By Bill Dwyre
Tim Bradley and Terence Crawford represent a rosy future for boxing. Also, a dilemma.
They won’t fight each other.
Say Bradley beats Manny Pacquiao in their widely anticipated April 9 match at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. The whose-got-next scenario is inescapable.
Bradley, at 32, is closer to the end of his career than to the beginning, but also not quite ready to stop punching the bag. Crawford, at 28, is just emerging. His HBO fight Saturday night and his fifth-round TKO of Hank Lundy was yet another impressive coming-out party for the personable young man from Omaha.
After the fight, Top Rank Promoter Bob Arum told HBO’s Max Kellerman that Crawford’s next opponent likely will be brawling Russian Ruslan Provodnikov. He later told reporters that Adrien Broner is also a possibility, but Broner is handled by Al Haymon, and Arum likes Haymon like a snake likes a mongoose. Don’t count on that one.
So, after Pacquiao – Bradley and Crawford’s next fight…?
Crawford has told people he won’t fight Bradley. HBO’s Jim Lampley said exactly that on the telecast.
In a recent interview, Bradley not only said the same thing, but elaborated at great length.
“He was a sparring partner in two of my camps,” Bradley said. “We did two, back to back.
“And he became so much more than a sparring partner. We hung out. We had barbecues together. We talked a lot.
“He liked my family, and they liked him. He went to my son’s football game, to my daughter’s soccer game. He became a friend.”
Bradley acknowledged that it is a difficult transition, from sparring partner to friend, from hitting each other for long hours in a sweaty gym to immediately sharing social occasions.
“He knew what his job was, why he was there, who was preparing for the fight and who was the sparring partner,” Bradley said. “He was just more personable that the others. He fit right in.”
So, interestingly, after exchanging hours of practice punches, Bradley and Crawford concluded that they would never throw any for real.
Arum, of course, has heard this before, and addressed it before. He has lived long enough and been through so many wrinkles in the game that he doesn’t coddle cuddly boxer sentiment.
“I’ll make ‘em an offer they can’t refuse,” he grumbles, shrugging as if it is obvious that every man has his price. Boxers more so.
I don’t know Crawford, but I do know Bradley and I do know that his resolve can be, and usually is, as solid as his jaw. He has saved and invested well. Do not expect to pick up a paper someday and read an item about former fighter Tim Bradley in bankruptcy court. That’s a frequent story in the fight game. Won’t be for Bradley.
Bradley just might refuse Arum’s un-refusable offer.
But boy, will the pressure get ratcheted up if Bradley wins, Crawford outbrawls the brawler, or Broner, and the boxing world looks up and sees a one-loss Bradley and an undefeated Crawford in the same 147-pound division.
As Kellerman correctly pointed out in his post-match assessment, the manner in which Crawford slowly measured and quickly disposed of Lundy Saturday night showed he has clearly moved a notch above most of the rest, that he has now joined the small gathering at the top of the sport.
“I’ve told people,” Crawford said, “that I have fire in both hands.”
Crawford also said that he would never duck anyone. But there is a difference between ducking a match and balking at fighting a friend. If you know and care about a person’s family, you don’t want to punch out its breadwinner.
Yes, we are talking about boxing here, and yes, touchy feely stuff doesn’t often enter into the conversation in this sport. In ways, this is kind of nice. It is a brutal sport, but it doesn’t have to be one outside the ring, and that’s often a tough and uncomfortable transition for fighters to make.
One of the most compelling things about the late and great Chico Corrales was that he would much rather talk about cooking than football. He would often say that his proudest moment was not in any fight, but when, with a doctor’s supervision, he delivered his own child.
But then, Corrales also spent 14 months in prison after a violent domestic dispute, so touchy-feely may be just a show in boxing.
Still, this Bradley-Crawford case is fascinating.
As a fight fan, I’d like to see the fight made, assuming the circumstances, as spelled out above, seem to demand it.
As a writer and storyteller, I might be tickled to see them tell Arum to take his wallet elsewhere. The fight would produce more action. The fight refusal would be a more compelling story.
Here’s a suggestion for Arum, were Bradley and Crawford to stick to their guns and tell him to stick it.
Just sign up the Klitschko brothers.