Golovkin-esque from Crawford. Crawford was well up on the scorecards at the time of his low blow knockout of Khan. The judges had Crawford winning by the scores 49-45, 50-44 and 49-45. The way the fight was going, Khan would have needed a knockout to win, and it didn’t look like he was going to last long enough for him to accomplish that task. Crawford isn’t a blow type of fighter, so hopefully this isn’t going to be something that becomes habitual with career. If so, then we could soon see him getting disqualified rather than being given wins for low-blowing his opponents into submission. Andrew Golota was twice disqualified for throwing low blows in his two fights against Riddick Bowe in 1996. Is Crawford heading in that direction? We’ll soon see.

It was bad that Top Rank signed Khan, 32, as Crawford’s opponent for the fight, and it was far, far worse that they decided to put the mismatch on ESPN pay-per-view with an asking price of $70. In this day and age with streaming services DAZN and ESPN+, which routinely put on great fights at an excellent price, it was mind-boggling that Top Rank would make the bizarre decision to match Crawford against an arguably shot to pieces Khan, and then put the mismatch on ESPN PPV at an asking price of $70. Then to make matters worse, Crawford’s normally superb accuracy went haywire suddenly in the sixth round with him landing a shot that was almost a foot low.

Throwing a low blow is one thing, but Crawford was so far from the belt line with that shot, it makes you wonder if he had his eyes closed when he threw the shot. Crawford trowing a low blow against a guy like Khan, that was already getting dominated, and had no business being in the fight in the first place, was bad news. You’ve already got the guy beat the moment the contract was signed. Why a low blow? The boxing fans were upside with the ending of the Crawford vs. Khan fight, as well they should be, given that they’d paid $70 to see this mismatch. The co-feature fight between unbeaten lightweight contender Teofimo Lopez (13-0, 11 KOs) against an over-matched Edis Tatli (31-3, 10 Kos) wasn’t any better. That was a total mismatch, and hard to watch. Unbeaten prospect Shakur Stevenson (11-0, 6 KOs) was involved in a one-sided contest of his own on the Crawford-Khan undercard with him dominating Christopher ” Pitufo” Diaz (24-2, 16 KOs) by a one-sided 10 round unanimous decision by the scores 100-90, 99-91 and 98-92. It was three mismatches on last Saturday’s ESPN PPV card headlined by Crawford vs. Khan. The fans were ready for a good fight after seeing two one-sided fights involving Teofimo and Shakur Stevenson on the undercard. Unfortunately, Crawford-Khan failed to deliver, and it turned out to be an eyesore.

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