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The Hauser Report: The Meaning of Crawford-Porter

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  • The Hauser Report: The Meaning of Crawford-Porter

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    By Thomas Hauser\

    On Saturday night, November 20, Terence Crawford successfully defended his WBO 147-pound title with a tenth-round knockout of Shawn Porter before a sold-out crowd of 11,568 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. It was a statement win for Crawford that boxing fans hope will pave the way for more and bigger career-defining fights in the future.

    Crawford came into the bout recognized as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. His record stood at 37-0 with 28 knockouts. But at age 34, he didn't have a defining fight on his resume. As Jimmy Tobin wrote after Terence's fourth-round stoppage of a faded Kell Brook last year, "No one seriously denies Crawford’s talent, but no one seriously denies he is squandering it." Bart Barry noted, "Just because he has been near the top of abstract rankings for a couple years doesn’t mean his reign has been a good one."

    Crawford moved into the public eye with eleven fights on HBO during a fifty-month span that ended on May 20, 2017. The opponents were learning experiences, some more challenging than others. Terence did what he was supposed to do against them.

    Then Crawford's activity level dropped. Over the next 54 months, he had only six fights. In the first - against Julius Indongo - he unified the four major 140-pound belts with an impressive third-round stoppage. But Indongo has now been knocked out in four of his last five outings.

    After beating Indongo, Crawford moved up to 147 pounds and dominated a mix of past-their-prime names (Brook and Amir Khan) and marginal opponents (Jeff Horn, Jose Benavidez, and Egidijus Kavaliauskas). He'd been on the sidelines for more than a year before fighting Porter.

    Why hasn't the superbly talented Crawford become a star?

    For starters, the reality of boxing is that very few stars have been made since HBO dropped out of the business. One might ask why ESPN can't make stars in the sweet science? After all, ESPN has a much larger platform than HBO ever had. And it has money. In addition to advertising revenue and monthly payments from cable system operators, ESPN receives income from more than seventeen million people who subscribe to ESPN+. Within this framework, it pays Top Rank a reported $84 million annually in license fees for fights pursuant to a seven-year contract.

    But long-term output deals with a promoter are often counterproductive for a network because they take away the network's biggest bargaining chip - the date. And they encourage the practice of fighters only fighting opponents who are under the same promotional umbrella (a practice akin to the inbred insanity that once accompanied members of royal families in Europe marrying their own cousins).

    One key to HBO's success was that its boxing program was open to all promoters. That encouraged star-making fights. Indeed, one reason for the decline of HBO's boxing program was that there came a time when it forged an alliance with Al Haymon and gave Haymon's fighters preferential treatment in a way that wasn't in HBO's best interests and worked against the best fighting the best.

    These forces came to a head for Crawford after his November 14, 2020, knockout of Kell

    Brook. Bob Arum (Terence's promoter) was asked by The Athletic about Crawford's future with Top Rank and, clearly frustrated, responded, "He’s got to promote like {Teofimo} Lopez does. He’s got to promote like Shakur {Stevenson} does, like Mayweather did, like Pacquiao did. If he doesn’t, then who the f*** needs him? He may be the greatest fighter in the world. But hey, I ain’t going bankrupt promoting him. I could build a house in Beverly Hills on the money I’ve lost on him in the last three fights, a beautiful home. Nobody questions Crawford’s tremendous ability. The question is, ‘Does he pay the bills?'"

    Four days later, Crawford responded during a SiriusXM interview. Some of his comments were confrontational. “It pissed me off because I'm one of the most loyal people," Terence said. "For him to say some foolish sh** like that, it made me look at him a totally different way. Release me now and you don't have to lose money no more. I'm not a promoter. What am I? A fighter. I get paid to fight, I don't get paid to promote. He gets paid to promote. He's supposed to promote me. I always felt like I was set up from the jump so they didn't have to pay me the money that I deserved. I used to take pay cuts because I didn't care about the money. Now he's going to pay me more [than] the [contractual] minimum every single time that I fight because I deserve it. You're going to pay me what I'm worth."

    But Crawford also struck a conciliatory note, saying, "I can't bash Bob Arum and Top Rank. They gave me the opportunity to accomplish everything in my career. I know deep down in my heart that Bob really is a good dude and he really did try everything possible in his will to get these fights I was asking for. I don't know what made him come out and say all of the negative stuff he said about me. I have a lot of things going through my head right now. I don't really like to talk about it because I'm not the kind of person to put my business in the streets. If I ever had a problem with Bob Arum and Top Rank, I always went to them. We may have a disagreement right now. We're going through some trials and tribulations, but we're gonna get it figured out. Top Rank is the company I am with right now, but who knows what the future may hold.”

    Money can soothe hurt feelings. Top Rank's relationship with Teofimo Lopez is Exhibit A for that proposition. But Top Rank built Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, and Miguel Cotto to super-stardom, shepherded Manny Pacquiao through his glory years, and lost all of them. That's the nature of boxing. So, with time running out on its contract with Crawford, Top Rank matched Terence against Shawn Porter.

    Porter had compiled a 31-3-1 (17 KOs) record that included victories over Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi, Adrien Broner, Andre Berto, Danny Garcia, and Yordenis Ugas. But he'd lost his three biggest fights - against Kell Brook, Keith Thurman, and Errol Spence.

    On the business side of things, Porter was promoted by Al Haymon (Arum's archrival in recent years). But Haymon was willing to cede control of Crawford-Porter to Top Rank. And Terence was likely to leave Top Rank once his contractual obligation to the promoter was fulfilled (which it now has been). So, from Arum's point of view, why not make the fight?

    Meanwhile, from Haymon's point of view, an upset would increase Porter's marketability. And let's not forget, Haymon would love to sign Crawford.

    The build-up to Crawford-Porter was largely about Crawford. Porter is a class act and a good fighter who has always been willing to go in tough. But in terms of marketability, his ring losses had put a ceiling on how high he could climb.

    There was also a question as to what Porter would bring to the ring on fight night. He'd fought only once in the preceding 26 months - an uninspiring win by decision over the justifiably unheralded Sebastian Formella. Indeed, some observers regarded Porter largely as a measuring stick for Crawford. Terence opened as a 4-to-1 betting favorite and the odds moved as high as 6-to-1. Yes, Porter was "always dangerous." And this was an opportunity for him to reboot. But at age 35, could he compete with Crawford?

    Terence thought not. "I respect everything that Shawn does," Crawford said at the final pre-fight press conference. "Shawn is athletic. He can box. He can bang. He can move around in the ring. He can cut corners and take angles. I’m just going to say that I do a lot of things better than Shawn."

    When fight night came, Porter fought as hoped for, applying pressure as best he could. Crawford was simply better.

    Terence is a complete fighter, who shifts seamlessly from orthodox to southpaw. He now has "man strength" to go with his skills. He's no longer just a slick boxer; he's a puncher. With an attitude. And he keeps his strength as a fight wears on.

    Porter fought well. The judges' scorecards were remarkably consistent. Each judge tallied each round the same except for round eight (which Steve Weisfeld and Dave Moretti scored for Porter and Max DeLuca gave to Crawford). After nine rounds, the cards stood at 87-84, 86-85, 86-85 in Terence's favor. But on a more primal level, Crawford had established his dominance.

    The end came in round ten. Fifteen seconds into the stanza, a sharp right uppercut landed flush on Porter's jaw and dropped him to the canvas. Shawn rose at the count of three. Crawford went after him and connected with a crushing straight left followed by three more head shots of varying severity that downed Porter for the second time. This time, Shawn was up at seven. Referee Celestino Ruiz was assessing the situation when Kenny Porter (Shawn's trainer and father) stepped onto the ring apron and stopped the fight.

    I understand my dad's position," Shawn said at the post-fight press conference. "I took too many shots right there, clean. And that's not what we do. It was bad defense, hands were down. Part of me wanted to get back and was careless. And then the other part of me was a little out of it and not able to defend myself quick enough."

    Shawn then announced his retirement from boxing. Let's hope he stands by that decision.

    As for the future; the fight that most boxing fans want to see next is Crawford vs. Errol Spence. But it appeared as though Spence didn't want to fight Crawford before. And most likely, he doesn't want to fight him now.

    At the post-fight press conference on Saturday night, Porter (who lost a split decision to Spence in 2019) observed, "Terence is different. It's like you can't really pick up everything it is that he does. He does everything more than exceptionally well. Going twelve rounds with Errol Spence was not as tough as fighting Terence Crawford. He’s the best out of everybody I have been in the ring with."

    And Crawford seems to have given up on the idea that Spence will step in the ring with him, saying, "That fight is past me pushing. I did everything that I possibly can do to try to make that fight happen. Everybody kept saying, ‘Oh, I’m chasing him. I’m this and I’m that.’ Yeah, I was chasing him. And he don’t want the fight. He was saying he wanted the fight, but he really didn’t want the fight. And my thing was just, if you wanted the fight, you could’ve made the fight happen. I really don’t see us fighting, to tell you the truth. Sometimes you just let those fights pass you by."

    Spence, of course, is promoted by Al Haymon, who also has other potential high-profile opponents for Crawford under contract. But it remains to be seen whether Haymon's big-money names will be willing to risk their titles and physical wellbeing against Terence.

    As for his promotional future, Crawford declared at the post-fight press conference, "I'm pretty sure my decision is made already. I'm moving forward with my career right now and I wish everybody the best."

    But Top Rank has done an excellent job of building Crawford to this point. And if Terence wants big-money guarantees going forward, he might have to wait for Canelo Alvarez's promotional situation to play out before getting clarity with regard to his own situation.

    Canelo has said that he's happy with his status as a free agent. After all but disappearing on DAZN for six consecutive fights, he generated an estimated 800,000 pay-per-view buys for his November 6 outing against Caleb Plant. Signing Canelo is a goal for every major network and promoter in boxing. Based on his showing against Plant (in the ring and economically), a network might decide to throw an irresistible amount of money at him (as DAZN did several years ago).

    Canelo, because of the opponents he has faced, deserves today's #1 pound-for-pound ranking. But Crawford is in the conversation. Meanwhile, Terence has some thoughts that merit consideration in closing:

    * “A lot of people are born with the urge to win everything. That’s me. Some people are born with more heart. You can’t teach heart. You can’t teach somebody to take punches. Some people are just born with natural ability and God-gifted skills. I believe that I’m one of them."

    * "Me as a fighter, a lot of people on the outside can see something different. ‘Oh, I see this and I see that. I can exploit this kind of defense and do this with Terence Crawford.’ Then, when they get in the ring with me, I’m totally different. Seeing something and being in the ring is two totally different things."

    * "I look at most of the critics, you know, they don’t even know too much about boxing. They just go on what the next person saying or what they read and what they hear. They not going on they own boxing knowledge. So, I don’t really too much bother to care what critics say or how they view me and how they rate me.”

    Thomas Hauser's email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing's highest honor - induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

    Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty images

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Retirement my butt. The decision was made on the spur of the moment and it's not likely to have much staying power. He probably has a fortune in earnings and a great house in LV, but the eventual need for attention and acclaim will override his comfort level and he will be back. Book it!!!

    As for Crawford, what makes him special is his ability to adjust using both hands. That makes him extremely unique and quite capable of handling Spence though Taylor would be a bit more trouble.

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