Welterweight Whispers on the Water: Crawford-Khan Comes to NY

Bob Arum has had to keep Terence Crawford busy by being inventive, such as attracting Amir Khan away from Kell Brook and instead into a Crawford-Khan clash.



Welterweight Whispers on the Water: Crawford-Khan Comes to NY

Top Rank is twisted in knots at 147 pounds – its 34-0, pound-for-pound poster-boy Terence “Bud” Crawford is barely a known quantity beyond his hometown of Omaha (#WhereBuffetMeetsBuffer) among general sports fans – and he’s still more skilled and renowned than anyone else in the Bob Arum stable. 

The whispered talk, therefore, at Thursday's NYC presser to announce his April 20 (first day of Passover) PPV with England’s Matchroom-managed Amir Khan (33-4) consisted entirely of speculation as to what Bud will do after he beats the Bolton Wanderer (one opening money line had Crawford at -850 – meaning you’d have to lay down $850 just to make a single Ben Franklin back on a Crawford bet).

Top Rank insiders believe Bud is every bit as good as Al Haymon’s welters – Spence, Thurman, Porter and Ugas – but Al ain’t gonna let Crawford prove it this year/decade/century. 

At some point, perhaps, enough money will accumulate in the potential PPV pot to move Al to make Spence-Crawford. But it would have to be enough cash to overcome what today’s moderator Max Kellerman called the silos of new streaming deals.

Meanwhile, Arum has no choice but to pit Crawford against guys neither American nor known – we’re talking Lithuania’s Egis Kavaliauskas and Spain’s Kerman Lejarraga – both of whose names Top Rank’s top guys can’t always pronounce, they’ll freely admit. 

Aren’t those fights gonna be tough sells? I ask.

Absolutely, reply Top Rank’s talkers – but better Crawford stay busy than fritter away his prime fighting only once a year a la Haymon’s Alice-in-Wonderland Welters.

Says Arum about Keith Thurman, the 147-lb. strap-man whose partially-injury-induced two-year absence from the ring ends Jan. 26 at the Barclays Center against second-tier slugger Josesito Lopez: 

Let’s see how he does. I don't see him as a fighter anymore.

Add others about the March 16 Haymon-arranged Fox PPV featuring true-lightweight Mikey Garcia against legit welter Errol Spence

Garcia may have a chance just because Spence has been so inactive.

Arum would love to have Al’s Fox and Showtime-committed 147-pounders lined up on his ESPN platform. Who wouldn’t?

Back in the real world…

It begins with an elevator trip to the top of ESPN’s new South Street Seaport studio space with a Bomani Jones befuddled as to the reason for so many extra bodies bopping about. 

The Arum harem, I say.

Bud Crawford arrives first in sparkly silver sneaks and a snake-adorned Gucci polo, cute canine in hand (#MichaelMarley&Me). Then Amir Khan comes in Carnaby threads (okay, so just a nice suit, no tie – not exactly a Mod-nod, but still distinctly English, for a man whose every move is Fleet Street fodder).

The headline may be that ESPN will put these two atop a PPV — a rare move for Disney necessitated by the economics of paying two welterweights with name recognition (especially a Brit who could’ve taken serious sterling to stay home and meet a compatriot once dubbed “Special K”; instead, he’ll get 5 million buckaroos).

But the intriguing stuff – contrary to what About Vulgarity would have you believe – was in the finer details. The scholastic – if not sweet – science stuff.

Crawford telling moderator Max Kellerman – after Max mentioned how well Pretty Boy Floyd did financially when he turned heel — that black American fighters are unfairly asked to be brash — that the media wants them to carry cards with Jack Johnson-type jubilance, Ali utterances, Tyson-esque lines of terror. 

You don’t ask Pacquiao or Cotto to sell PPVs like that, Crawford says. Never Oscar De La Hoya. So I’m just gonna be me.

Lines to which there’s certainly truth, even if guys like Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright – undoubtedly opinionated but never pressed upon to play evil – complicate the equation.

Bud bristles similarly at mention of his 2014 bout with then-undefeated Cuban lightweight star Yuriorkis Gamboa – even though the line is directed at Khan, who is asked if he will draw up any strategies based on the way Gamboa buckled Bud four and a half years ago (at a weight 12 pounds lighter and in a tilt Terence still won).

I’ve gotten better, Crawford interjects, shaking his head.

Likely he has – witness his tattooing ever since of Dulorme, Indongo, Benavidez (none of them stars but all of them solid), in which he has scarcely been scraped let alone scarred – although it’d be folly for Khan not to examine the lone Terence tape on which he plays Shylock — he doth bleed, but you gotta prick him.

Khan can’t, the writers already say, in large part due to Amir’s Almosts, four defeats in which his surpassing speed and skill has ultimately been superseded by crystal-chin susceptibility. 

So I ask Khan him how he can regain the fortitude to stay freaking upright he showed in defeating Marcos Maidana, as hard a puncher as either he or Crawford has ever faced, nearly a decade ago. 

And yeah, almost none of us can regain something we last showed in 2010, but still, who among us hasn’t resolved at least once to try? Especially around New Year’s.

Khan says he’ll repair to his Oakland apartment and the Andre Ward gym nearby (he’s training with Ward’s teacher, Virgil Hunter, after a brief interlude with Joe Goosen), will work on his strength with his longtime muscle man, Tony Brady. 

These are the same lines he gave me in advance of his ill-fated 2016 bout with Canelo Alvarez (he was KO’d in the sixth), when I observed firsthand his strength regimen on pneumatically-resistant Kaiser machines, with a taped-up Andre Berto observing approvingly nearby. 

It didn’t work out then, but if there’s one thing about Amir Khan that remains along with his Oakland routine, it’s seemingly a legit self-belief.

(Could he be fronting? Eff, yes – the dude’s a serial adulterer, to start.) 

If that’s delusional thinking, Crawford will win as predicted. But at the very least, it’s the sort of delusion that leads to more deals being done, more clashes scheduled. Khan can’t say no.

Those welters whose ring entrances coincide only with the appearance of Haley’s comet – the talented but pent-up PBC boys – their notions have nurtured a few unification fights over a few years.

That’s too few to keep the division as entertaining as it deserves to be – on that point I agree with Top Rank’s rank-and-file. 

No offense to potential Crawford pawn Kerman Lejarraga, whose rare Spanish fight roots are intriguing (and whose promoter, Lou DiBella, knows an ingenious Iberian when he spots one – see Martinez, Sergio).

It’s just too easy to Statler-and-Waldorf Kerman’s possible appearance on the top of a TR bill very soon. 

Save us, Jim Henson.