LET’S NOT TALK ABOUT SIDES OF THE STREET, AND TALK ABOUT TERENCE CRAWFORD.
Terence Crawford is more than likely the best fighter in the world right now, as he has unified two-division, lightweight and super lightweight well being well on his way to unifying his third weight class, holding the WBO welterweight world title currently, yet heading into his Saturday night bout against Egidijus Kavaliauskas, affectionately referred to as “Mean Machine”, at Madison Square Garden, on ESPN, the headlines being written are as much about this fight as they are about the politics of making fights, and “the sides of the street” fighters are on. So, let’s discuss the question most are talking about.
WHAT IS THIS STREET TALK?
I wish I could give a citation to clearly explain all this side of the street talk, but in reality it just started occurring in the past year. Boxing is as divided as ever. With Top Rank having a deal with ESPN, Matchroom/Golden Boy working with DAZN and Premier Boxing Champions using FOX and Showtime to distribute their content, meaning “in-house fights”, or rather fighters under these promoters contracts are more finically viable to get an easier return on investment as opposed to having to co-promote and share an allotted sum of money with other promoters. So in short, if you have an agenda against any boxer and want to discredit their resume, you can simply point to one of two things, 1) who have they fought and 2) they have turned down “x” sum of money for an upcoming fight with another superstar fighter from a rival network.
Not to mention, smaller promoters will be more than happy to keep their fighters active on these bigger shows with bigger budgets for their fighters. Allowing a further divide as “just enough talent” exists to keep the old model afloat of keeping everything in-house or with our promotion having a majority of the control of the profits and promotions.
Sometimes these claims are based in reality, sometimes they’re used as a narrative to help propel narratives that splinter the sport. Much like how political campaigns have taglines and beliefs that voters get behind, promoters are now catering to certain subsections and/or certain subsections are creating individualized content on platforms that didn’t exist years ago, like say YouTube. So in short, part of the problem with the side of the street talk is a bigger problem in the world today, “Alex Jones-ification” of the news in which things based on half-truths can be blown up for finical gain and turned into talking points, forever. Opinions disguised as facts, insults disguised as intelligence.
What it leaves is, an exhausted boxing fan if you’re simply just trying to watch boxing, breakdown skillsets and enjoy your weekend with a boxing match, it can feel like a burden, having a polarized group seemingly looking at agendas around the fight as opposed to the fight itself.
In short, are people enjoying watching boxing or are they enjoying narrative construction outside of the fights?
Crawford is great
One thing is for sure and two things are for certain, Terence Crawford is an all-time great. An elusive boxer-puncher, who is unique in his own right uses movement like Sergio Martinez to be defensive, but with killer instincts to finish fighters when they’re hurt, makes him a unique fighter of this era.
Crawford won his first world title overseas defeating Ricky Burns and doing a backflip before Teofimo Lopez did it, Lopez will be fighting on Crawford’s undercard for his first world title this Saturday, FYI. Crawford has beaten Thomas Dulorme, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Viktor Postol, Felix Diaz and Jose Benavidez Jr., all in three different weight classes. The resume is solid, in fact already a hall-of-fame one at that, but the one thing that is odd; is how Crawford still doesn’t resonate the way he should with people based on all that he has achieved.
Crawford has fought on PPV twice, and after both PPV fights, he went back to a regularly televised fight that wasn’t behind a hefty paywall of more $50 or so dollars. Crawford has a fanbase in Nebraska, and his fanbase will travel to New York, but when he fought in Las Vegas, Nevada, the upper deck of the MGM Grand Garden Arena was closed fight week, as not enough people were attending.
Top Rank is by far the best promoter in the game, but still, Crawford’s influence on the culture of boxing and at the live gate is surprisingly less influential than his legacy as a boxer, in which he will more than likely be seen as the best of his era, or at the very least top five of that era.
Why is that?
So far it seems like bad timing. Much like a fight, a star is made by performance, but also excitement around a performance that leaves people wanting more, telling others and nowadays sharing it on social media, you know, going viral. Crawford rose to fame stepping up to beat Breidis Prescott on HBO, taking the bout on a week’s notice. A year later, Crawford knocked out Gamboa in one of the best fights of the decade, let alone that year. After that, Crawford seemingly never had the fight or the performance that lived to the billed fight that captured the world’s imagination despite always putting forth an entertaining and talent-filled performance.
When Crawford fought Viktor Postol, Crawford dropped Postol twice, but also was patient and smart not to get caught with anything making sure to win, as it was his first marquee bout. Fights against John Molina Jr, Felix Diaz and even unifying the division at 140 lbs against Julius Indongo were to little fanfare, as Crawford was seen as so much more dominant than these world-class fighters that, great results were downplayed by lack of excitement.
When Crawford stopped Jeff Horn who was coming off beating Manny Pacquiao, the bout aired on the newly started ESPN+, and was quickly written off as a joke despite, Horn bullying Pacquiao around the ring, his fight prior. When he fought an extremely talented Jose Benavidez Jr., who suffered a gunshot wound that impacted his career, Benavidez’s unfortunate past overshadowed Crawford’s performance, and in his last PPV bout against Amir Khan, quite simply no one was interested, but the two fighters are big names, that merit big purses, so despite lack of interest, it was justifiable.
Crawford now goes into Saturday against “Mean Machine”, a tough, solid puncher, who struggles against boxers at times and happens to be coming off a draw to Ray Robinson, yet somehow ended up in a title fight with Crawford, at MSG, as Top Rank’s final show of the year.
The facts are clear to me. If a fighter is not under the promotional banner of Top Rank, other promoters don’t want to face Terence Crawford unless the finical return is so much you can’t say no, Top Rank has utilized all resources to keep Crawford active. You’d have to greatly overpay talent to get in with Crawford, and even then you might still have people say no.
Terence Crawford’s final act will be interesting especially with his rival and contemporary Errol Spence Jr, out indefinitely after the DWI car crash that was so bad that it might have taken him out of the sport indefinitely, as the two were compared against each other.
The question is; how does Crawford not get frustrated at his current situation by not being able to fight the best since rival promoter are using the guise of ‘sides of the street’ to kill talks of bouts with him?
Taking it one step further, how do we as media report on Crawford as this might a uniquely modern experience of promoters and media trying to weaponize knowledge and resumes to discredit great fighters based on holding them out?