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BOXING

Boone: Terence 'Bud' Crawford ready for 'superfight,' but roadblocks exist between Top Rank and PBC

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Boone: Terence 'Bud' Crawford ready for 'superfight,' but roadblocks exist between Top Rank and PBC

Terence “Bud” Crawford signed a new agreement with promoter Top Rank, making it difficult for him to face top fighters from Premier Boxing Champions.

The announcement of WBO champion Terence “Bud” Crawford’s new agreement with Top Rank and his upcoming title defense at the CHI Health Center in October had the boxing world buzzing last week.

It certainly caught the attention of former U.S. Olympian and IBF champion Errol Spence Jr.

Spence replaced Manny Pacquiao as the man most boxing fans want to see matched with Crawford. He talked extensively about the three-division champion from Omaha in Brooklyn on Saturday after attending the WBC welterweight title fight between Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia at Barclays Center.

The IBF champ, who challenged a victorious Porter to a 147-pound unification bout, explained in a press conference after the fight why, in his mind, a showdown with Crawford won’t be coming soon.

“Terence Crawford is on the wrong side of the street,” Spence said repeatedly.

The Texan was referring to Crawford’s multiyear agreement with Top Rank, which signed a seven-year deal with ESPN to have its boxers compete exclusively on ESPN networks last month. A few days ago, adviser Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions signed a three-year contract with Showtime and Fox.

Spence is a PBC fighter, as are Porter, Garcia and WBA super champion Keith Thurman, who has been out of action for 18 months due to injury. A bout with any of them would potentially provide Crawford with his biggest payday to date, but none of them would be easy to make due to the politics involved.

Top Rank has been working with other promotional companies to provide quality main events for its cards since its venture with ESPN began last year. But none of those bouts have included an elite fighter from the PBC like the top four welterweights currently in its stable.

Crawford has consistently pointed out that he fought a pair of PBC boxers, Felix Diaz and John Molina, in title defenses at junior welterweight. But both of those fighters were allowed to step outside of the PBC’s normal operation because they received a title shot they couldn’t get elsewhere.

That PBC welterweight quartet holds three title belts in the 147-pound division. Haymon’s group doesn’t need to pursue a unification with Crawford when it can create its own between its guys.

Still, Crawford thinks those bouts will come for him. He reiterated that last week.

“All of the superfights that the world wants to see will happen,” he said. “Mark my words.”

Crawford wants those fights. Before his June technical knockout of previously unbeaten Jeff Horn in his welterweight debut, the Omahan said he planned to take over the weight class as he did at 140 pounds, when he became the third fighter in the four-belt era to hold all titles simultaneously.

As long as the championships that Spence, Thurman and Porter currently hold remain within the PBC household, it will be nearly impossible for Crawford to do that. Additionally, Pacquiao holds the WBA’s regular title, but he just severed ties with Top Rank and is reportedly trying to sue his former promoter.

Crawford may find himself as a champion wanting to unify without another beltholder to fight, which is what Spence meant by the WBO champ being on the other side of the street.

“He just signed with ESPN,” the IBF champ said. “I don’t fight for ESPN. I fight for Showtime or Fox.”

The unbeaten Spence is widely considered to be among the top fighters in the sport. He hasn’t reached the status of Crawford, but may be in a better position than the Omahan because of the quality of potential opponents he has within the PBC. He can be in a big fight without Crawford.

“Terence Crawford’s got to come across the street,” Spence said. “He’s got to leave ESPN and come to Showtime or Fox. Or they’ve got to do something where they both work together. Then we both fight.”

Crawford can’t go “across the street” unless Top Rank was to shy away from the exclusivity of his new agreement, which it won’t. The deal, in fact, may have come about now to keep the WBO champion from leaving his current promoter after his former contract had expired in the next couple of years.

Veteran promoter Lou DiBella, who has been working with Spence and has Diaz among his stable of fighters, agreed with the IBF champion at the Saturday presser by saying Crawford is in a tough position.

“You’re never going to hear me disrespect Crawford. He’s a good fighter, a great fighter,” DiBella said. “But the majority of the talent in the welterweight division is in the PBC. That’s just the reality.”

If a potential megafight between Crawford and Spence — or Thurman or Porter, for that matter — is to happen, it will come down to Top Rank and the PBC folks working together to create an event that is suitable for all parties within their network deals. It won’t be done easily, but it has happened.

Showtime and HBO, for example, combined for a pay-per-view simulcast to make the lucrative 2015 superfight between Floyd Mayweather (a Haymon fighter) and Pacquiao (then with Top Rank) a possibility. But that bout took a number of years and hundreds of millions of dollars to make a reality.

DiBella indicated that a Crawford-Spence bout will make sense when it makes dollars. Until then, he foresees the welterweights fighting for the PBC to continue with Crawford on the outside.

“If the fight gets big enough somewhere down the road — and we’re talking a lot of commas in the numbers — then they’ll find a way to make the fight,” DiBella said. “There are a lot of great fights that can be made easier now because they’re within the (PBC) sphere that we’re operating in.”

Crawford, who blasted Spence through social media after the IBF titlist said his résumé had been built upon “smoke and mirrors,” will continue to push for a welterweight unification fight if his upcoming bout against unbeaten challenger Jose Benavidez Jr. goes well. That Oct. 13 matchup has the potential to be his most exciting fight at home since his 2014 Omaha debut.

Tony covers UNO sports, the Omaha Storm Chasers and boxing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @BooneOWH. Phone: 402-444-1027.

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