By Paul Magno | April 17, 2019

I’ll just come right out and say this—Terence Crawford’s career is being woefully mismanaged and I’m rooting for this Saturday’s PPV bout against Amir Khan to fail spectacularly.

Now, mind you, Crawford, himself, may disagree with the first part of the above statement (and aggressively oppose the second part). When he decided to re-up with Bob Arum and Top Rank Promotions last year, he got some serious money. ESPN, which wanted to make Crawford a cornerstone of their rebuilt boxing program, facilitated a multi-fight deal for the three-division world champ and current WBO welterweight titlist that is reportedly bringing him a minimum guaranteed payout exceeding $3 million per fight. This is food-on-the-table security for a family man like Crawford. And, considering that he won’t be fighting his way through a gauntlet of killers on the Top Rank welterweight roster, it’s a smart risk vs. reward deal. I sure as hell don’t fault Crawford for jumping at financial security. 

The problem is that Crawford is a special talent and someone who should be a major star. He should be the Sugar Ray Leonard of our time and there’s certainly enough quality opposition around on which to build his star. In a best case scenario for “Bud,” we’re talking a five-year run of star-building fights that would’ve seen him go through guys like Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, and Danny Garcia to establish his name and legacy.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that Crawford would get through all those challenges, but that’s the gamble built into the sport of boxing. He’d be making big money throughout this run and if he DID get past them all—and I believe he could—the really big money would be there. 

This would be a win-win for boxing as fans would be exposed to a true fan-favorite talent and some truly engaging battles. 

As it is now, Crawford’s career is a lose-lose for all but Crawford, himself, who is obviously okay with taking a conservative, safe payout over assuming great risk for greater return. 

So, that’s why I’m rooting for a dismal PPV failure this weekend. Maybe a brutal 75K buys would bring clueless ESPN execs to their senses and have them yank Bob Arum’s hand out of their pockets long enough to get things back on track. 

In this case, “back on track” means Crawford back on the ESPN main stage where he belongs and where millions of mainstream fans have a chance to wander by and see his ability for themselves. 

Since Crawford’s emergence as an elite-level player, promoter Bob Arum has fumbled the ball when it comes to handling the career of someone who had everything to be a superstar-in-the-making. From premium cable to an ill-advised flop of a PPV, back to premium cable, then a right step to ESPN…only to get shoved into the sports world’s online crawl space (AKA the ESPN+ streaming app), where only a relative handful of sports fan would have access to his talent. And now? Off to PPV for a fight with perpetual underachiever Amir Khan for 70 bucks a pop, counterprogrammed against the NBA playoffs, Major League Baseball, UFC Fight Night 149 replays, and a live, free Danny Garcia-Adrian Granados card on Fox. 

It's almost like the objective has been to have Crawford fight in front of as few people as possible. 

A financial and critical embarrassment this Saturday could force a re-thinking of ESPN Boxing’s programming strategy and move them away from treating the sport as a dangling carrot before pushing everything off behind streaming app or PPV paywalls. 

When the “Worldwide Leader” first got back into the boxing business, there was a genuine hope that they were serious about actually doing something special, rebuilding and rebranding a sport that, through across-the-board mismanagement, has consistently worked to throw itself off the mainstream radar. 

But, while the monetary investment is there, ESPN doesn’t seem interested in boxing beyond its ability to provide “content” for their app and a quick buck or two from PPV hustles.

Crawford getting back on ESPN would be a nice first step in fixing what ails boxing in general and ESPN Boxing, specifically. Honest, earnest care for Crawford’s career could even lead to some degree of cooperation between networks to get the big fights he needs and the fans want. 

Maybe nothing changes with a PPV flop next Saturday. It’s possible—maybe even likely—that no lessons are learned from putting Crawford in another fight away from the public eye and behind a paywall. And, if that’s the case, then the most to hope for is that at least somebody will lose some money from these poor decisions. That may be the closest fans get to a win from the mishandling of Terence Crawford.

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