There is boxing on your television or available streaming almost every weekend. Many times they’re good, intriguing and entertaining fights.
But Terence Crawford versus Errol Spence wasn’t shaping up to be just another good, intriguing, entertaining fight. It was a generational fight between two of the three or five best fighters in the world. It was the kind of bout that comes along every five or so years, pitting two unbeaten world champions in their primes against each other.
This fight would have — sadly, not will be — boxing at its best.
The farcical business side of boxing won yet again and delivered a crushing body blow to the fans of this unique, often amazing and always unpredictable sport.
Crawford announced late Thursday, in a story first reported by ESPN, that he will fight David Avanesyan on Dec. 10 at Chi Health Center in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. The kicker is that the fight will be distributed by BLK Prime Pay-Per-View at a price of $39.95, meaning someone is going to lose millions upon millions of dollars if reports that Crawford's been guaranteed to earn an eight-figure payday are correct.
It’s hard to blame Crawford, the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world in the Yahoo Sports rankings, for taking what will be basically a hard tuneup for $10 million or more. It’s like finding a winning lottery ticket blowing in the wind.
The problem is, negotiations for this fight have been going on for a long time. Crawford announced after his last fight, which was last November in Las Vegas against Shawn Porter, that he was not going to re-sign a promotional agreement with Top Rank because Top Rank couldn’t get him the Spence fight.
Well, it looks now like Top Rank wasn’t the problem.
The old-school boxing folks will always tell you that when fighters really want to fight each other, the fight gets done. This should have been the easiest of deals to make. They of course argued about who was the bigger draw, which is clearly ridiculous because they need each other to make a big fight and fans don’t give two hoots about that nonsense. They want to see the fight.
There were two easy ways to make this fight: The best, and easiest, was to make it a 50-50 revenue split. Since Spence has sold more pay-per-views than Crawford to this point, his side insisted he be paid like the A-side. But that’s nonsense, because he wasn’t ever going to do a massive number without Crawford.
The other way would have been to guarantee each man an equal amount — 45 or 47.5% — with the remaining 5 or 10% going to the winner. Simple.
Crawford, of course, blamed Spence and said Spence and PBC founder Al Haymon were to blame.
“I agreed to all of their [B.S.] and they’ve been dragging their ass for months,” Crawford told ESPN. “Spence was nowhere to be found while I was trying to make the deal.”
But if he agreed, he didn’t put pen to paper and instead of a fight that would make the world stop and take notice, we’ll instead get a one-sided blood-letting.
Spence told the Dallas Morning News that Crawford was to blame.
“I don’t know who [Avanesyan] is,” Spence told his hometown newspaper. “I’ve done everything that I said I was going to do and I’ll fight him next and we’ll see who is holding the fight up. Everybody sees now who is holding the fight up.”
There are so many good things that are going on in boxing now, with fresh young talent coming into the sport at a quick pace. The fighters are, largely, now agreeing to fight the best and with the talent they possess, there are many excellent bouts that have recently been held and will soon be made.
But a fight like Spence-Crawford is the one that would have been the showcase for all the others. It would have grabbed international headlines and the A-list stars would have flocked to Las Vegas to watch it. There have been so many classic welterweight title bouts in just the last 40 years, and this would have been the next of them.
Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran fought twice in 1980. Leonard fought Tommy Hearns in 1981. Oscar De La Hoya fought Felix Trinidad in a battle of unbeaten welterweight champions in 1999. Floyd Mayweather fought Manny Pacquiao (after years of protracted, agonizing and, yeah, nauseating negotiations) in 2015.
Crawford-Spence would have been the next great one in that line.
Instead, again, it’s Crawford-Avanesyan, and you have to pay $40 for the privilege of watching it. Crawford has never been a draw on pay-per-view even when he had Top Rank, by far the best promoter in the business at building stars and selling pay-per-views, doing his fights.
The moment he signed the contract to fight Avanesyan might also be the beginning of the end of BLK Prime, since this promotion is going to hemorrhage money. In three previous pay-per-view bouts, against Viktor Postol, Amir Khan and Porter, Crawford hasn’t sold 400,000 pay-per-views combined.
BLK Prime is going to have to pay Avanesyan, put together an undercard, market and promote the fight and find sponsorships. It may sell out CHI Health Center in Omaha because Crawford’s hometown fans have always supported him well. But it won’t get a significant gate. This fight will be fortunate if it does 150,000 on pay-per-view, and if I had to guess, I’d guess it would be more likely to come in at plus-or-minus 100,000 buys.
The news in the boxing ring is almost always good. But this week, with WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury announcing a pointless third fight with Derek Chisora instead of a bout with unified champion Oleksandr Usyk and Crawford fighting Avanesyan instead of Spence, the news in the business of this sport is rotten as always.