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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: CRAWFORD IS KING, SANTA CRUZ AND MARES IMPRESS, MORE...

By Paul Magno | June 11, 2018
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: CRAWFORD IS KING, SANTA CRUZ AND MARES IMPRESS, MORE...

Terence Crawford is the best fighter in the world. Period. And I’m sorry if you can’t see that or won’t see that. 

Last Saturday night, in his WBO welterweight title-winning TKO of Jeff Horn in Las Vegas, Crawford not only executed his gameplan to perfection, but he also did a better job of executing Horn’s gameplan. 

The now-three-division world champ gradually disassembled the hard-charging Australian over the course of nine increasingly one-sided rounds, popping Horn from the outside and then out-mauling the mauler on the inside when Horn got close enough to try and turn his boxing lesson into a wrestling exhibition. 

It was clear very early on that Crawford moving up in weight didn’t matter one bit. “Bud” was just operating at a level that Horn could never even remotely approach. It was a Floyd Mayweather-type level of dominance—except with a mean streak and zero mercy shown. 

But as great as Crawford was, there was one thing going through my mind as he put on his brutal clinic— I sure wish this was on the main ESPN channel so that the whole world could see this level of beautiful brutality.

As regular readers of my work should know, I’ve been obsessively critical of Bob Arum’s decision to put this fight on the new ESPN+ app since we all first found out that this might be a possibility. 

ESPN could have big things in store for the app and they could be using Crawford as a figurehead upon which the streaming service is built, but none of that benefits Crawford all that much as he now has to come to terms with the fact that his two biggest wins as a pro were buried on a poorly-conceived PPV with only 65K viewers (vs. Viktor Postol) and now tucked away on a new streaming service, likely playing to just a few thousand. If the goal is to become a truly BIG star with crossover potential, this kind of stuff doesn’t help. 

It also doesn’t help now that some leverage is going to be needed to make bouts across the aisle with guys like Errol Spence, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, and Shawn Porter. As a matter of fact, a brutal stoppage like Saturday’s, played to the backdrop of a small, small audience likely works AGAINST any chance Crawford may have of negotiating a fight with any of the Showtime welterweight stars. What proof of drawing power can Crawford bring to the table with only critical acclaim and no actual numbers to lean on?

It’s hard to understand why Crawford gets this treatment when his promotional stablemate Vasiliy Lomachenko is being showcased on primetime ESPN while being primed for bigger and bigger things. Both have drawn similar TV ratings when given access to the same potential audiences and both are compelling, entertaining fighters at the top of their game. It truly does boggle the mind why Crawford, an all-American talent with a huge roster of potential big fight opposition awaiting him at welter, is NOT getting a push.

From beginning to end, Crawford-Horn had a big fight feel to it. It’s just too bad that Arum, Top Rank, and ESPN decided to take this big moment in the sport and slam it behind a paywall. If ever there was a moment that needed sharing with the mainstream sports fan, it was Saturday’s violent virtuoso performance from Terence Crawford. 

Instead, only those who already knew he was great got to see how great he is.

Quick (S)hits:

-- Also on Saturday, the theory was proven that it is impossible to put Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares in the ring against one another without producing a Fight of the Year candidate. The rematch from Staples Center was actually better and more competitive than their first bout (I scored this return bout a 114-114 draw) and both leave on a positive note. With this kind of loss, Mares actually walks away in a better spot, career-wise, than before the contest. There are lots of good fights out there for Mares, maybe even a Carl Frampton contest in the UK? As for Santa Cruz—Yes, Gary Russell Jr., please.

-- I had my concerns for Austin Trout when I first heard he was signed to face Jermell Charlo. I thought it would be a tough styles match-up and a hard task to handle Charlo, especially after the beating he took in his last bout against Jarett Hurd. But Trout fought Hurd really well up until the very end and he also did well against Charlo, coming out on the losing end of a majority decision on the Santa Cruz-Mares 2 undercard. At 32 years of age and after having proven himself capable of competing with the angriest lions in the junior middleweight division, Trout is most definitely not dead and buried. Maybe some manueverings can be done to nudge him over to challenge for Jaime Munguia’s WBO junior middleweight title. 

-- Jermell Charlo, on the other hand, did NOT look all that good on Saturday. Cool lion attire aside, Charlo showed a serious potential weakness as he struggled to decipher Austin Trout’s shifting movement-- The 28-year-old may be starting to buy into his own press clippings as the lion-hearted KO killer. He used to be able to do the little things like cut off a ring and set up punches. On Saturday, he was just following Trout around the ring, looking for that one big punch for yet another highlight reel knockout. Maybe this was just a one-time thing, exasperated by having a smart veteran in front of him, but the skills looked to be eroding in the mad dash to further build his image as a one-punch beast. Luckily for Charlo, Trout lacked the punching power and general aggression to turn the tables on him, but that kind of uneven performance had “upset” written all over it.

-- Tyson Fury made his comeback on Saturday after over two-and-a-half years away from the sport. Taking on beefed-up cruiserweight Sefer Seferi, a loose-fleshed Fury clowned his way through four do-nothing rounds before Seferi “mysteriously” quit in his corner with virtually no apparent damage sustained during the “fight.” Sorry...it's never cute or funny to rip off fans. Tyson Fury with this sham of a fight committed flat-out robbery. I understand the need to start small after such a layoff, but if he wanted some bullshit exhibition to help get back in shape, then he shouldn't have sold tickets to it. Fans work hard for their money and deserve at least an effort for their investment. This was not the charming ol’ rascal Tyson Fury being Tyson Fury—this was Tyson Fury and everyone involved in this farce taking a big, stinky dump on the fans and laughing about it.

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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