Not even gonna front. I’m not immune to the current frustration of most boxing fans. But I have to laugh incessantly at the most impassioned outrage expressed in some of these YouTube videos and social media posts. I presume these people are fans of the other sports, and understand how things are trending. Ever heard of player empowerment?
The source of the fan outrage and the accompanying resentment is Terence “Bud” Crawford’s recnet decision to spurn ongoing negotiations with Premier Boxing Champions’ Al Haymon, an advisor, and Welterweight IBF/WBA/WBC champion Errol Spence Jr.
Crawford, Welterweight’s WBO champion, recently announced he’s taking his talents to streaming app BLK Prime for a planned pay-per-view bout versus David Avanesyan on December 10. For his services, Crawford’s reportedly earning an unspecified 8-figure guarantee – a career-high.
The alternative was a widely acknowledged 65/35 split on revenues for the undisputed showdown with the undefeated Spence. According to Crawford, that deal excluded the mention of any guaranteed money. Did I mention an 8-figure guarantee as part of the aforementioned offer?
It’s been a long time since I’ve watched the daytime gameshow The Price is Right. But I know every contestant opted to guess the price of the second indisputably better prize package. When it comes to negotiating, typically it’s never acceptable to take the first offer. Details become even more favorable with an aggressive third party.
Crawford took to his Instagram account yesterday, November 2, to go live and offer the public an explanation behind his ill-received decision to walk away from Haymon, amid ongoing negotiations, and face UK-based Avanesyan. No need for me to paraphrase his breakdown of the counterproductive “back and forth” with the PBC’s mastermind. I’m sure you’ve already sat through the live, but feel free to view it again.
While I am also disappointed the fight once slated for mid-November never came to fruition, I cannot fault Crawford, and not begin to question what Haymon truly did to preserve the best interests for his top fighter. Spence has done his job in stellar fashion.
Regarding Crawford’s move, we now live in a world where its become commonplace in NCAA College Football Subdivision for highly touted NFL prospects to no longer join their teammates on the field in non-College Football Playoff bowl games.
Staying with college football, just last year coach Brian Kelly left Notre Dame at the end of the season to accept a nearly $100 million to fill the vacancy at the SEC’s LSU in Baton Rouge. Ironically when Kelly tipped out, his Fightin’ Irish student athletes were literally gathered awaiting word on whether they were headed to the College Football Playoff!
Let’s look at a some pro sports examples of athletes and compensation trends that show Crawford made a very prudent decision – based on the fact he’s a boxer attempting to operate without a promoter.
In terms of pro athletes who earn far more than Crawford yet haven’t reached the pinnacle of their sport we have to go straight to sudden NBA black sheep Russell Westbrook’s 2022 salary of $47,063,478. Westbrook is only behind four-time NBA champion Stephen Curry, and nearly $3 million above the third highest paid player LeBron James. Even more astonishing, Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons is returning from a season-long hiatus from the hardwood in ’21-’22 to see if he’s comfortable playing basketball again as the 21st highest paid player at $35.4 million.
The NFL isn’t boxing. No confusion there. But if I’m Crawford faced with a $0 guarantee for the biggest fight in boxing, I can’t voluntarily sign up for that when I see veteran players negotiating record-breaking guarantees that ensure long-term post-retirement wealth. ESPN lists Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray as the performers with the top three highest guaranteed deals at $230, $160 and $150.6 million, respectively. Additionally, former Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill landed in Miami with an annual salary per year of $25 million to catch deep passes for the Dolphins. Of this group of players mentioned, only Hill contributed to a playoff victory last season.
Yes, Crawford joined a small list of four-belt era champions when he became an undisputed Junior Welterweight champion in August 2017. Attempting to become a two-time undisputed champion in a bout with Spence, if I’m Crawford, I have to benefit from that financially. According to Crawford’s video on the ‘Gram, Haymon’s earnestness to make Spence-Crawford is called into question.
Personally, it seems like Haymon’s effort towards figuring out an agreeable deal for this fight is commensurate with what Crawford actually brings to the table beyond his possession of the fourth and final belt in the division: very little. But, I have seen other promoters do more, publicly, to make important achievement happen for their fighter.
Spence can move on to face a fighter he vowed to never fight in Keith Thurman. He could likely pick up a victory against a lesser experienced fighter in Eimantas Stanionis. But what has Spence been working towards the last few years if he still has to fight these far less meaningful fights? What did he battle all the way back from his near fatal 2019 car crash for to just stand at the precipice of undisputed championship status?
If you haven’t treated my thoughts like Crawford did Haymon’s fight offer, and you stuck around to rebut with counters of “c’mon, those are false equivalencies” or “that’s apples to oranges arguments”, that’s fine. Sadly, in the aftermath of the latest chapter of boxing’s least favorite saga, we’re all only left with whatever we’re each willing to believe in folks. Some of what Crawford shared seems to be a little leaky. But, he has gotten out and faced the backlash – even if was just from his couch. In doing so, he didn’t come off as embittered. He never bashed neither Haymon nor Spence for not caving in to his requests or supposed $50 million proposal.
In contrast, I see the other side sticking to their modus operandi, concerning the PBC being forthcoming with the public when developments hit a snag. Like Jay-Z said in his “No Hook” record on his American Gangster album: “…that’s why we don’t speak/Made men ain’t supposed to make statements…”
Crawford heard the same tune because when he faces Avaneysan December in Omaha, Nebraska he can walk to the ring secure with: “…I’ma live with the decisions that I’ma pick.”
Featured photo courtesy of Top Rank