Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn
Terence Crawford’s restless search for a career-defining victory rumbles on… who could he fight?
"His needs for a long time have been to fight the best guys"
Last Updated: 15/04/20 6:07am
The tricky position that Terence Crawford finds himself in is as one of the world’s most dangerous boxers but without a classic result on his record to prove it.
IBF and WBC titleholder Errol Spence Jr is the opponent who can make this happen - a battle between America's two undefeated welterweight champions is among the best fights that boxing could offer but is, even before the coronavirus pandemic, a long way away. Spence Jr is recovering from a horrific car crash.
There are other big names floating around for WBO holder Crawford, the three-weight world champion with a 36-0 record whose ability to flow between stances and styles has made him vaunted as perhaps the top pound-for-pound talent on the planet. He is only lacking that breakthrough win but it's not his fault.
Politics and negotiations have been Crawford's toughest foes so far. His critics claim that he lacks a major fan-base which means he is too easily ignored or avoided. Many big-name possible opponents, not just Spence Jr, are aligned to rival promoters.
"He has a desire to fight the best," said Todd DuBoef, president of Top Rank, who promote Crawford. "His needs for a long time have been to fight the best guys."
What are Crawford's options?
On Tuesday morning he was involved in social media spats with Keith Thurman and Jermall Charlo. Not the first time that the internet has been his battlefield.
"Crawford knows he can get it," said Thurman, who was the undefeated WBA welterweight champion until losing his belt to Manny Pacquiao last year.
"I'm a simple man when it comes to the fight world and doing business. Be real, send the contract, watch me sign it."
But Thurman warned: "Spence Jr is my priority over Crawford. He has two belts, more weight."
Crawford shot back: "I bet you if a contract [was sent you] will find a way out so stop playing with my name."
Charlo has the WBC super-welterweight belt, the division above Crawford's current home. He is also a friend of Spence Jr's and warned Crawford: "Don't bite off more than you can chew."
Crawford replied: "Keep my name out your mouth. Stop faking for attention."
Kell Brook has emerged as a more realistic opponent.
Britain's former IBF welterweight champion would face a horrible weight cut back into the 147lbs division but has held tentative talks about challenging Crawford.
Top Rank's DuBoef told Sky Sports: "Brook has made some overtures and had dialogue about the fight and Crawford is interested. We have been open to fighting everybody with Crawford since the minute we signed him. Brook is obviously an option."
Brook told Sky Sports: "I saw [Top Rank promoter] Bob Arum out in America, I saw him walking through the lobby in the MGM Grand.
"I basically went over and said: 'You're running out of opponents for Crawford and I'm the guy to beat him. I'm here'.
"I saw Terence Crawford, he said he was ready for it, so everybody is on the same page. Everyone wants to make the fight. We just need to make the numbers count for me, for it to make business sense, and then we can get training and get ready for the fight."
Brook's rival Amir Khan is currently Crawford's biggest-name former opponent. Crawford stopped Khan last year, and Brook teased: "I'll definitely fight like I'm going to win the fight, which I will. I'll give it my all, I won't be looking for no way out."
Manny Pacquiao is the welterweight division's other champion - the 41-year-old legend entered his fourth decade as a world champion in 2020 after claiming the WBA gold from Thurman.
Messily, Pacquiao was previously signed to Top Rank but now affiliated with Premier Boxing Champions (also the home of Spence Jr).
Top Rank's Bob Arum promoted Pacquiao for 13 years but now insists, out of care to his former client, that he is too old to stand a chance against Crawford.
Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia are long-term welterweight contenders and former world champions but Crawford or his promoters have been sceptical about facing either.
They are seen as a lose-lose situation, experienced rivals capable of testing Crawford but not fresh enough to earn him any credit.
Porter lost an exciting decision to Spence Jr last year. If Crawford could do a better job, it would send a real message. But will he want to present himself as needing to one-up Spence Jr?
Garcia is No 1 ranked with the WBO so could eventually force a mandatory fight. He was due to fight Spence Jr.
The emerging threats to Crawford come from the division below, where he was once the undisputed super-lightweight champion.
Josh Taylor (IBF and WBA) and Jose Ramirez (WBC and WBO) hold all the belts and, like Crawford, are promoted by Top Rank.
Taylor and Ramirez each had separate fights scheduled and are on a collision course to decide the undisputed champion so are not immediate solutions to Crawford's problem.
"I would definitely be honoured to share the ring with him," Ramirez said about Crawford. "I think I'll show him something new. I think I'll bring something out of him. By the time I do make that decision to move to 147lbs and put that extra muscle on me, on my body, I'll be a much stronger Jose Ramirez.
"I can see myself developing into a better welterweight than super-lightweight. I do have the height. I do have the body frame. I think once I put the extra seven pounds on, it's going to be a huge difference in a very positive way.
"After [fighting] Crawford, I plan to stay in the welterweight division for quite a while, definitely fight all the top names out there and see how I do. I think I have what it takes to stay at this level of competition for a long time."
We'd love to fight Spence Jr, that is obviously the best fight in the division and would be our priority.
Top Rank president Todd DuBoef
All roads lead back to Errol Spence Jr, who unified two welterweight titles last year in a thrilling battle with Porter and previously took his first belt by stopping Brook in Sheffield.
But he crashed his Ferrari, spent time in intensive care and was then charged with driving while intoxicated. He is recovering well but surely won't dive straight into a fight with Crawford at his earliest opportunity after such a crash.
The dream fight looks far away.
But there is hope. Top Rank's DuBoef told Sky Sports: "The success of the Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury 2 promotion could be very helpful in making this fight, because the two parties could come together again - 'boom', the public get what they want."
Wilder and Spence Jr are promoted by Premier Boxing Champions, Fury and Crawford by Top Rank.
"We would love that. Terence wants to fight the best. We'd love to fight Spence Jr, that is obviously the best fight in the division and would be our priority."