By George Gigney
TERENCE CRAWFORD – widely regarded as one of, if not the best fighter on the planet – spent many years of his career struggling to break through into the mainstream. Despite his dominance in the ring, across numerous weight classes, he just couldn’t cross over and become a legitimate star. Part of that was down to his more subdued nature when talking to the media, part of it could also have been down to a lack of a push from his then-promoter Top Rank.
Crawford is no longer facing such struggles. After his career-defining beatdown of Errol Spence last year, ‘Bud’ – now in his mid-thirties – has become not just a key figure within boxing, but in the major sporting landscape, particularly in the US. Technically still a free agent, he is able to have much more control over where his career goes from here on.
One sign of his new star power is how much impact his social media posts have. Now, when Crawford mentions other fighters online, it makes headlines. In this past week he seemed to suggest that a mooted rematch with Spence – courtesy of a contractual rematch clause from their first fight – may now be dead in the water due to an operation Spence recently had on his eye. Just that one simple post on X (formerly known as Twitter) created something of a stir, with many going on to speculate what Crawford’s next move will be if he no longer has to rematch Spence.
He didn’t stop there though. After Teofimo Lopez, who currently operates in the division below Crawford, went on a public rant to criticise Crawford’s record and insist that he would beat him, the 36-year-old gave Lopez both barrels on social media. In a couple of expletive-laden posts, Crawford called Lopez a coward and basically just stoked more interest in a potential fight between the two.
Again, this garnered plenty of attention from both fans and media, highlighting Crawford (and indeed Lopez’s) relevancy. Crawford’s posts also reveal a more savvy approach to setting up fights. In the past, he tended to fall back on responses like “I’ll fight whoever they put in front of me,” but now he is getting actively involved in drumming up interest across several options.
The obvious problem for Crawford is that he has no fight booked yet. He beat Spence back in July and since then there has been no clear directive on when he will be fighting next, let alone against whom. At this later stage of his career, Crawford is running out of time to strike while the iron is hot after the Spence blowout. It’s all well and good that he has a much higher profile now, but if he doesn’t capitalise on that by securing big fights, it will have been for nothing.
Artur Beterbiev could be moving into a similar position, though certainly not at the same level as Crawford. The light-heavyweight destroyer continued his 100 per cent knockout run at the weekend when he stopped Callum Smith in seven rounds. The win received a surprising amount of media coverage, all of it very impressed with Beterbiev’s performance (and Smith’s bravery). The attention was surprising because Beterbiev, up until this point, hasn’t been a huge name within boxing, again despite his achievements.
Certainly, the timing of the fight helped given that this has been a quiet period in the boxing calendar. The nature of the victory is also important – not even Canelo Alvarez could do that to Smith. Whatever the case, it does seem as though more people than ever are picking up on what Beterbiev has to offer.
Approaching 39 years old, he doesn’t have much time to build on his name and really push for those big paydays. But it does look like he’ll be doing just that as there have been numerous reports that Saudi Arabia are looking to fork out for Beterbiev to meet his closest rival Dmitry Bivol next. Given how successful the Saudis have been lately in getting big fights made, there’s every chance that Beterbiev-Bivol gets finalised and it is absolutely one of the best fights that can be made in the sport right now.
And if there were any doubt that Saudi Arabia is now a major player in boxing, some of the sport’s biggest promoters doubled-down on their commitment to the region in recent interviews. Eddie Hearn and Bob Arum in particular both recently spoke of their excitement to be involved with the Saudis, given how much money their government is pumping into boxing. Arum also spoke about potential fights that the Saudis could facilitate, mainly around Gervonta Davis facing one of numerous Top Rank fighters including Lopez, Shakur Stevenson and Vasily Lomachenko.
Oscar De La Hoya, meanwhile, insists he has lost sleep over the internal debates he’s been having about whether or not to get Golden Boy fighters operating in Saudi Arabia, where most fight fans will not be able to get to watch fights live.
“Do I want the quick money in Saudi Arabia, and lose the fanbase, and lose the fans that the fighters need to progress their career?” he queried.
“That’s why I have these sleepless nights all the time because I’m constantly thinking about what is the next move. Look, money is money, and it’s green. You know, if Saudi Arabia is going to offer something crazy, you have to think about it.”
It’s unlikely De La Hoya is actually debating this – he’s probably just waiting for the right offer to come through. And that’s at the heart of this issue: in boxing, there’s always a price and it just so happens that the Saudis are able and willing to pay it.
Natasha Jonas-Mikaela Mayer
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