Commentary: Will Terence Crawford become a superstar?
When you watch Terence Crawford in the ring, some see a little bit of Floyd Mayweather Jr. Not necessarily in his style of fighting, but in the way he calculates his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses and makes slight adjustments to methodically dismantle them. Crawford is a bit more offense-minded than Mayweather and has proven to be a bit more fun for a casual fan to watch.
Sure, some weren’t too fond of his virtuoso performance against Viktor Postol, but those who consider themselves hardcore fans of the sport realize that Crawford is an exceptional talent who could soon find himself on top of boxing’s mythical pound-for-pound rankings.
But, for better or worse, the difference between Mayweather and Crawford is what they do outside of the ring. Mayweather crafted a villainous persona that he utilized to draw attention to fights. It was abrasive, egregious, grating, and turned a lot of the boxing world against him. Instead of cheering him on, people paid their money in hopes of seeing boxing’s greatest villain meet his demise. His much-publicized run-ins with the law only enhanced his profile. Ultimately, being notorious paid off favorably as Mayweather became the richest athlete in the world.
Crawford is the polar opposite of Mayweather. And it could possibly be detrimental to his career.
He has the right mentality that old school fight fans would appreciate of letting his hands speak for themselves. But, unfortunately, we live in an era where erratic behavior pays far more than talent. The Nebraskan is easily one of the best fighters on the planet but could care less about selling a fight, or himself, for that matter.
The landscape of entertainment is built upon an awkward logic that celebrates the self-destructive loudmouth more than the silent slayer. It’s not that Crawford doesn’t know how to talk he just prefers to focus on the task at hand rather than do anything extracurricular such as run down his opponent or throw money at a camera.
And then there’s this little issue that few in boxing like to discuss. As an African-American fighter, he doesn’t have the benefit of having an entire country behind him, as a boxer of equal talent from Mexico would likely have. Say what you will, but African-American boxers who aren’t controversial have had a really difficult time breaking through the glass ceiling. There’s a reason why Adrien Broner is more known than Keith Thurman despite the latter being a better fighter. It’s unfortunate and the root of this issue shall be saved for a future column.
But the fact of the matter is that Crawford fought Postol on a pay-per-view show that very few watched. To have such an excellent performance essentially nullified by the fact that casual boxing fans refused to pay their hard-earned coin to watch hurts Crawford more than it helps. Of course, the dependency on boxing scribes to sing his praises could help the Nebraskan climb the mainstream relevancy ladder. However, it does him no favors when he shows little interest in engaging with the media.
And therein lies the big problem.
Crawford is simply not interested in doing press. His interviews often find him giving short answers that leave writers scrambling for context from his trainer Brian McIntyre, who is far more vocal than his fighter. But trainers don’t sell fights, fighters do.
It’s truly a ground-up movement to build Crawford’s fan base. His built in audience is from Omaha, Nebraska and it’s far smaller than Puerto Rico, Mexico, Ireland, Great Britain or any other country that treats boxing like a world sport and will travel in droves to cheer on their team/fighter. Although it was certainly impressive to see how many people traveled to Las Vegas to see him fight, the challenge will be to build upon the pre-existing base. And that’s quite difficult when you aren’t fighting marketable names or flat lining opponents at an absurd rate.
Crawford is the sweet science. And it’s so sweet that Freddie Roach has gone as far to say that he has little interest putting Manny Pacquiao in the ring with Crawford come November, when the Filipino is scheduled to make his return.
“With Manny in the senate and I have to go to the Philippines and so forth to train him and with all the confusion going on – I don’t think I’m going to accept that fight or want that fight right away,” Roach told BoxingScene.com. “I mean, give me one warm-up fight and give me a fight right after that and we can talk.”
What Roach saw against Postal gave him flashbacks of how Manny Pacquiao was outgunned and disarmed by Mayweather. Crawford took away Postol’s jab and neutralized his length over the course of 12 rounds to win a wide unanimous decision victory against the second best 140-pound fighter in boxing. And knowing Pacquiao’s age and that his responsibilities could affect his training, Roach is wise to keep his man far, far away from Crawford.
But it’s problematic moving forward if nobody of merit steps up to face the unbeaten fighter from Omaha. Every great fighter needs to topple a big name from the previous era for the proverbial torch passing. Pacquiao is supposed to be that for Crawford. But, as of right now, if Roach has no interest in pairing the eight division champion with Crawford and Crawford isn’t interested in finding unique ways to market himself outside of the ring, he won’t get the widespread acclaim he deserves.
It’s a sad reality in boxing where fighters have to do more than be the best for the world to pay attention. Hopefully, Crawford won’t need to ever resort to those tactics to get over with casual fans.
He’s great at his job and that’s all that should matter.