Terence Crawford is one of the very best boxers in the sport, a mesmerizing blend of technique, skill, athleticism and versatility. Simply put, there is no more adaptable fighter in the sport today.
But as Crawford waits for his next fight, its easy to wonder what’s in store in 2020 for the welterweight world titleholder. After scoring stoppage wins over Amir Khan and Egidijus Kavaliauskas in 2019, Crawford was on his way to landing that significant bout he’s been looking for this year.
Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Crawford will have to wait a little longer to get back in the ring.
Steve Kim and Nick Parkinson look at what may be ahead for Crawford when boxing resumes.
Who would you like Crawford to fight next?
Backstage at the Hooker-Saucedo fight, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. get into an argument that ends with Crawford saying he could knock out Spence.
Kim: In a perfect world, unified champion, Errol Spence Jr., would be the guy. Prior to Spence’s one-car accident back in October, this fight was considered one of the very best matchups that could be made in all of boxing. Not only are Spence and Crawford considered the two best welterweights in the world, but they are also mainstays on pound-for-pound lists.
There is an uncertainty that surrounds Spence. Just how well can he recover from that horrific car accident? Until we actually see him in a real fight, nobody really knows.
Spence is a strong-punching, well-schooled southpaw, while Crawford is the versatile switch-hitting technician with the meanest streak in boxing. If this bout never comes to fruition — or within due time — it will be a blight on the boxing business.
Parkinson: First choice is Spence, the IBF-WBC titleholder, who would provide Crawford with the opportunity to add the big name win that is missing from his record. A clash between the two unbeaten fighters for three versions of the world welterweight title is one of the biggest fights boxing has to offer. With Crawford appearing at No. 2 in the latest ESPN pound-for-pound rankings and Spence at No. 5, this is an argument that needs to be settled in the ring.
A Manny Pacquiao-Crawford fight would be a fascinating matchup, too, but I would also like to see Crawford travel to the UK to face Kell Brook if the unification fight against Spence can’t be made. Brook, a former welterweight titlist showed he still has the appetite for elite level boxing in his last fight, and a return visit from Crawford (who won his first world title on British soil in 2014) would attract a big crowd and interest.
If Crawford doesn’t get the big fight at welterweight, should he get back to 140?
Kim: No, because he may not have to if he wants to secure some of the same great fights. When Crawford moved up to 147 as an undisputed junior welterweight champion, it created vacancies with all the titles and a new generation of junior welterweights developed. A unified champion in Josh Taylor was crowned in the World Boxing Super Series, and Jose Ramirez stopped Maurice Hooker in six rounds last summer to unify the other two titles. The plan is to have Taylor and Ramirez meet at the end of 2020.
After that fight, one or both of them could be making their way up to welterweight, where Crawford awaits. And unlike the other marquee welterweights, who are handled by Premier Boxing Champions, Taylor and Ramirez are represented by Top Rank, as is Crawford, making these fights easy to arrange.
Parkinson: No. It’s a risky business dropping down a weight to get fights. Brook admitted he lost a lot of muscle and energy when he dropped weight to fight Spence at welterweight three years ago, after jumping up to middleweight to face Gennadiy Golovkin in his previous fight. Sure, there are big fights that can be made for Crawford at 140 pounds — Ramirez and Taylor, specifically — who hold all four world title belts between them. But Crawford would be better off insisting any future matchups against the above, as well as possible fights against lightweight titleholders Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Jr, take place at 147 pounds, rather than conceding an advantage and stepping down a division.
Should Crawford consider a move to 154 instead?
Kim: This is certainly an option, but think about this: What has been the biggest problem that Crawford has had in landing a significant fight at welterweight? The answer is that they are all aligned with PBC.
At junior middleweight, the fiery Jermell Charlo holds the WBC crown, Jeison Rosario, has the IBF and WBA belts and then you have contenders Erickson Lubin, Jarrett Hurd, Tony Harrison and Brian Castano, all under the PBC umbrella.
What you have is the same problem with a different weight class.
The best option that exists is WBO junior middleweight titlist Patrick Teixeira, given that Crawford has a WBO title at 147 and could petition to be elevated as the No. 1 contender almost immediately. But the consensus is that Teixeira is considered the weakest of the current belt holders, and most pundits would rate the above-mentioned contenders above him. Defeating Teixeira offers no guarantee that Crawford would have an opportunity to further consolidate the belts at junior middleweight.
Parkinson: Stepping up a division rather than going down to 140 pounds would be a better move in search of new challenges, but would fights against the likes of Jermell Charlo, Jarrett Hurd and Jeison Rosario be bigger than the top names at welterweight? No.
Does Crawford’s lack of activity concern you? Does he need to fight more often?
Kim: All modern day fighters need to perform more often. Yeah, the days of a prime Oscar De La Hoya fighting five times in a calendar year (seriously, he did that in 1997) are probably long gone, but for a while Crawford has been fighting only twice a year. 2016 was the last campaign where he boxed three times. Now, this is the norm for world-class boxers who earn millions, but you wonder if guys like Crawford, who are still looking for that crossover appeal, would benefit from the extra exposure from having just one more outing per year.
What’s that old saying? Out of sight, out of mind.
Crawford last fought in mid-December when he had a tougher than expected time versus “the Mean Machine” at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 14. Now, with the current state of things, which go far and above boxing, you wonder if he’ll even get a chance to perform at all in 2020.
Parkinson: Crawford has boxed twice a year in the past three years, which is similar to how often a lot of other world champions get out, and like every other boxer, the Nebraska native faces an extended wait for his next bout due to the coronavirus pandemic. For Crawford at this stage of his career, it’s all about quality rather than quantity of fights.
How can Crawford become a star?
Kim: Let’s make this clear. If Crawford retired right now, based on the fact that he’s a three-division champion (who cleaned out 140) and many consider him the best all-around boxers in the sport after going undefeated in 36 fights (36-0, 27 KOs), he would be a shoo-in to get his fist encased in Canastota as an inductee to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
But you wonder if he’ll be a lot like the great Mike McCallum, who like Crawford was a skilled craftsman and won major world titles at three weight classes (154, 160 and 175) in a highly accomplished career that spanned from 1981 to 1997. True denizens of the sport understood how good “The Body Snatcher” was, but unfortunately he was never able to land that opportunity to become a star by facing the likes of Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler. That could’ve truly elevated his profile and stature.
Crawford is 32, which by today’s standards isn’t all that old. And with his defensive skills and reflexes, he comes out relatively unscathed in most of his outings. Beyond that, Crawford lives a clean lifestyle; this is a boxer who will not age prematurely. He is already an elite prizefighter, but not yet a transcendent star. To make that leap he will need a signature fight. He needs Errol Spence.
Parkinson: He needs to test himself against the best in his division, just as Canelo has throughout his career. That means securing fights against Spence and Pacquiao, the other world welterweight titleholders, and unifying the belts. Fights against Brook, Mikey Garcia and Keith Thurman will still leave Crawford yearning for that super fight.