Crawford looking past Benavidez, wants Spence

Mark these words down, and never let Todd duBoef forget them.

The president of Top Rank has launched a long-term deal to televise his fights with ESPN, and re-signed superstar champion Terence Crawford in large part because of the promise that duBoef made when they met in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to sign the contract extension.

Most of the opponents fight fans want to see face Crawford – IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., WBC champion Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, WBA champion Keith Thurman – are with the Premier Boxing Champions. Top Rank and the PBC don’t have a history of working well together. The PBC has TV deals with Showtime and Fox.

For all the good the TV coverage does for boxing, the TV deals have historically been responsible for more potentially great fights not occurring than any other single reason.

Crawford, who fights Jose Benavidez Jr. on ESPN on Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska, doesn’t want the television network of potential opponents to get in the way, as trainer/manager Brian McIntyre made abundantly clear on a conference call.

“Right now, the biggest name in the welterweight division is Errol Spence,” McIntyre said. “So, what we would do is, and I’m glad Todd is on this call, they just put the pressure on ESPN as a leader in sports. They want to be the leader in boxing. If they want to be a leader in boxing, they’re going to go out and make those fights happen. And so that’s what Terence wants. They want Terence to be the No. 1 fighter in the world.”

DuBoef insists that TV affiliations won’t impact Crawford’s chances of making the Spence fight. Color me skeptical, since I’ve been down this road far too many times before.

But duBoef, in clear and unequivocal terms, said he’d make those fights happen. Remember this if you start to hear noises to the contrary down the line.

“I just want to make this crystal clear,” duBoef said. “ … Regardless of your affiliation, we will take on all comers. That’s it. We don’t care where you are, what you do. We will go and take on all comers, right? Terence is an elite fighter. He is at that class. … We’ve done the biggest fights with the biggest complications of all time. [Crawford] wants to take on the biggest. We want to provide the biggest.”

Jose Benavidez Jr. celebrates his first-round knockout of Frank Rojas at MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 9, 2018 in Las Vegas. (Getty Images)

Benavidez is far from the biggest test, and it’s been clear that Top Rank likes to slow walk these potential matches. That said, it’s not that Benavidez is just some bum off the street.

He’s 27-0 with 18 knockouts, though he hasn’t fought anyone remotely close to elite at welterweight. But he’s a former national Golden Gloves champion – the youngest winner ever, in fact – and he’s not without talent.

He’s incredibly confident he can defeat Crawford, who in my mind is the finest pound-for-pound boxer in the world. As it stands now, I rank Crawford first and Spence second in the mythical pound-for-pound ratings. A win over Crawford, or even just a competitive showing, would be a surprise.

Crawford is one of the sport’s most dominant champions and is an amazing minus-2500 favorite over Benavidez at the MGM Grand sports book. Benavidez is plus-1250.

The two have had a long running war of words and nearly came to blows at a fight they both attended. Crawford, who isn’t much for talking, is hardly intimidated by Benavidez’s threats.

“Talk is cheap,” Crawford said. “Come [Saturday], all the talking and all the answers that everybody want to ask about the fight will be answered. I really don’t have nothing to say about the guy. Come fight night, you know I’ll be ready.”

If Crawford defeats Benavidez, the talk of matches with Porter, Garcia, Thurman and especially Spence will begin anew. You can book this that there is no chance a Crawford-Spence fight will happen next and it’s almost as certain that it won’t happen in the fight after that. They’re going to want to milk it for all it’s worth.

But hopefully duBoef will prove to be a man of his word. Crawford is one of today’s greats, but to determine if he’s an all-time great will take the kind of opponents who aren’t on Top Rank’s roster.

Those kinds of opponents are with the PBC. So remember these words, too, from duBoef, when after Saturday’s bout with Benavidez, talk turns to Crawford’s future.

“We’ve established what we want to do,” duBoef said. “ … We’re going to go after all those guys. We’re not allowing anything, no politics, no nothing, to get in the way. They want to do it. We want to do it. Let’s just get it done. We’ll figure out a solution.”

Recent boxing history suggests one should be dubious of such a claim.

The only way for the fans to affect change, though, is by remembering such promises made by promoters and holding their feet to the fire.

Hopefully, my skepticism is misplaced and Crawford-Spence happens without a hitch. Putting a little pressure on, though, can’t hurt.

Terence Crawford celebrates after defeating Jeff Horn in a welterweight title boxing match, Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

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