Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. - Promotions Moving in Opposite Directions
By Steven Weinberg | Contributing Writer and Photographer
Published: June 26, 2018
If Terrence Crawford had a championship fight, would anyone know?
That’s the question we have to ask after pound-for-pound fighter Terrence Crawford became a three-division champion in just 11 fights, including winning all four belts at 140 pounds, by defeating Jeff Horn for the WBO Welterweight belt on ESPN Plus.
That’s not regular ESPN or even ESPN2, but ESPN Plus – an app. That’s right, in order to have watched Terrence Crawford you had to do so through your phone.
In August 2017, Top Rank, Crawford’s promoter, announced a four-year exclusive deal with ESPN wherein at least 18 fights would be broadcast on the network, ESPN Deportes, and its then yet to be launched app.
Prior to the deal being finalized, Top Rank and ESPN broadcast the Pacquiao-Horn fight In July 2017, which had 3.9 million viewers. In December 2017, the Lomachenko-Rigondeaux fight had 1.73 million viewers. At the end of April 2018, the relatively unknown Jesse Magdaleno - Isaac Dobgoe fight drew an impressive 701,000 viewers. In May 2018, Lomachenko-Linares drew 1.4 million viewers.
However, now, nobody knows how many people watched Crawford make history. The network has yet to release the viewership numbers, which is a sure sign that very few people watched the fight, and even more probably canceled the app during the free seven day trial period, avoiding the $4.99 per month fee.
Juxtapose Crawford with Errol Spence Jr. An average of 683,000 people watched Spence’s 1 round demolition of mandatory opponent Carlos Ocampo on Showtime. The fight was a coming out of sorts for Spence as the network extensively profiled him before the fight and after the fight. As one commentator said, Spence made the leap from fighter to superstar. He even sold out the 15,000 seat venue at the Dallas Cowboy’s practice facility where the event was held – a site that has never previously hosted a boxing event. Even Jerry Jones, owner of the Cowboys praised Spence by jumping in the ring, seemingly also notifying all the promoters that he and his facilities are open for business. Perhaps most impressive is that Spence was able to do this without a promoter. He’s a free agent, the only person he has working to commercially advance his career is manager/advisor extraordinaire, Al Haymon.
Crawford is slated to be back on regular ESPN on October 13, but against 27th ranked Jose Benavidez – hardly a fight that will create buzz. Spence, on the other hand, has a unification match waiting for him with the winner of Porter v. Garcia or Keith Thurman – a super fight on its own right.
Crawford and Spence are of course on a collision course for supremacy of the welterweight division and arguably the pound-for-pound crown. They acknowledge that for business reasons that the fight will have to marinate for a while in order to make sense. That is, their respective alignments with TopRank and Haymon will slow things down as they garner enough interest in order to be a PPV event.
Unfortunately, if Crawford continues to be promoted the way he is, there will be very little interest in a PPV event outside of hardcore boxing fans. Alternatively, Crawford will slide down the scale of “B” side fighters so far that Spence will be able to command not only more money but also the venue in which they meet. Moreover, Jerry Jones will undoubtedly be thrilled to have Spence and Crawford meet in Dallas instead of neutral territory like Las Vegas.
For Crawford’s sake, TopRank and ESPN need to place him front and center – that’s the only business that makes sense.
(Featured Photo: Top Rank Boxing)