Bob Arum-Al Haymon feud continues to be boxing's black eye as pair delay another iconic fight

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Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
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Terence Crawford, a la derecha, pega a Amir Khan durante el quinto asalto de su combate de boxeo de peso welter de la WBO, el domingo 21 de abril de 2019 en Nueva York. (AP Foto/Frank Franklin II)
Terence Crawford (R) lands a punch on Amir Khan in their welterweight title fight Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP)

After Manny Pacquiao, in arguably the finest performance of his brilliant career, stopped Miguel Cotto in the 12th round of a 2009 welterweight title fight, anticipation was high for Pacquiao to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. in what was expected to be a showdown for the ages.

Sure enough, the legendary welterweights fought.

It didn’t happen, though, until 2015, after Mayweather had spent time in jail, after Pacquiao had been knocked cold by Juan Manuel Marquez and after years of mind-numbing finger-pointing and back-and-forth from representatives of both fighters blaming the other for it not happening.

Sadly, we’re in for the same thing with WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford and IBF champion Errol Spence Jr.

There is no love lost between Top Rank’s Bob Arum, who promoted Pacquiao then and has Crawford now; and Al Haymon, the creator of the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) who handled Mayweather then and has Spence now.

It’s going to be ugly trying to get to this fight, and it will be worse because we had to put up with this garbage for more than five years in trying to get the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight made.

And, surprise, surprise, here we are again.

Crawford’s TKO of Khan set up Spence fight

After Crawford stopped Amir Khan in the sixth round of a one-sided title bout Saturday at Madison Square Garden to raise his record to 35-0, Crawford and Spence are now a combined 60-0 with 47 knockouts.

Crawford was typically brilliant Saturday, tearing Khan apart almost from the get-go. He dropped Khan with a crunching straight right in the first, raked his body with hard shots in the fourth and fifth, and left Khan bleeding, wobbly and unsteady as he went to his stool after the fifth.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 20:  Terence Crawford punches Amir Khan  during their WBO welterweight title fight at Madison Square Garden on April 20, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Terence Crawford dominated Amir Khan during their WBO welterweight title fight on Saturday in New York's Madison Square Garden. (Getty Images)

It was a matter of time until he finished it, but the end came in a bizarre way. Crawford hit Khan with an extraordinarily bad low blow. Though it was clearly accidental, it rendered Khan incapable of going on. Because Khan trainer Virgil Hunter told referee David Fields that Khan couldn’t go on, it went into the books as a sixth-round TKO at 47 seconds instead of going to the scorecards where Crawford would then have won a technical decision.

“It would have been interesting to see how the fight would have gone on [had it not been stopped] because [Khan] was starting to land some punches himself,” Hunter said. “He had picked up on Crawford’s rhythm before [the low blow] happened. I’m not saying it would have affected the outcome of the fight, but I would have liked to have seen what would have happened had he not taken that low blow that incapacitated him.”

Crawford did nothing to diminish his standing as the best fighter in the world. Yahoo Sports rated Crawford, Spence and WBA-WBC lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko Nos. 1, 2 and 3, respectively, going into the fight and nothing that happened Saturday changed that.

Saturday’s victory for Crawford should set up a mouth-watering fight against Spence, a bout that figures to be reminiscent of the 1981 classic between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns. But just like in the Mayweather-Pacquiao talks, with Haymon and Arum on opposite sides, the likelihood of seeing Crawford-Spence any time soon is negligible.

Why Arum, Haymon won’t agree on Crawford-Spence

Haymon’s PBC has most of the best welterweights under contract and there are rumors that Spence may look to unify the WBC belt with Shawn Porter in the summer, and that Pacquiao, now with the PBC, may face Keith Thurman in a battle of WBA champions.

Those would be good fights, but none of them would have the cachet and the interest of Crawford-Spence, which I should repeat isn’t going to be happening because of the nauseating way this sport is run.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 19: Top Rank boxing founder Bob Arum looks on during the weigh-in for welterweight fighters Terence Crawford and Amir Khan of the United Kingdom at Madison Square Garden on April 19, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Top Rank boxing founder Bob Arum looks on during the weigh-in for Terence Crawford and Amir Khan at Madison Square Garden on April 19, 2019 in New York City. (Getty Images)

Arum has never been a diplomat, and has gotten away far too often with talking publicly first and then thinking later. He is one of the most emotional and combustible people you’d ever want to meet, and at 87, what little patience and restraint he once had is all but gone for someone who is arguably the greatest promoter in boxing history.

“Listen, we want to fight Errol Spence,” Arum said. “Terence wants it. I think Errol wants the fight. There’s one guy that’s stopping it. That’s Al Haymon. Every boxing fan should refuse to patronize Haymon’s fights until he agrees that Spence fights Crawford.”

That, of course, was not the best way to open negotiations for the fight.

It’s not like Haymon is blameless in all of this. He has no public accountability. He doesn’t speak to the media and discourages anyone working for him to say anything of substance. He gets to avoid the hard questions that Arum and Top Rank president Todd duBoef face regularly in these situations.

Haymon isn’t a promoter, at least by name, and he hires promoters to put on his fights on a show-by-show basis.

Ellerbe: Arum has lost his mind

One of the promoters Haymon uses the most is Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions. Yahoo Sports reached Ellerbe, who was in Carson, California, Saturday promoting Danny Garcia’s seventh-round stoppage of Adrian Granados at Dignity Health Sports Park, to get his take on Arum’s comments.

Ellerbe, who on Thursday during an interview with Yahoo Sports said he didn’t believe a Crawford-Spence fight was coming anytime soon, was angered when apprised of Arum’s comments about Haymon during the ESPN pay-per-view broadcast.

“By making those comments that he made, I guarantee you that’s not going to help him in any kind of a way,” Ellerbe told Yahoo Sports on Saturday. “I guarantee you that. You can’t sit around, and I want you to quote me on this, but you can’t sit around and talk s--- about somebody and then right away go try to make a deal with him. He’s completely lost his mind. I think he’s lost his mind.”

Crawford-Spence is a special fight in which everything is coming together that could make it one of the iconic matches in the sport’s history. Because of the quality and depth of the welterweights on his side of the fence, Haymon could make Spence-Porter, Pacquiao-Thurman and have Garcia against another opponent and all of them would be compelling fights.

But there is no combination of fights he could put together that would come close to matching Crawford-Spence.

Because Haymon and Arum have a years-long business dispute, they’re hurting the sport. Both Top Rank and the PBC have done great things, and speak publicly about improving the public perception of boxing. This, though — not quickly making this fight, which would be a fan’s dream — is why boxing perennially is usually in the gutter and frequently fighting off rumors of its demise. The fights fans really want to see are often stuck in this galling political quagmire.

Fight fans suffer when boxing eats its young

Ellerbe told Yahoo Sports on Saturday that a heavyweight rematch between Deontay Wilder, a Haymon fighter, and Tyson Fury, was nearly finalized. Then, Top Rank signed Fury and said Fury wanted to put the rematch on hold.

“Right now, nobody really knows either Spence or Crawford outside of 300,000 or 400,000 boxing fans,” Ellerbe said. “ … If we’re looking to elevate the sport, everyone has to make a concerted effort to do that and think of the big picture. They don’t happen just because Bob Arum jumps up and screams and yells because he wakes up one day and realizes, ‘I can’t deliver my kid a big fight.’

“You would agree the Wilder-Fury fight was very successful and people liked it and wanted to see it again, right? Well, the rematch was a week away from being made, and guess what? Bob Arum and Top Rank came in and signed Fury and ended the rematch. I think Bob has done everything he can possibly do to [expletive] this up.”

The reality is that there are no good guys in this, nor are there any winners. Once again, the public is the big loser.

If Arum and Haymon don’t settle their differences and make the fight that the public so wants to see, it’s just another case of boxing eating its young.

I wish I could say I’m optimistic.

I am not.

Crawford and Spence may fight one day.

If I had to bet, just like Mayweather-Pacquiao, it will probably be years after it should have occurred.

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