Bridging the gap to Errol Spence Jr. vs. Terence Crawford
Ask fight fans to give you a short list of fights they’d like to see in the near future. Chances are the large majority of them will list a welterweight unification clash between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence.
The question is, how realistic is this fight, given one boxer (Crawford, the WBO champion) is aligned with Top Rank and ESPN and the other (Spence, who has the IBF title) is under the Premier Boxing Champions banner and Showtime?
All the entities involved will have to “reach across the aisle” and make sacrifices, and, while working separately in their own universes, understand they are working toward the same goal. Eventually this will have to be a collaborative effort.
When Bob Arum, the CEO of Top Rank, was asked about the process of making this match-up happen sooner rather than later, he told UCNLive.com on Monday, “My end is to do what we’re doing with Terence – make him a household name more than he is. We started that where he was on two big ESPN shows last week. He was on ‘The Breakfast Club,’ a big urban show and he’s one of our poster guys. Probably our principle poster guy because he’s American and he’s going to fight very often and his next fight we hope to have in Omaha.
“We’ll just keep him busy and hopefully (PBC founder Al) Haymon does the same with Spence because the fight could be huge.”
Spence, who has already fought twice in 2018, is expected to make another appearance on Showtime by the end of the year and Crawford is scheduled to return in mid-October.
“But again, I can only build up one side of it,” continued Arum. “These guys want to get compensated really well and they’re entitled to. Both of them are marquee fighters. You can’t do it on regular TV, whether it’s ESPN or Showtime, because it’s way too expensive. The only way you could do it is pay-per-view and we’ve got to all work together to build it up as a big American pay-per-view attraction like (Sugar Ray) Leonard-(Thomas) Hearns, that kind of thing.”
This particular pairing is the best and biggest fight to make featuring U.S. boxers.
“Not even a question,” agreed Arum. “That’s absolutely correct and we’re prepared to do whatever we can to do it and we would be prepared if they were willing to put Spence on the ESPN platform for a fight – not forever but for a fight – to build it up because that’s how you build it. But they may not be willing to do it and I’m not going to force them to. In other words, if I had my druthers, it’s to have Terence fight two or three more times, once this year, twice next year, in the first six months on ESPN.
“I would like Spence to do a fight on Showtime and a fight on ESPN and, in the fall of next year, have them fight each other. I think that could be built at that point into a ‘major’ pay-per-view. Now I’m not crazy – what is a ‘major pay-per-view’? Anything over 500,000 (buys).”
When Stephen Espinoza, the head of Showtime Sports, was asked about the building of Crawford-Spence and their part in it, he said, on Wednesday, “I think, if I’m following the interviews, Bob has laid out the fact that he thinks it’s a little while away. Definitely, you’ll see it in the future but not talking the immediate future but two or three fights down the line and that’s encouraging because it’s an interesting match-up.
Showtime is the broadcast home for a talented roster of 147-pounders that they have broadcast for years.
“Personally for me, there are some guys who have sort of been waiting in line longer and have better resumes at 147,” said Espinoza, alluding to the fact that Crawford has just one fight under his belt at welterweight. “And given that it doesn’t sound like Bob isn’t talking about it immediately anyway, I’m still salivating over the possibility of Errol versus the winner of (Danny) Garcia and (Shawn) Porter (for the vacant WBC welterweight title). So not to denigrate what Crawford has done, he cleaned house at 140 and is off to a good start at 147 but he doesn’t have the resume of a Garcia or Porter or Keith Thurman at 147.”
As of this moment, this side of the street has the majority of the well-known welters and Espinoza has plans on seeing this scrum. “I think these guys, quite honestly, deserve the fight more. I think that’s more importantly what I hear from Errol and (his trainer) Derrick James and that’s not to say the Terence Crawford fight can’t happen or won’t happen.
“I just think it’s probably not something that we’ll see immediately but rather down the line.”
Arum believes firmly, for this fight – and others of this nature – that they must be put on pay-per-view. It’s one way to bridge the gap between the competing parties – making sure everyone can eat at the table. Espinoza noted, “One of the reasons we were all willing to undertake the pain of bringing two competitive entities together for (Floyd) Mayweather (Jr.) and (Manny) Pacquiao was because it was a huge opportunity for the sport, financially and all other ways.”
However this fight has to be economically viable for everyone involved.
“It would have to be worth the trouble and the opportunity,” Espinoza noted. “If it doesn’t make sense from the business perspective or an opportunity perspective, then you’re talking about jumping through a lot of hoops for very little payoff. So it really depends on the magnitude of the opportunity, which certainly now looks like a big one and will hopefully get bigger.”
“If we can’t build it up to that, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves,” said Arum, who believes, unlike the tenor of the Mayweather-Pacquiao negotiation, it’s much less confrontational. “It requires cooperation from the other side. Nobody wants to take anything away; Showtime has been really good to Spence and (Al) Haymon and, if it ended up a pay-per-view, a deal could be made with Showtime and ESPN working together.
“We can all cooperate; it would be huge and so, if I had my druthers – which I don’t – that’s the plan I would have.”
While the finals of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament between Murat Gassiev an Oleksandr Usyk, on July 21, have been finalized for Moscow, Russia, I’m hearing that Jeddah (please), Saudi Arabia, might actually host the super middleweight finals between Callum Smith and WBA beltholder George Groves…Looking more and more like the July 21 fight between WBO 154-pound titlist Jaime Munguia and Liam Smith will end up at the Hard Rock, in Las Vegas, after flirting with Pechanga Resort & Casino. So yeah, I guess we won’t see you in Temecula…Great to have “Shades of Blue” back on NBC…”Succession'” on HBO has some of the most miserable, cringe-worthy characters on television. It’s wonderful…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.