Image Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Terence “Bud” Crawford’s life is changing.
After dismantling Kell Brook live and free on ESPN, the WBO welterweight champion was blindsided.
Bud in the Bubble was one to remember 🏆
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) November 18, 2020
In an interview with Lance Pugmire of The Athletic, Top Rank chairman, Bob Arum had some choice words about his stable star.
He’s got to promote like [Teofimo] Lopez does. He’s got to promote like Shakur [Stevenson] does… like [Floyd] Mayweather did, like [Manny] Pacquiao did.” Arum stated in the post-fight interview.
“If he doesn’t, then who the f–k needs him? He may be the greatest fighter in the world, but, hey, I ain’t going bankrupt promoting him. The question is, ‘Do we want to keep him?’ I could build a house in Beverly Hills on the money I’ve lost on him in the last three fights, a beautiful home.
”Nobody questions Crawford’s innate, tremendous ability. By beating a naturally bigger guy [in Kell Brook], decisively, that’s a big statement that’s he’s making. The question is, ‘Does he pay the bills?’ Look, you can have the best opera singer in the world. If the fans don’t support it, you’re out of business.”
The words were direct and scathing from a promoter known for holding nothing back. It pulled back the covers on the messy bed of boxing which unilaterally can shift power dynamics with the firing of a tweet or upload of a story.
Eddie Hearn has said he’d “absolutely” try to sign Terence Crawford if he becomes a free agent and is available next October.
— Michael Benson (@MichaelBensonn) November 17, 2020
Immediately, the world weighed in with rival boxing promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sports calling the comment, “so disrespectful to Terence Crawford”, during a recent interview on The Ak & Barak Show.
Across the combat party lines, UFC President Dana White, who has never been a fan of Arum, also weighed in.
— MMA Junkie (@MMAjunkie) November 18, 2020
“His problem isn’t to figure out how you make money. You f–king signed a deal with this kid…”
So after a proud moment for “Bud” over a great fighter like Kell Brook, what would spur the ire of his promoter, Bob Arum?
The same reason why the world, in general, has so many opinions about Crawford, you don’t understand his marketability.
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) November 19, 2020
The Ali-Mayweather Effect
Muhammad Ali revolutionized fight hype.
Along with Drew “Bundini” Brown, the two collectively took the promoting innovations they learned from “Sugar” Ray Robinson and patterned a superstar.
The catchphrases, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and more have become pop culture staples and the Ali image has surpassed the sport.
Fast-forward and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. transformed the brand. The transition from “Pretty Boy” to “Money” was subtle but poignant.
It revolutionized the promotion of a polarized boxing character and elevated the financial gains possible in the sport.
Now that Floyd has retired at 50-0, both fans and the media are looking for his boxer-businessman doppelgänger.
They forget that Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s career currently is a 1-of-1 and assume that it is the new standard for an active champion.
However, that hypothesis leaves out one glaring truism: Ali and Mayweather are exceptionally unique.
They are the anomalies, not the rule.
There is an innate commitment to be an intentional star. It requires curation and strategy that extends beyond in-ring brilliance. When the two meet and the wins pile up while the hype continues to build-up, you have a bankable franchise fighter that is in essence walking revenue.
Not every fighter’s dream is to become part champion, part superstar.
Terence Crawford is a throwback fighter. More Hagler than Hearns and Leonard.
You're the fucking promoter not him. You make the fights not him. You put some weakass fights on PPV instead of on ESPN and now you are crying about how much money you lost? Bud been asking for the big fights for how long? But naw you was to busy worried about Loma.
— Latisha Crawford (@MsTT1986) November 18, 2020
He is a fighter through and through. Becoming famous in the process of doing battle has always seemed like a conciliatory concession prize for him. Like his friend, Andre Ward, he understands that the media can be a trick bag of skepticism and sport savior-ship so he has always treaded lightly.
But he has always treated pugilism as his first love. It is apparent in every win and his ferocity and ring IQ are undeniable.
That’s why we love him.
Why we keep tasking him with an obligation to play the game as we’ve been accustomed to it is nothing more than conditioning.
Thank “Sugar” Ray, Muhammad and Floyd for that.
But blaming “Bud” for something he never intended to do is like wagging your finger at McDonald’s for not delivering a hot and ready pizza.
That’s not what they do.
If you can understand that, then you can understand Terence Crawford; a great champion living in the shadows of great champion-promoter hybrids. If the world can stop and savor what it is witnessing athletically before it is too late, the better off boxing will be. Crawford needs his roses now, not later.