NEW YORK — In the lead-up to welterweight world titlist Terence Crawford’s defense against “Mean Machine” Egidijus Kavaliauskas, the pound-for-pound star was asked about getting a big fight against one of the other elite fighters in his deep weight division almost as much as he was asked about Kavaliauskas.
Weary of the same old question he has been hearing pretty much since the moment he arrived at 147 pounds in June 2018 after becoming the undisputed world champion at junior welterweight, Crawford said what he always says: that he isn’t ducking anyone, that he wants those big fights and that he will fight any of the top names.
After Crawford stopped heavy underdog Kavaliauskas in the ninth round of an exciting fight — one clearly a bit more difficult than most had expected — on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, “Bud” reiterated his desire for 2020.
“My goal is to get all these fighters that everybody say I’m running from inside the ring with me,” he said at his postfight news conference. “It’s very important [to stay undefeated], but I need those meaningful fights, the fights that everyone wants to see that will help my legacy. I accomplished a lot already in the sport of boxing, so sky’s the limit from here.”
We all know the names that will give him that legacy at welterweight. It means facing the elites under the direction of Top Rank’s biggest rival, Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions: unified titlist Errol Spence Jr. (who is out injured), titleholder and resident legend Manny Pacquiao (who showed no desire to fight Crawford when the fight was on the table while they were both with Top Rank), former titleholders Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman (neither of whom has ever remotely shown interest in facing Crawford) and former titlist Shawn Porter, who is at least possible. He and Crawford are friends, and both say that fight will happen if they want it to.
“That’s not gonna be [a decision by Top Rank chairman] Bob Arum or PBC, Al Haymon,” Crawford said at his news conference. “That’s not gonna be up to them. That’s gonna be up to us if we gonna agree to fight. Right now we haven’t had a discussion on whether we will fight or not.”
So let’s say that none of those welterweight fights for Crawford can be made and that he and Porter decide not to put friendship aside for the sake of a major fight.
What opponent, then, should the pride of Omaha, Nebraska, fight? Who might intrigue Crawford, give him a meaningful match, and pique the interest of fans and media?
I give you junior middleweight world titleholder Patrick Teixeira, a name suggested to me first by Top Rank’s media relations director, Evan Korn.
Teixeira would make a lot of sense for several reasons.
First and foremost, it would be a fight that would give Crawford a chance to add to the legacy he wants to build. He would have the chance to win a world title in a fourth weight division. If he won, he would join the all-time greats who have also won titles at lightweight and junior middleweight, a list that includes Roberto Duran, Pernell Whitaker, Floyd Mayweather, Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley. That is serious company, so if Crawford wants a major legacy-builder, voilà.
It’s also a makeable fight, not just fantasy, because Top Rank and Golden Boy have done plenty of recent business, including on Teixeira-Carlos Adames, Jamel Herring-Lamont Roach Jr. and Shakur Stevenson-Joet Gonzalez. This would be similar, whereas if Crawford wanted to go to junior middleweight to fight one of the other titleholders, he would be in the same boat he’s in at 147. That’s because the other 154-pound titleholders are PBC fighters: Julian Williams (who has two belts) and Tony Harrison (who defends in a rematch on Saturday against fellow PBC fighter Jermell Charlo).
Teixeira (31-1, 22 KOs), 28, a southpaw from Brazil, won the vacant title by unanimous decision over Top Rank’s previously unbeaten Adames on Nov. 30 in a tremendous action fight. Teixeira overcame major trouble to drop Adames in the seventh round for what turned out to be the winning margin. For Teixeira, a fight with 32-year-old Crawford (36-0, 27 KOs) would be, by far, the biggest fight he could make in terms of profile and money.
Golden Boy president Eric Gomez liked the idea and called Top Rank’s Arum a few days before Crawford-Kavaliauskas to gauge his interest in making the bout.
“Oscar’s motto for the company has always been ‘the best fighting the best,'” Gomez said of De La Hoya, the Golden Boy CEO, during a conversation with ESPN. “Whenever you have a chance to fight one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, you take it. You grab it and you run with it. Having said that, we do have a mandatory [against Brian Castano] and we have to abide by our obligations, but if there’s a way to do it in the next fight, we’re open to it.
“It’s a great fight, and I like our chances,” he continued. “Our guy is much bigger and stronger than Crawford, and it’s really a test for Crawford if he can be like those greats who have [won titles at lightweight and junior middleweight] in their careers. It would be telling if Crawford could too. It would show he is one of the greats of his era.”
Arum also liked the idea.
“I said, ‘That’s a very interesting fight, but I have to talk to BoMac [Crawford manager/trainer, Brian McIntyre] and Bud.’ I haven’t had the opportunity to talk them about it yet,” Arum said to ESPN on Sunday. “But if we can’t make a marquee welterweight fight, then why not go up and try to grab a title at 154?
“I like the fight. I know Teixeira because he fought Adames on our show. He’s a courageous guy, a gutty guy. He came back against Adames. He’s entertaining and so forth, and if Crawford and BoMac want to do it, we will arrange it. It’s a great fight for Omaha. We would be interested.”
So would I.
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Mexicali, Mexico
Featherweight: Diego De La Hoya (22-1, 10 KOs) W10 Renson Robles (16-7, 9 KOs), 99-89 (twice), 97-94
Fighting in his hometown for the first time and headlining Golden Boy’s Facebook Watch card, De La Hoya, the 25-year-old cousin of Oscar De La Hoya, rebounded from his first loss (a sixth-round knockout to Ronny Rios in July). De La Hoya, who struggled to make the junior featherweight limit of 122 pounds several times, moved up but was 122¾ for the bout with Robles, 30, of Venezuela, whose three-fight winning streak ended. De La Hoya won the wide decision even though he said he hurt his left hand in the second round and relied primarily on his right hand for the rest of the fight.
Friday at Indio, California
Welterweight: Vergil Ortiz Jr. (15-0, 15 KOs) KO5 Brad Solomon (28-2, 9 KOs)
Ortiz — a 21-year-old from Grand Prairie, Texas, and boxing’s finest prospect — scored a one-sided victory in the DAZN main event against an opponent who was supposed to provide a decent test. Solomon, 36, of Lafayette, Louisiana, was fighting for the first time in 20 months, and Ortiz figured him out with no particular issues and ended the fight as he has all of them, by knockout.
Ortiz set things up with his stiff jab and eventually dropped Solomon three times overall. He dropped him to his rear end with a very stiff and clean left jab to the head with a minute left in the fourth round. It was the first time in Solomon’s career he had been knocked down. In the fifth round, Ortiz scored two more knockdowns, both with onslaughts of unanswered punches that sent Solomon to a knee before referee Raul Caiz Sr. waved it off at 2 minutes 22 seconds.
Lightweight: Alberto Machado (22-2, 18 KOs) KO2 Luis Porozo (14-2, 7 KOs)
Former junior lightweight world titlist Machado, 29, of Puerto Rico, had lost his belt to Andrew Cancio by fourth-round body-shot knockout in February in a major upset and then lost to him again by third-round body-shot knockout in the rematch in June, both losses coming at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. After the losses, Machado, a southpaw, moved up to lightweight for his return against Porozo to end the year on a high note back at Fantasy Springs.
Machado got buzzed by Porozo in the first round, but shook it off and destroyed him emphatically in the second round with, coincidentally, body shots. Machado knocked down Porozo, 29, of Ecuador, three times in the round with left hands to the body. On the third knockdown, referee Thomas Taylor counted Porozo out at 2 minutes, 59 seconds. After the victory, Machado called out fellow former 130-pound titlist Francisco Vargas, who is also now a lightweight.