With statements made in and outside of the ring, Terence “Bud” Crawford has made his intention clear.
The new WBO welterweight champion wants to unify the 147-pound title belts the way he did at 140.
“We want them all,” Crawford said after his technical knockout of Jeff Horn. “That’s the goal.”
Considered by many to be the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, the unbeaten three-division champion from Omaha understandably has the desire to prove himself within boxing’s top weight class.
But unifying the titles at welterweight may be much tougher than at junior welterweight. Crawford had two things working in his favor on his history-making quest to become the undisputed champion at 140.
First, the other champions in his division were not American and fought for promoters that were willing to work with Bob Arum of Top Rank, who represents Crawford. And, second, he and Julius Indongo were both unified champs when they met, meaning neither had to chase a last belt after their historic fight.
The history of boxing in the era of four major sanctioning bodies has seen a number of fighters — Wladimir Klitschko, Andre Ward and Gennady Golovkin among them — hold three titles in a division but never get their shot at the fourth. Only Crawford and Bernard Hopkins successfully unified all four belts.
Crawford debuted at welterweight by taking the WBO belt from Jeff Horn. The WBC, IBF and WBA (super) titles, however, will soon be in the hands of boxers who fight for advisor Al Haymon, whose Premier Boxing Champions operates as a rival Top Rank and many other promotions.
Top Rank, in fact, sued Haymon and his investors shortly after the forming of PBC. The two sides eventually reached a settlement but haven’t shown a willingness to work together to create matchups.
WBA super champion Keith Thurman and IBF titlist Errol Spence are PBC fighters. So are Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter, who are tentatively slated to meet this summer for the WBC belt that was stripped from the injured Thurman. Making a Crawford fight with Thurman, Spence or the Garcia/Porter winner won’t be easy, especially due to Top Rank’s exclusive contract to televise its fighters on ESPN.
The WBA’s practice of elevating its champion to a “super” champion if he unifies its belt with another, and subsequently opening up its “regular” title, does open the door for Crawford to pursue a bout for that championship. WBA regular champion Lucas Matthysse is scheduled to face Manny Pacquiao next month. Neither are part of PBC. That doesn’t mean the winner will want Crawford.
If not, the Omahan (33-0, 24 knockouts) may have to settle for a title defense instead of a unification in his next bout. There will likely be multiple options on the table for Crawford if he wants a fight this fall.
“Bob Arum is a major player in what’s going to happen next, and it comes down to what’s best for Terence Crawford,” said Dean Lonergan, who promotes Horn for Duco Events out of New Zealand. “Bob’s going to be looking around, saying ‘What are the options for us? What’s the most amount of money? What do I want to try to achieve and what does Terence Crawford want to try to achieve?’”
Lonergan threw out one option for Crawford immediately after Saturday’s bout: a rematch with Horn in the same rugby stadium in Brisbane, Australia, that the former champion beat Pacquiao in last summer.
“It’s about money,” he said. “If we can put the most money on the table, we’ll make the fights happen. That’s how we got the Pacquiao fight. Bob and Pacquiao didn’t come down to Queensland and Brisbane because they liked us. They came down because we put the most amount of money on the table.”
If Lonergan and Glenn Rushton, Horn’s trainer, had their way, the Crawford-Horn bout would have been in Brisbane instead of Las Vegas. But the fact that Australians knew little of Crawford made that a no-go.
“Unfortunately, Terence’s brand wasn’t big enough,” Rushton said. “Dean said, ‘We just can’t make this fight pay in Australia.’ That’s the problem. He’s a great fighter. He just hasn’t had the pulling power of a Manny Pacquiao. People don’t know him. He doesn’t talk a lot in the media, which is a shame. We would’ve had the fight in Australia if we could have filled Suncorp Stadium with Terence Crawford. But the danger was, if we bring him down there, we can lose everybody money. That was the problem.”
Crawford’s victory over Horn, which was televised via pay-per-view in Australia, changed all of that.
“Terence Crawford is a much better brand name than he was two or three weeks ago,” said Lonergan, complimentary of Crawford. “If he’s keen, we’d love to have a chat about it. I do think, if he wanted to, we can raise the money to make it happen. … I think it would be very easy to put a rematch together.”
Photos: Terence 'Bud' Crawford's path to world champion
Over the last decade, Omaha native Terence "Bud" Crawford has developed into one of the best pound-for-pound boxers on the planet. Check out these pictures following Crawford from his time as an amateur to his current position as world champion.
Horn’s promoter is also interested in keeping his fighter relevant in the division after suffering his first loss.
“I think there’s a myriad of options out there,” Lonergan said. “There’s some great welterweight fights happening. This is just my opinion, but the big-money fights are going to happen at welterweight over the next three to five years. I think there’s just a myriad of great fighters out there and the welterweight division is about to catch on fire. And, who knows, maybe there’s five or six who can just do a round-robin tour on a regular basis. That’s what the game needs right now to get some superstars in America.”
The U.S. seemingly has three potential ones at 147 in Crawford, Thurman and Spence. A rematch with Horn, while perhaps lucrative, would do little to enhance Crawford’s star power considering the one-sided nature of his win. Horn didn’t win any of the nine rounds.
It’s more likely that Arum matches Crawford up with fellow Top Rank fighter Jose Benavidez (27-0, 18 KOs) in a title defense this fall. The former interim WBA super lightweight champion from Phoenix needed only 84 seconds to dispatch of previously unbeaten Frank Rojas of Venezuela on the undercard earlier this month.
“It’s certainly a possibility,” Arum said. “The kid wants Terence. And I don’t think it’ll be a difficult match to make. But I have to talk to his father (trainer Jose Benavidez Sr.) and him, and also to (Crawford manager and head trainer Brian) BoMac (McIntyre) and Terence. But certainly, it’s a big possibility.”
Benavidez made it known in Las Vegas that he desired a shot at the WBO belt. His one-round demolition of Rojas came in a WBA eliminator, putting him in line for a title opportunity.
“Of course, I want to fight Crawford,” Benavidez said. “I’ve been wanting to fight him for years now. I don’t duck and dodge anyone. And I’ll fight anyone at 147. You name it, I’ll fight him. I don’t care.”
Benavidez said that Crawford’s team passed on fighting him when the two were at 140 pounds.
“I was supposed to fight Crawford twice, and it didn’t happen,” he said. “I said ‘yes’ on my part. Our team said ‘yes.’ We don’t dodge anyone. We want to fight the best, and that’s what we’re here to do.”
Earlier this year, Crawford and Benavidez exchanged words in Corpus Christi, Texas, before the latter was scheduled to fight there. Crawford told Benavidez to focus on his fight before he made plans for future fights.
“When you’re weighing in, you’re kind of cranky, and he was right there smiling,” Benavidez said. “I don’t like taking (expletive) from anyone. And I told him, ‘They offered you the fight twice, and you didn’t accept it. If I’m that easy, why not fight me to shut me up?’ He was saying, ‘We can go outside.’ ”
Without a doubt, that exchange will be revisited if the matchup is made for the fall. Crawford will likely fight only one more time this year, but Arum said the new welterweight champ has options after that.
“The future is unlimited,” he said. “One thing with this ESPN platform, we have the dates and we’re going to have Bud fight as many times as he and BoMac want. If he wants to fight three times a year or wants to fight four times a year, we’ve got the dates for it. It’s up to him as to how busy he wants to be.”