Terence Crawford is boxing's best. His combination of speed, power and skill were on display Saturday, as he finished Kell Brook with a flurry of punches that led to a fourth-round TKO. But the lingering question about Crawford remains: When will he put a bow on his career by making a megafight with Errol Spence Jr. or Manny Pacquiao?
It's time. It's 2021 or bust. No more excuses. No more promises. Crawford, 33, is at a career crossroads, with his deal with Top Rank nearing an end. A continued future between them seems dependent on one of those promised superfights taking place next year.
"The pressure is on everybody," Crawford told ESPN this week. "This is not just on one person. It takes more than one person to get the fight done."
Crawford should get a night to relish his dominant victory against a respected former champion, a man his rival Spence needed 11 rounds to get out of there, while Crawford did it in four.
"Never in my career, nobody has ever done that to me in sparring or anything," Brook said after the fight.
But that's not the reality of boxing. Even Crawford -- the most feared man in the division -- will be judged by whether he fights Spence and/or Pacquiao.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum said he plans to make Crawford's next fight against Spence or Pacquiao in the first half of 2021. Their preference is Pacquiao, given that he is still the bigger fight, from legacy and financial perspectives. Arum said he's eyeing April or May 2021 for the Pacquiao fight to happen in Qatar, the country for which he says they had a handshake agreement deal before the country's ministry of health nixed it because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Crawford says he understands that to be the plan, too, but he's ready to see it in action. Considering how long these fights have been talked about, the collective boxing community takes these comments with an eye roll. It's all talk until a bout is made.
Plus, Crawford-Spence is the fight boxing needs.
From a public perspective, there seems to be much more effort from Crawford and Top Rank to make the Spence bout happen, with the other side willing to wait. You can hear the frustration from Crawford when he talks about taking snipes from people who claim he's ducking Spence. He laughs that the boxing world demands the best fighter at welterweight to chase his challengers, and he's the only one being blamed for the lack of a showdown.
Crawford's trainer and manager Brian "BoMac" McIntyre told ESPN that he stays on Arum and Top Rank president Todd DuBoef to make the fights with Pacquiao and Spence happen. He believes they will only if the promoters and networks take a risk in making the big fights they claim they want.
"After a while, you get tired of talking about this s---. You just say, you do your job, and we been doing our jobs. Just make the fights happen," McIntyre said. "What I get from them is they ready, but the can gets kicked down the road after each fight. I believe this time the can can't get kicked down the road anymore. What else left to do at 147 but fight the two champions that are out there?"
The elephant in the room is that Premier Boxing Champions seems to be holding the cards, with a stronghold on the top welterweights, including Spence. Arum insists that PBC's Al Haymon isn't icing him or Crawford out of fights, but it does feel like it.
The Athletic reported this week that Crawford has expressed frustration with his lack of premier fights at Top Rank and noted that his deal with the promotion company is up in October 2021. Is PBC waiting for the clock to run out? If so, that leaves Top Rank and Crawford in a difficult place over the next year, trying to make it happen.
"Terence has always been a businessman. Whatever is left on his contract, I'm sure he will honor it," McIntyre said. "When the time does come, we'll sit down as a team and make that decision if we go to PBC or stay with Top Rank or go over to Eddie Hearn or go with a network."
That decision seems to depend on whether Top Rank offers Crawford a bout with Spence or Pacquiao before his contract is up.
Spence is Crawford's white whale -- the fight that would secure him a place as one of the best fighters of his generation. But Crawford seems prepared for it not to happen.
"I feel like my legacy is already secure," he said. "When you look at everything I've accomplished in the sport of boxing, I'm set. I'm good. I'm content. I'm happy."
But Crawford does need the Spence fight. It would put him in an elite category in boxing history. He wants it -- and so does the rest of the boxing community. For once, can everybody get what they deserve? -- Cameron Wolfe
Instant replay worked ... sort of
Franco vs. Moloney rematch ends in controversial fashion
Joshua Franco and Andrew Moloney's rematch ends as the NSAC rules the bout a no-contest after an apparent clash of heads. Franco retains his WBA super flyweight title.
Sure, it took nearly 30 minutes. But at the end of the day, the no-contest in Joshua Franco-Andrew Moloney II was the right call. Nevada's new replay process was put to the test, and it proved what we know in football: If an official doesn't have sufficient evidence to overturn the initial ruling, the call should stand. That's what happened, even if it was an absolute mess.
Let's go back and look at the accounts from two of the most accomplished referees in the fight game, replay official Robert Byrd and ring referee Russell Mora. First, Byrd told ESPN ringside reporter Bernardo Osuna that he saw several significant head butts, to the point Byrd marked it on his sheet. Secondly, near the 1:06 mark of the first round, Mora clearly talks to Moloney about using his head on the inside.
The replay review got it right. If after nearly 30 minutes, the Nevada Athletic State Commission was unable to overturn the initial ruling, the most logical outcome is to rule the fight a no-contest and act as if the bout never occurred.
And to keep with the current era of boxing, Franco retains a cheapened version of the WBA junior bantamweight belt, since Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez holds the sanctioning body's top title in the weight division.
There are two major points from this debacle. One, the Nevada commission must find a quicker way to go through this replay process. Secondly, Franco was able to retain his version of the 115-pound belt despite fighting a Top Rank fighter on Top Rank's network. Franco's trainer, the legendary Robert Garcia, said it best during a ringside interview during the review.
"It's obvious they're pretty much trying to screw us," Garcia said.
That didn't happen. And if Moloney wants to get revenge on Franco, it will have to be in a less controversial fashion. -- Ben Baby
Sights and sounds from the bubble
Moloney upset after controversial ending vs. Franco
Andrew Moloney believes the no-contest decision to his fight vs. Joshua Franco was unfair to him and that he should be declared winner.
Saturday proved to be an eventful night in boxing, and a significant one in combat sports in that it was the first event in Las Vegas with spectators since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March.
Yes, Top Rank allowed a handful of family members and sponsors to attend last month's lightweight title fight between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez, and the UFC allowed Anderson Silva's family in the building for his final fight on Halloween. But Saturday's event was the first in which Top Rank welcomed "guests," that included a mix of family, friends, MGM executives and veterans, in honor of Veterans Day.
Guests were required to take a rapid-result COVID-19 test on-site. Top Rank expected approximately 100 in attendance, although it appeared fewer people actually showed up for fight night. The result was, of course, nothing like a regular atmosphere, but it was something (and could lead to more). And I've got to say, it was really nice listening to Crawford's family yell, "Jab his ass," and "Soon as he feels it, he gonna run!" It was fun seeing everyone in a small crowd take their phones out and start filming when Top Rank president Bob Arum got into it with Nevada Commission executive director Bob Bennett over a controversial result in the co-main event. Felt a little closer to normal.
What happens next, in terms of spectators in the fight capital of the world, is uncertain, and will obviously depend on COVID-19 case numbers within the state. (Nevada governor Steve Sisolak just tested positive for the virus this week.) But the hope, at least for Top Rank, is to continue its work with the NSAC (assuming Arum didn't mean it when he declared he would "get the f--- out of Vegas" after the co-main event), and potentially graduate to the MGM Grand or T-Mobile Arena in the not-so-distant future. That could actually affect potential matchmaking as well, as events start to generate gates in Nevada for the first time since March. -- Brett Okamoto
Kell Brook's time is up
Saturday's showing confirmed what many believed about Brook. His ceiling as a prizefighter is apparent. When Crawford turned up the heat and started to connect, Brook was unable to withstand even the first signs of punishment against an elite champion.
It's probably time for Brook to hang up the gloves. And that's no disrespect to the fighting pride of Sheffield, England, at all. Brook's losses look a lot better than the wins of many champions. So far, he has been stopped by three of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport -- Gennadiy Golovkin, Spence and Crawford, who pounced on Brook in the fourth round and got the stoppage.
Brook was never the same fighter after the eye injury he suffered at the hands of Golovkin, one of the most bruising men in the sport. He was handled by Spence and again by Crawford, which was expected by most observers entering the weekend. Brook's career has been wonderful. But in recent years, he has sustained too much punishment to consider pugilism a profession any longer. -- Ben Baby
Where do Katie Taylor and Terri Harper go next after impressive title defenses Saturday?
After such a brilliant performance -- one of her best -- who would want to face Katie Taylor?
Amanda Serrano is the option that Taylor, the undisputed world lightweight champion, would probably pick, and what a fight it would be. However, Taylor has questioned whether Serrano is really up for it.
The Puerto Rico-born, New York-based Serrano, a seven-weight world champion, has not fought since January after two fight dates to face Taylor were canceled. If it is not Serrano, there are other big fights for Taylor to pursue.
Jessica McCaskill, from Chicago, lost to Taylor on points three years ago, but became undisputed world welterweight champion by beating Norwegian Cecilia Braekhus in August. McCaskill and Braekhus are expected to meet in a rematch in the first half of 2021, and the winner of that fight is another option for Taylor.
Taylor (17-0, 6 KOs), 34, from Bray, Ireland, was in a different league than Miriam Gutierrez, her opponent in Saturday's lightweight title defense. Taylor wants fights of the stature of her two clashes with Delfine Persoon, and if the other suggestions above don't work out, expect to see her take on England's Chantelle Cameron, the WBC junior welterweight titlist.
Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn also mentioned Terri Harper as a possible opponent for Taylor, but that is surely a fight that would happen beyond 2021, if at all.
Harper, 24, has her own agenda and fights stacked up for 2021.
For Harper, South Korean Hyun Mi Choi (17-0-1, 4 KOs), the WBA titleholder who, Matchroom signed last week, seems like an easy fight to make in the first half of 2021. American Mikaela Mayer (14-0, 5 KOs), from Colorado, who won the WBO title last month, has repeatedly called for a unification fight with Harper, but she may have to get in line.
If Harper doesn't face Choi next, a rematch with Natasha Jonas, who held Harper to an entertaining draw in the summer, is another easy and popular fight in the U.K. before Mayer gets a shot. Jonas is also an option for Taylor, if Taylor has to wait for fights against the likes of Serrano, McCaskill or Braekhus. -- Nick Parkinson