In a post-Floyd Mayweather world, no one boxer has pulled away from the pack and established himself as the unquestioned best.
There is great support for Vasyl Lomachenko, the remarkable WBO super featherweight champion. And there are plenty of backers of Andre Ward, the IBF-WBA-WBO light heavyweight champion.
Some are partial to middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin, and others to his Sept. 16 opponent, Canelo Alvarez.
There are more legitimate contenders for the mythical pound-for-pound championship now than in perhaps a decade.
And Terence Crawford, the unbeaten and largely unchallenged WBC-WBO super lightweight champion, is another of them.
Crawford, though, hasn’t gotten nearly as much support despite going 30-0 with 21 knockouts and rarely losing as much as a round. We’ve been teased for years about the potential of a bout with Manny Pacquiao, which would easily establish Crawford’s greatness, but it not only hasn’t happened, it’s not on the radar.
Pacquiao is a welterweight and Crawford a super lightweight, which is a division lower, but Pacquiao frequently weighs in very near the super lightweight division’s 140-pound limit.
He was 144 ¾ for his win over Jessie Vargas in his last bout, for the WBO welterweight title.
Pacquiao spent much of the first half of the year chasing a potential opponent. And while the names of Lomachenko and Crawford were floated by promoter Bob Arum as potential Pacquiao foes at the news conference following his decision victory over Vargas, neither ever came close to being seriously considered.
Pacquiao is going to fight unheralded Jeff Horn in Brisbane, Australia, on July 1 (July 2 in Australia) in a fight no one cares about outside of Australia and The Philippines, where Pacquiao remains a God-like figure.
Michael Koncz, Pacquiao’s adviser, made a very public show of bringing Pacquiao to the United Arab Emirates, and courting a bout with Amir Khan. They also considered a match with Adrien Broner, before Arum centered on Horn, his target all along.
A fight with Crawford seemed to be the match to make, and a win over Pacquiao would have sealed Crawford’s bonafides. Pacquiao is on the way out, and isn’t nearly the fighter he was at his peak, though he is still very good.
It would have been a story that was as old as boxing itself, the young upstart beating up on the grizzled and beloved veteran, and would have given Crawford the kind of visibility he desperately needs.
There is nothing Crawford can’t do in the ring. He’s a good puncher, an accurate puncher, a marvelous boxer and a superbly conditioned athlete. He rolled over Viktor Postol in a super lightweight unification bout that was supposed to challenge him, but which he treated like a high-level sparring session.
Crawford owned Postol, and the bout wasn’t even close.
Now, Crawford will fight Felix Diaz, a 2008 gold medalist from the Dominican Republic who is among the most credible foes Crawford has faced, on Saturday on HBO at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Diaz is good, though not great, and it’s not a problem for Crawford to be fighting him except that Pacquiao was sitting out there looking for an opponent.
That was the fight that made sense, not this one with Diaz. Crawford, though, will gain very little from beating Diaz, even though Diaz is far more gifted than most will give him credit for being.
A Pacquiao-Crawford fight would generate significant buzz, and a Crawford win would push his career to a new level.
Crawford knows full well that beating Pacquiao would change the public perception of him, but there’s little he can do but to hope that at some point, Pacquiao, Arum and Koncz decide to give him the opportunity.
Beating Pacquiao would then make people aware of how good Crawford is, which is no news to those who have watched him carefully over the last several years.
“I pay a little bit of attention to [the pound-for-pound lists], but at the same time, I look at it as status playing a big part in ratings,” Crawford said. “At the same time, I just worry about winning and everything else will fall into place. GGG and Canelo – that is going to be a tremendous fight. I am looking forward to watching it whenever it happens, and yes, I think my name should be mentioned up there with theirs.”
Arum said yet again that if both men win, he’ll consider matching them in the fall, but that’s been the case for a while now and there hasn’t been a serious effort to do it.
It’s a shame, because Crawford is a wondrous talent who hasn’t received national acclaim because he hasn’t had that one opponent to help him get it.
He’s much like the great Wilfredo Benitez, the 1970s-1980s star who was an immense talent but who fought in the shadow of Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and the like.
Crawford may never become the mega-star that a Mayweather, a Pacquiao or a Leonard became, but he can be and, frankly, should be, a lot bigger star than he is now.
Arum said he’ll consider the fight with Pacquiao in the fall if both are successful.
“I am not content with guys fighting once or twice a year,” Arum said. “That is B.S. Guys have to fight regularly. Terence will fight [Saturday] and Manny is fighting in July. Terence would, I think if he gets through this fight well, want to get back in the ring again in the summer and then we will look to the fall. Would Pacquiao and Crawford be a good fight, a big fight, a big attraction? You bet your ass it will and we will, all things being equal, will do our best to make that fight.
“I think the public wants to see it and the public will support it. Manny Pacquiao has been a great fighter and a great attraction. I love Manny Pacquiao. Manny Pacquiao is the kind of guy who is not afraid to step up and fight anybody. Terence Crawford is the rising star in boxing. Everybody would love to see that fight, but that’s all I can say about it. I agree with your assessment, that it’s a fight that the fans want to see, and if it’s a fight that the fans want to see, a promoter has the obligation to make it happen.”
No doubt it’s a fight the fans want to see and which Crawford has earned. It’s long past the time for it to have happened.
Talking about it is one thing. Actually doing it is another.
Popular boxing video on Yahoo Sports: