Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr. squandering golden opportunity

Fans complain about the glut of increasingly meaningless world titles, which are overseen by sketchy sanctioning bodies. Incompetent judging continues to rankle people, who believe all fighters deserve a fair shake.

The biggest problem in the sport could be something else, however: The failure to make the biggest possible fights.

My heart sank when I learned that Terence Crawford would be fighting David Avanesyan on Dec. 10 instead of Errol Spence Jr., with whom Crawford has been negotiating to make arguably the most compelling matchup in recent years.

My first thought was, “Here we go again. Fans are going to be devastated.” And they obviously are.

I understand that boxers risk their lives every time they step through the ropes and generally have short careers. They have a right to push for everything that’s important to them in negotiations, whether it’s related to money or something else.

However, when egotistical, overly demanding fighters let down fans as Crawford and Spence have, they do damage to both their reputations and the sport.

My instinct is to throw up my hands and walk away. And I know I’m not alone.

I don’t know what obstacles Crawford and Spence have failed to overcome. Crawford blamed Spence for the impasse, telling ESPN that Spence and his handlers have “been dragging their ass for months” and Spence “didn’t want the fight as bad as I did.”

Meanwhile, a Spence representative reportedly insisted that his client addressed all of Crawford’s concerns and is baffled as to why Crawford hasn’t agreed to the deal.

My guess is that both men are being stubborn in some respects.

The fans want the fight. Crawford and Spence say they want the fight, which would earn them and their associates enormous paydays. The winner could become the biggest star in the sport, particularly if he wins convincingly.

Isn’t that the ultimate opportunity in boxing? Isn’t that the dream? Crawford and Spence have it within their grasp but they refuse to grab it. And it’s the fans who suffer most.

It’s reminiscent of another highly anticipated welterweight matchup for which talks dragged on for years, Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao. They finally fought in 2015 but both were past their primes, giving the fight the feel of an old-timers game.

Is that where we’re headed with Crawford and Spence?

Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs) hasn’t shown obvious signs of decline but he’s 35, an age when most fighters have begun to slip. He might already be slightly past his prime. Indeed, the clock is ticking for both Crawford and his meeting with the 32-year-old Spence (28-0, 22 KOs).

The good news – er, hopeful news – is they haven’t shut down talks, by all accounts. That could mean that Crawford remains committed to a fight with Spence but wanted to stay busy until a deal could be reached. He hasn’t fought this year.

Hence the fight with Avanesyan, which will keep Crawford sharp even if the native of Russia doesn’t present a significant challenge.

Crawford and Spence reportedly are now targeting the first quarter of next year for their fight, although there’s no reason to believe they’ll come to terms. They simply have more time. We’ll see what they do with it, if anything.

We can only hope that they recognize the unusual opportunity in front of them and take the steps necessary to make the fight happen.

One step they might want to consider: compromise. For the sake of those who support them.

Related

Report: Terence Crawford to face David Avanesyan on Dec. 10

Report: Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr. agree to terms, targeting Nov. 19

Story originally appeared on Boxing Junkie