Is Terence Crawford THE best boxer? The Big Bud Roundup.
The added significance of Crawford's win for future fighters. A Simpson's reference, Michael Mann's Heat, holiday snaps and Britney Spears all feature.
While many of the mega fights and all-time classics are looked back upon fondly for their competitiveness, last week’s match-ups of multi-belt significance were nothing short of one-sided annihilations. Rivalries are the foundation of great careers in this sport and no matter who you wanted to prevail, the resounding expectation for Spence v Crawford was that we would all witness another grueling back-and-forth contest.
The outcome was very different. It somehow didn't have the same sting as a shut-out or the elation of an upset. There was an answer to a long-established question, but receiving it didn't grant the same spark of satisfaction. It was somehow neither predictable, entirely unexpected nor disappointing. For a sport that often deals with such vagueness and uncertainty outside of the ring, Crawford's victory inside of it was shockingly definitive. The online community is in a palpable state of disbelief. With most threads and discussions reeking of disbelief. Then there's this:
Finally, some sense.
Although a whole other post should be reserved for Naoya Inoue - who became a four-division world champion and the first Japanese fighter to ever be ranked No.1 P4P in history. His position at the top of the mountain was short-lived. Only a matter of days later Terence Crawford was nothing short of spectacular in his di-Spence-ing of Errol Spence. (Heh heh)
The last part of the puzzle for Crawford's career was a worthy adversary. Although Errol only managed to present this on paper, the profile of the fight and the performance put 'Bud' on an entirely different level. Beating a top-10 fighter in every facet of his game. Nullifying Spence's speed, effortlessly outmaneuvering him, taking away his famed jab, snatching his bodywork and even on the inside (where even Crawford supporters were certain Errol would be stronger) he was out-muscled and out-gunned. Picked apart and made to look worlds apart in ability.
“All in all, I get to say I told y’all, because I been asking for these fights for years and y’all been saying he's too small, he's gunna get this, he's gunna get broken… and each and every time I stepped up I proved y’all wrong.
So… write some great stories about Terence Crawford, don't say nothing negative, just give me my props” - The great Crawford Post-Fight
This was not a good week for the purist boxing fan, those who spent the build-up of both unification fights harping on about flawless fundamentals overcoming flashiness. Surely a reliance on god-like reflexes, unsustainable speed, and unpredictability would run into a timely lesson? Spence's foundation is built on solid ABCs. But the previously perfect pugilist came brutally unstuck when his brilliant basics ran into elite athleticism. Terence was utterly flawless.
The blame game
Although they can play a decisive factor, and due to their proximity to the fighter, it’s easy to focus fault on a corner. Derrick James has ultimately become a scapegoat for many people's incorrect predictions. Sometimes even the best trainers can be helpless. Sometimes even the best get it wrong. (Here's me previously getting it so, so wrong).
Put yourself in James’ shoes. From the 2nd round onwards his full focus was to compose his fighter, shakey after an unprecedented knockdown. Errol was hurt multiple times between then and the stoppage. Simply steadying the ship took up a large part of his work on the night. Many predicted that Spence's strength would show in later rounds - so when Derrick ushered his charge to "fight him”, this wasn't a vague call to action. Bigger fighters than Crawford had been worn down by his pressure in later rounds. Bud's speed and success were so blisteringly quick in those early stanzas, that conventional wisdom left most thinking that it couldn't possibly last. Amongst other advice, he clearly tried to guide Spence multiple times on his lateral movement, to which Crawford adjusted almost instantly. Bud was simply unbeatable and I'm yet to hear a coherent explanation of what James could have done better. Like a UFC fighter with a long career - I'm all ears. Woah there, a crossover gag? Surely not.
Never an easy thing to see - Derrick James realises he's left that 6 pack of almond magnums in the car mid-sesh.
Regardless, as a trainer, he's in an unenviable position. A victim of a curse that seems to linger over anyone after winning high-profile awards (WBA's trainer of the year for the 2nd year running to name just one). Almost like clockwork, things go badly shortly afterward. And when your biggest client loses, the inevitable pile-on begins. Having claimed he will not be taking on any more fighters for the remainder of his career as a trainer, his stable now stands as follows:
Frank Martin - he's competing in boxing's most stacked division, some are critical of his last performance and as such are questioning his potential as a champion.
Spence - well, let's hope he comes back strong at 154 lbs.
Joshua - there are clear doubts about his confidence which no trainer can fix.
Charlos - one brother has to beat the biggest star in the sport two weight classes above, the other is having personal trouble and is only getting into fights backstage.
Ryan Garcia - he has shown both his talent ceiling and numerous indicators that he can be difficult to mold. It was a shock to many that he took him on.
These are all huge talents in their own right. But Spence was really the top dog. I'm really cheering for Derrick though. He's a great trainer and nothing riles me up more than the flimsy fans turning their back on someone after one bad night. He was uncharacteristically riled up when going head-to-head with the opposite corner pre-fight. To the point where he looked emotional for the first time. We too often mistake these moments for weakness but it just demonstrated how deeply he cares about the sport and his fighters. I'm confident this adversity will give him the fire in his belly to help Spence get back on top. Or at least push Joshua to retire Whyte in a few weeks.
What, whinging, a boxing fan? Surely not.
It was an extraordinary and unforgettable week in boxing - two unification fights, a backstage brawl between fighters (Plant clocking Jermall), and another massive fight announced (Haney v Prograis). So I wouldn't be a true boxing aficionado if I didn't find the space to whinge, much like Crawford found the space to land that punch-perfect right hook to put Errol down. Magnifique.
Turns out it's not vindication if you've always known it. I wanted to find a foreboding quote when writing this but looking back on videos of Terence before the fight there's a next-level aura of confidence. This isn't a case of after the fact - there's a little secret in his eyes only he truly knew. This victory rightfully puts him up there with the biggest names in the sport. However, it’s a damning inditement of the capability of his previous promoter to show this ability to the world. Despite his callous and cold nature which ebbed throughout the build-up, he's still capable of displaying his wealth of charm. Twin this with a perfect record and being a two-weight champion, there's been little else required over the years as far as marketability goes.
You would think years of watching the sport I've acquired the wisdom to make an informed decision but I literally favoured Terence on the basis of his wholesome holiday photos. Excellent choice of novelty hat.
If I was a petty man- actually, let me rephrase that. I am I petty man, but if I had the power of video editing skills and I was more of a bore I would make a long and lovely cut of the multiple times his previous promoter Bob Arum claimed that Crawford doesn't warrant the guarantee he had been asking for in order to get big fights.
This will likely seem strange to anyone, not just in hindsight of the result. Arum's primary job is to raise the profile of his fighters. Crawford was a mainstay at Bob's Top Rank before signing an extension five years ago. Even if you're working together for that later half a decade and you claim that the unified world champion is losing you revenue (as he did numerous times) - it's clear the buck falls on you. There's a story within circles that one of the tipping points for Mayweather deciding to leave Arum back in the 00s was seeing a poster of Britney Spears on the side of the MGM building instead of any promotion for his upcoming fight. After many preceding legal squabbles over the years, he claims to have no problem with Bob (or a Boblem - throw in the towel when you like), but Mayweather is a businessman and knows any issue caused might hurt an understudy (Shakur Stevenson, Gervonta Davis) or (more likely) future earnings for his promotional outfit. Floyd Snr. was always highly critical of Arum's matchmaking and it was only when Mayweather was about to leave he was finally offered $8m to fight Margarito - too late in Floyd's eyes, he broke away. Yet, we can draw parallels to Mayweather's experience of being stifled in the same way Crawford was. Post-Bob, Mayweather sold like no one in the history of the sport had done before. Ironically, a decade after Britney-gate Arum would be the one complaining that the MGM was advertising Mayweather's fight against Maidana too much in direct conflict with his client - when he was there for the press conference of Pacquiao vs Bradley. The venue was flooded with posters for Floyd's upcoming bout against Madiana. Spicy.
Al Pacino in Heat (1995) - “She's gotta great…” - Also Bob Arum likely whinging about something.
So yeah I am a little frustrated. Ultimately, how much did we miss with Terence while being under Bob? I sympathise a little if the rumoured route was supposedly true - Pacquiao handing over the title torch after the ill-fated Horn fight (where he was robbed tbf). This was out of Bob's control. To his credit he immediately fed Horn to Crawford for the belt but it had nowhere near the same level of public interest and securing a fight with Pacquiao afterward was somehow too difficult. Why did Pac even need that Horn fight first?
Still, I guess we can be grateful that we didn't endure the same outcome as the poor Mikey Garcia (a great fighter losing almost two years of his career in his prime to a legal battle with Arum). It's just… how quickly the fight was made once Bob was out of the picture is staggering. Months instead of half a decade. I don't want to harper on or give praise to Al Haymon (who it looks likely got it done), as he's the most mystical figure in boxing and you can find fault with some of his business practices (to be fair it's all relative, boxing promoters aye). Yet Arum's hold-up is now something fans will cite as a reason to undermine its outcome - “tHe fIGhT sHoULd HAvE hAPpEneD s0onEr". Meh. You give ‘em an inch and they whinge for decades.
Crawford himself is in the midst of an ongoing legal battle with Bob about this specific issue. Terence is also the first person to cite racial bias in legal statements as the reason for the treatment he received during his tenure. There has been a lot of skirting around this issue for some time and in the interest of balance, when this was announced at the beginning of 22’ many former POC fighters, including Ali's daughter came to Bob's defence. You can read a lot more of the legal detail here. Much of it reads in quite a gossipy manner and I'm not quite ready to turn this newsletter into TMZ (give it some time). However, the historical exploitation of fighters of colour and those from poorer backgrounds looms large over this sport and is something that as a fan you often struggle to reconcile with. Let's hope if anything comes of this, it's that legally some precedent is enshrined to ensure that it's avoided in the future.
Still, Arum at 90 years old is without a doubt a relic of a bygone era, it’s easy to forget his adversary and former college was the notorious Don King. He was a lawyer before 99% of boxing fans were born. In fact, few are aware that his foray was working on behalf of the Department of Justice collecting proceeds from the 1962 fight between Liston and Patterson. It took four years of working for Ali for him to actually watch his first fight live. Anecdotally this. is indicative as to the reason why he got into the sport. Perhaps the only colour Arum really sees is green.
“If you look closely you can actually pinpoint the exact moment his heart breaks in two"
There are so many nuances at play but it seems patently obvious that Bob's strategy was to have Bud fighting comparatively-lesser opposition (as to also not risk his investment) so that when a fight of this stature was made he could claim he doesn't warrant the money upfront. The fight would go ahead and break records and Bob would receive more share of the profits. And while we're on the topic of tactics - Mayweather unfairly gets the majority of the flack for often focusing on his zero losses to sell fights. The sanctity of his all-win record has become a generational issue in boxing, a poisonous indicator of a fighter’s worthiness. However, promoters like Arum practically invented this mechanism by protecting fighters. Building a foundation for the marketability of a '0’. Mayweather simply ran with it.
“Men lie, women lie - numbers don't.”
It's reported that Spence and Crawford wanted 7 figures. Arum said countless times these fighters were demanding far too much. Let's look at the numbers: The fight has done 700,000 buys so far, roughly $50m in revenue from pay-per-view alone. Another $21m in gate revenue. In spite of a stagnated career, and supposed lack of casual interest they managed to achieve something staggering for the sport. The 6th biggest earning fight in Vegas (as it stands?). Arum was clearly trying to undercut Crawford. He didn't get it wrong, after 6 decades in the sport he knew full well how it would do. Crawford could justifiably get more than twice what he was asking. Significantly, his win isn't just a landmark for unified belt holders - there's real hope here that this will only encourage more fighters to take these kinds of risks. Not only for financial reward but also for their legacy. The decisions Bud made outside of the ring will only aid future fighters to recognise when they're being held to ransom and secure themselves a better deal.
Who necks? (Spence edition)
Spence meanwhile has said that even if he had an excuse for the result, he wouldn't be mentioning it. You only have to look at the runner-up of the last big rivalry to hit Vegas’ to see how difficult it can be to accept a loss. Wilder's delusion and insistence on invalidating Fury's wins against him (3 if you ask me), lingers in the video diaries of sycophantic boxing 'reporters' on YouTube. Spence in contrast featured at the post-fight conference without shades, immediately congratulated his adversary, has been all kinds of gracious taking it all in his stride with his head up. The sleuths have also pointed out that he's already updated his Instagram profile to his new record. His behaviour is a complete credit to the sport and hopefully, this sets an example to younger fighters that even in a loss of this magnitude, you can still gain strength and respect from fans.
Also on his profile is a change of his weight class from 147 to 154. Whether the next step is to request a rematch with Crawford at the weight or try his hand at a myriad of other options at 154lbs remains to be seen. He's a sparring partner for the two champions at the weight, he is still in many eyes a top 10 fighter. It's just simply that who he lost to is that much further in front as the justifiable, unified P4P king. Trainers like Virgil Hunter are urging him not to take the rematch. I say it's up to him, he's earned the right to decide. He isn't surrounded by 'yes’ men like other fighters. They will be realistic. Yet he's a prideful fighter, I can't see him not wanting to take another shot. Given the nature of the outcome, it’s near impossible to picture 7lbs more weight making a difference to the result.
Who necks (Crawford edition)
We all want to see him get the three divisions done surely? It's hard to envision him losing to anyone in the weight class above. Another record to break both excites and sells. He's finally where he's been destined to be for so long. The footage of him taunting one of the Charlo brothers having knocked Spence down only adds fuel to the fire of speculation between them. However, with the Canelo and the Plant beef - Crawford may be without a viable partner until their matters are sewn up. Tim Tsyzu automatically becomes the new champion when Jermell steps in the ring later this year - that would be a huge fight for Crawford, straight in for a belt. However, it seems painfully inevitable given recent history that a rematch will take place. (Haney v Kambosos 2, Fury vs Chisora). Pundits and promoters are already playing up the weight drain on behalf of Spence. Errol deserves another chance to redeem himself for an off-night but for Crawford it gives an opportunity to try out a new weight with someone closer to his size rather than jumping in with the current crop of junior-middleweights. Many of whom are of much bigger stature compared to Crawford's previously lightweight frame.
Anyway, I've segued here massively but TL;DR:
Terence Crawford arguably is the best fighter of the decade already. He should spend the remaining years chasing the 154lb honors and secure a third unified weight division. We're all a bit shocked but in the best way a fan can be. He was under Arum's wraps for too long and it’s reasonable to argue that this was done nefariously. But let’s not let it spoil what was an incredible performance by adding to the 'what-if’.
A final jab:
I would rather avoid dedicating any of this cherished ranting space to influencer boxing for numerous reasons. But, since people occasionally ask I'll have this here to direct them toward. Two things I saw this week on Jake Paul: he (a cruiserweight) has been sending DMs to Michael Bisping (the blind in one-eye, mid-40s, half a decade retired - middleweight UFC fighter) clearly in order to entice him to fight. Bisping's opinion on him in the video is verbatim what I say when people ask. It's just said by a much harder bloke. He's saved me the money I'd have spent on a Cameo on someone tougher to dictate my point. Cheers mikey. Then, my friends, he has this absolute doozy:
Errrrrrr. Who is gonna tell him?
If you got this far, perhaps it's time to think about getting your own hobby. But know I love you dearly.
Feel free to fire me any questions or have about the game (boxing, not the seedy book) and I'll do my best to whinge about it insufferably.