Terence Crawford’s Move to Defend His WBO Welterweight Against David Avanesyan Sparks a ‘Civil War’ Amongst Fans of the Division’s Big Two
Frankly, I briefly forgot exactly how WBO Welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford’s hometown title defense versus David Avanesyan became a reality. ESPN’s Mike Coppinger first reported the fight’s announcement in a piece published October 20, 2022.
Boxing Scene’s senior writer/columnist Keith Idec weighed in on the startling development the following afternoon. Shortly after, talks of Crawford’s scheduled December 10 defense taking place at CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska made its way to the online world. The “multiverse”, literally, if you will.
And that’s about where this writer had to resume with other areas of real life.
The alternative. Join in with a rambunctious faction of boxing’s fanbase, which would undoubtedly wage a bloody Civil War. No, not America’s Blues versus Grays. I’m talking about (largely) Black American boxing fans’ long-running feud between, or over, IBF/WBA/WBC Welterweight champion Errol Spence and Crawford.
Spence, an Olympian, represents Steve Rogers/Captain America. Crawford can play Tony Stark/Ironman.
I know. Technically, Crawford at age 35 should be the hard-charging shield bearer. But Spence reppin’ the USA just screamed “Cap” in this analogy. And don’t put words in my mouth. I’m not cleverly suggesting Spence’s subsequent reactions to Crawford’s upcoming fight is all cap.
What I am willing to say is Premier Boxing Champions needs someone to fill the role of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury. Because something called BLK Prime, in true HYDRA fashion, done got the drop on everybody with this unforeseen Crawford vs Avanesyan $39.95 pay-per-view bout. I’m still looking for a press release for this outfit with a total of two moves in boxing in the past week.
My second and third admissions.
No. 2. I ain’t mad at Crawford if he’s moved off the undisputed bout with Spence to earn a disclosed career-best eight figure payday for a voluntary defense against the WBO’s No. 6 Welterweight.
No. 3. Furthermore, I intend to purchase the streamer’s first boxing main event because I previously stated I would’ve purchased Spence’s fights versus Yordenis Ugas and Danny Garcia for $35-$45.
That’s the main event only for that price point. Personally, I couldn’t justify the $74.99 ticket for neither of those two events. And I’m ready for any smoke regarding Ugas being a unification bout, and that the Cuban could make the claim of upsetting legend Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao in another pay-per-view feature bout. Sitting that one out was my choice – I’m not trying to tell others how to spend their inflation-challenged money.
I will quickly run through four other reasons why I’m not rushing to blame anyone in this Civil War’s cast for yet another blow to the realization Spence vs Crawford.
PBC Found Nearly Half $100 Million for Free Agent Canelo
Prior to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez lifting the IBF Super Middleweight championship off of Caleb Plant in November 2021, the Mexican superstar had the briefest of free agency periods. Multiple sources, including ESPN’s Coppinger, reported a purse of $40 million for a one-fight deal for Alvarez to face Plant in the undisputed showdown.
More importantly, in May 2022 Boxing Scene’s Sean Nam reported PBC attempted to extend its relationship with a two-fight $100 million deal for the 168-pound undisputed champion to face some combination of WBC Middleweight champion Jermall Charlo, two-time Super Middleweight champion David Benavidez or the aforementioned Spence.
Obviously PBC was not expected to pursue Crawford’s services in a similar way to its recruitment of Alvarez. But, they can’t put $8-$10 million to solidify a career-defining opportunity for the best talent on its roster?
I mean what else has the 32-year old southpaw been campaigning at Welterweight for all of these years?
Did Crawford Ask for Anything Different Than Wilder
Blame Crawford for leaving Spence and Al Haymon/PBC at the alter all you want. Didn’t former Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder turn down a multi-fight $100 million deal with streaming app DAZN because he wanted to know what Anthony Joshua would make for a proposed matchup? I think so.
In a Forbes article dated October 2, 2022 contributor Anthony Stitt reported seemingly Wilder-like concerns regarding a similar request to PBC from Crawford:
The deal had Crawford earning a smaller piece of the financial pie. The hangup now, according to Coppinger: Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs) “wants transparency” in regards to event expenses because the terms say nothing of guaranteed money.
As a promotional free agent after splitting from Top Rank, Crawford will earn a net-revenue percentage, so he’s also requesting the power to approve all expenses. Spence (28-0, 22 KOs) is repped by Al Haymon’s PBC .
I’m not well-versed in boxing contracts, nor their negotiations, but I’d imagine if Crawford’s side is privy to the event’s expenses they would (wildly) have say-so, or know what Spence… Honestly, this request was probably a total showstopper, and hence the reason Crawford is now scheduled to face Avanesyan December 10.
We Have to Mention Mayweather, Just Because
Bringing up Floyd Mayweather Jr. when discussing ones disappointment with the repeated failure to make Spence vs Crawford is foolish. So, I’ll be brief.
Crawford should be content with a 65/35 split to face Spence. Since he no longer has a promoter that would get some kind of cut, that’s one expense that doesn’t affect his piece of the pie. Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao included a 60/40 split.
Spence-Crawford is nowhere the same magnitude of Mayweather-Pacquiao – which with only 3 of 4 belts involved was still much bigger than undisputed. But, despite being dwarfed by that 2015 showdown, limited alternatives is somewhat of a push, or shared issue, for Spence and Crawford.
Crawford’s leverage against Spence/Haymon should conceivably be that, while he’s not Pacquiao, there isn’t another viable move that Spence can make (with great confidence in the pay-per-view buy-rate of a really sour fanbase). The former Junior Welterweight undisputed champion didn’t have a great set of options neither. Nor does he have any impressive metrics that would attract any of boxing’s traditional investors. We know Crawford and his trainer/business partner Brian McIntyre totally burned the bridge with former promoter Top Rank and its chief Bob Arum.
But, I’ll be damned if BLK Prime didn’t become the equivalent to Alonzo’s (Denzel Washington) move against Roger (Scott Glenn) in Training Day to atone for his transgression against the Russians.
I forget why Mayweather, or the split with Pacquiao, is even relevant to my frustration with Spence and Crawford. But, hell, Alonzo’s troubles started in Las Vegas, and Mayweather still looms over Welterweight. This undisputed fight would accomplish a one box Mayweather’s Hall of Fame never checked. There something to be said for that feat.
The Opps For a Black Fighter Can’t Be Black
Look, marquee bouts featuring a Black fighter versus another Black fighter don’t slap, financially, in 2022. Just keeping it funky, we’ve watched a large number of white Americans move on from heavily sponsored giant corporate brands like the NFL and the NBA. Simply go read the comment section of Jason Whitlock’s Fearless videos on YouTube, or any article mentioning LeBron James on Conservative sports website Outkick.
Boxing rarely platforms the social justice aspect detested by detractors of the NFL and NBA, but the sport’s become far too complicated to follow for most non black and brown sports fans. Moreover, without a means (ie NCAA sports) to polish up many of today’s age 23 and under boxers, raw hip hop culture often shapes the personal marketing and self-promotion of today’s fighters. Hey, if an NFL or NBA player’s politics are off-putting, these street kids’ “politics as usual” don’t play all that well in suburban and rural America.
Just way too much going on in these tenuous social media streets to be remotely optimistic about white men who ensure their yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags are flying every morning to be eager to tune in to Black fighters, and their sensibilities, who have emerged from inner city Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Cleveland, or Houston.
I could resort to some anecdotal statement like, “No one in my office knows who Errol Spence Jr. is…” And I wouldn’t be lying. However, honestly, the only white guys I know who like boxing are people I’ve only come to know on social media. Or the guys who podcast about boxing, or create content about the sport on YouTube.
Then there’s also the text messages I receive on big fight weekends from Marty in Cincinnati. I first met him online before he invited me out to grab some wings and an IPA at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Frankly, I don’t recall much about Marvel’s Civil War flick other than, as I’ve already mentioned, “the others” of the Avengers quickly filled the roster spots on Team Iron Man vs Team Captain America. A dozen individuals with suits, weapons or powers demolished an airport with their fracas. Beyond that, what I can say is, after the movie an awesome villain emerged and the Marvel movies became indisputably great.
The villain now confronting boxing is the rising disinterest of its fans – and whether it’s irreparable at this point. Would reversing what’s happened literally require either a time or reality stone? Besides Spence vs Crawford, what is there in the sport that is truly box-office? Maybe, Alvarez versus… I’d be embarrassed to even say the two names I could say.
The bright side is, boxing’s future can get better. In a perfect world, Spence vs Crawford could be Infinity War and End Game going into the first clash. There was and is good reason to believe a rematch could, or would, be in play for these two highly-skilled operators.
Even if the first fight somehow failed to result in the need for a rematch, getting this fight out of the way enables boxing to move forward with the Young Avengers. Okay, I think we’re about done with the Marvel analogy. However, once Spence and Crawford sort things out, this clears the way for exciting youngsters Jaron Ennis, Vergil Ortiz Jr. and few others to vie for dominance in the 147-pound division.
Furthermore, Spence and Crawford could run things back – at a weight above the Welterweight max if need be – or move up to Super Welterweight to help reignite that fully unified division.
Fans have clearly chosen their side in this ongoing feud. Only fans of Crawford probably agree with, or understand, this move to face Avanesyan next. Regardless, we only have to look at the fact that the 2023 rematch between Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall will only be for the former undisputed Lightweight champion’s WBO title. Hitting the EMP (now I’m going to The Matrix) was Crawford’s last resort, and strongest bargaining chip all along.
Whether Spence/Haymon are to blame, or Crawford wasn’t negotiating in good faith, we all now know what the Omaha native’s next move is. Over the next few weeks, maybe we’ll learn what Haymon plans to do to salvage their interests in such an important division. Do they vacate? Face WBA (regular) champion Eimantas Stanionis? The IBF’s top-ranked contender Ennis? Possibly Ortiz in a Battle for Texas? Or does Spence head to Super Welterweight?
Crawford’s move (I thought the Iron Man franchise was dead too) may ultimately serve the purpose of Marvel’s Civil War. Regardless if we get Spence-Crawford or not because of the upcoming defense, it inevitably sets up the next phase of the Welterweight universe. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get anywhere when it was just a matter of who really had the stones.
Featured image courtesy of Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Spence image courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions