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Column: Terence Crawford won’t stop seeking legacy-defining fight

Terence Crawford has an upcoming fight title fight against Egidijus Kavaliauskas on Dec. 14 at Madison Square Garden
Terence Crawford has an upcoming title fight against Egidijus Kavaliauskas on Dec. 14 at Madison Square Garden, but he has his sights set on bigger matches.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Terence Crawford sent out the tweet last week but knew it was just wishful thinking.

After Floyd Mayweather posted a photo of himself on Instagram with the caption, “Coming out of retirement in 2020,” Crawford tweeted a photoshopped image of him and Mayweather squaring off with the caption, “2020…Why not?”

“Why not?” has become Crawford’s motto during his Hall of Fame career, as he is often left to wonder why every big-name opponent has eluded him.

As Crawford (35-0, 26 knockouts) sat on a couch in the lobby of a hotel in downtown Los Angeles last week, he scrolled through his phone undisturbed. There was no entourage surrounding him. No one walking in and out of the adjacent café and reception area realized the man in the red-and-black track suit was arguably the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.

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“It’s frustrating but I look at it as a business move by them not to fight me,” Crawford said when asked why fights against Errol Spence Jr., Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman have failed to materialize. “I’m not going to knock them or be a hater, but I know where I stand and I know the game they’re playing and there’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to focus on what I can do and keep making a living and keeping my name up there as the best pound-for-pound fighter.”

Spence, the IBF and WBC welterweight champion, is expected to return to the ring in 2020 following a car crash in Dallas last month. A unification bout against Crawford, the WBO welterweight champion, isn’t likely. Spence is represented by Al Haymon, Crawford by Bob Arum, and the promoters don’t seem motivated to schedule the fight.

“I don’t know if that fight will ever happen,” Crawford said. “That’s not something I can decide. It takes two people to fight, and it takes two companies to sit down and figure it out and decide what network we’re going to fight on, where we’re going to fight, what the purses are going to be. It’s not as easy as people think it is, but it could be easy if we finally sat down at the same table and made it happen.”

Crawford was in Los Angeles to promote his upcoming title fight against Egidijus Kavaliauskas on Dec. 14. The fight will take place at Madison Square Garden and air on ESPN immediately after the presentation of the Heisman Trophy. It’s the perfect lead-in and stage for Crawford to showcase his ability to a national audience, but as has been the case for most of his career Crawford is lacking a recognizable opponent.

Former featherweight Oscar Valdez believes the extra four pounds he doesn’t have to shed will make a major difference against replacement opponent Adam Lopez.

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Kavaliauskas is 21-0-1 with 17 knockouts and is viewed as one of the top welterweights in the world, but few casual fans have heard of him, let alone know how to pronounce his name.

Crawford has wanted to face name-brand fighters and his frustration is clear when he’s asked about one potential opponent after another.

“Listen, listen, listen, you’re asking me about all these names and I’m going to keep telling you the same answer,” Crawford said. “I’m willing to fight all those guys, but it’s not up to me to decide if I’m going to fight them or if I’m not going to fight them. I’m open to fighting all those guys. I’ve been saying that from Day 1. Nothing has changed. I’m the best fighter in the division and I’m always willing to prove it.”

Crawford realizes he might need to take an aggressive personal approach in negotiations in order to get the big-name opponents. Arum and Haymon might not like each other, but Crawford doesn’t want that to prevent him from securing a legacy-defining bout against Spence.

Two former Houston Astros draft picks, now in the majors with other teams, say Major League Baseball should come down hard on the team if it has proof off clandestine sign stealing.

“Bob is willing to make any fight happen,” Crawford said. “At the end of the day, it’s not up to Bob. It’s up to me. The fighters are the ones that fight, and without us, there’s no promotion. So if a fighter really wants a fight to happen, he can make it happen. You can tell them, ‘Listen, this is the fight I want and I’m not fighting until I get that fight.’ It’s simple. At the end of the day, they work for us. If we don’t fight, nobody is going to get paid, so they have to make the fights that the fighters want.”

Crawford, 32, said he plans to retire in three to four years but wants to add a couple more accolades to his resume before he calls it a career.

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“I still want to be the undisputed welterweight champion of the world,” Crawford said, “and I believe I’ll be the first to be undisputed in two divisions, back-to-back. I just want to leave a mark on the sport of boxing so people talk about me like they talk about the other great champions before me. That’s my goal before I retire.”


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