July 24, 2021

Pacquiao’s Long-Term Future Best Served By Avoiding Crawford

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I appreciate Manny Pacquiao.

The things he’s accomplished since reaching the championship level more than two decades ago measure up to anyone over the same time frame, and he’ll be a deserving International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee at the very instant he becomes eligible.

But in spite of the hype somehow still resonating from a downing of Keith Thurman now more than a year ago in Las Vegas, any days resembling his best ones are certainly long, long gone.

An oft-injured “One Time” had been campaigning on reputation alone for more than two years, and Pacquiao, now 41, hasn’t beaten anyone capable of truly elite-level resistance – Tim Bradley, let’s say – since his odometer was a few months past 37.

Nevertheless, the Filipino’s camp is once again buzzing with talk of one Terence Crawford.

“If (Manny is) gonna continue in boxing, I want him to fight the best guys he can,” veteran trainer Freddie Roach said earlier this year.

“We’re not looking for any stiffs or any easy fights or anything like that. We will fight anybody out there.”

If that’s still true, Crawford fits the bill.

For those uninitiated, the Nebraskan was a two-defense champion at lightweight and a six-defense king at 140, racking up nearly every belt imaginable before heading to the big stage at welterweight.

And all he’s done since then is decisively stop the last man to beat Pacquiao – Jeff Horn – to win the WBO title and add three more defenses via stoppage across a grand total of 27 rounds.

He’s among the very best fighters in today’s world to these eyes – warranting a spot alongside Vasyl Lomachenko and Canelo Alvarez, among others – and he’s the kind of fighter who appears poised to maintain that status for the long term, particularly after the fight game returns to normal.

“Terence Crawford is ready for anybody in the world, in any weight class right now,” Roy Jones Jr. said on HBO awhile back, brushing off Roach’s suggestion that Crawford couldn’t handle his man.

“For him to say he’s not ready for Manny Pacquiao, I think that’s very wrong. To me, Terence Crawford is ready or anybody on the planet that’s close to his weight class.”

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Make no mistake, Pacquiao has won 62 fights in a career that has touched four decades, and he’ll be part of the appropriate IBHOF induction class – alongside surnames like Ali, Robinson and Marciano.

Whether Crawford stays around long enough to garner a worthwhile fraction of that relevance remains a mystery, but one Ali-era commandment seems clear from this vantage point:

If Pacquiao even dreams about beating “Bud,” he’d best wake up and apologize.

While Crawford has already leapt from 135 pounds to 140 and subsequently evolved into a terrific welterweight, those around the aging senator have long insisted he’d be more comfortable – and perhaps more devastating – with a move down to 140, a division he invaded with a two-round erasure of Ricky Hatton in 2009 before chasing bigger names and purses at 147 and beyond.

So making a play for Crawford, at this stage, is a bite far more than the Filipino is capable of chewing.

Crawford would stand nearly three inches taller in a press conference staring contest while possessing an even more significant seven-inch edge in reach, and a successful match with a pay-per-view stalwart would go a lot further toward putting the 32-year-old over with mainstream fans – and tilling the ground for far bigger shows than stay-busy defenses at 147 with anyone other than Errol Spence Jr.

Spence, incidentally, will return from injury with a match against Danny Garcia in November.

He holds both the IBF and WBC titles, and Crawford will no doubt be paying close attention come fall.

“Danny Garcia ain’t no pushover,” Crawford told The Ak And Barak Show. “Like I’ve been telling people, like, you know, he ain’t no joke, to be going in there, just thinking you gonna do what you want with him. So, you know, and Errol ain’t, either. So, that’s gonna make for a great fight.”

Crawford-Spence is the fight that will define the future at 147.

But in the meantime, perhaps his own coming-out party is what’s needed to whet the appetite.

Crawford has long been on the “eventually, he’ll get Pacquiao” path that Arum used to suggest for Brandon Rios – before age, weight and brawls took their toll on “Bam” and ultimately made their duel in Macao more sparring than scintillating.

Crawford seems in no danger of such precipitous fizzling, thanks to both talent and will.

“It’s a very fun matchup. Terence Crawford can fight left-handed or right-handed, and we haven’t seen Pacquiao in there with a guy who can do that,” Jones said.

“Pacquiao would have a bigger puzzle to figure out. And as we all know, Pacquiao has been taken out by big punchers. Terence Crawford is a big puncher.”

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This week’s title-fight schedule:

No title fights scheduled.

Last week’s picks: None
2020 picks record: 14-3 (82.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,130-368 (75.4 percent)

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body’s full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.

Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.