Terence Crawford PPV Debut – This coming Saturday night there’s an outstanding bout taking place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The participants are WBO junior welterweight title holder Terence Crawford 28-0 (20), who will be putting his belt on the line while at the same time trying to capture the WBC junior welterweight title currently held by Viktor Postol 28-0 (12). What an outstanding matchup between the 28 year old Crawford and the 32 year old Postol, perhaps the two best 140-pound fighters in professional boxing. A win by either wouldn’t come as a surprise to any informed boxing fan.
Unfortunately for both fighters and fans, not many will see it because it will be televised by HBO-PPV and not HBO. And the cost to see it is $60. And that almost guarantees many avid fans hungering to see competitive match-ups will wait a week to see it and then watch the replay on HBO already knowing the result. This kills the drama and excitement of watching the bout. There’s nothing like watching a bout between two elite fighters live and in the moment when you don’t know what’s about to unfold.
Crawford very well may be the most polished and complete fighter in boxing. In addition to that he’s got a mean streak in him that usually translates into fan friendly bouts. He seeks to win by stoppage as opposed to leaving it up to the judges. However, putting Crawford on PPV at this time is penny wise and pound foolish. This should be Crawford’s breakout fight, and it would serve everyone better, especially Crawford, if it was viewed by three or four million on HBO instead of 750,000, at the most, on PPV. This should be the fight that moves Crawford into superstar status and it would be better from a future promotional perspective to see Terence look sensational in front of millions instead of hundreds of thousands.
Crawford is the genuine article. There’s no question about that; he can fight. At age 28 he’s probably further along than Floyd Mayweather was at the same stage. But Mayweather was a pro 11 years before he took part in a fight that was a legitimate PPV bout. His opponent in that bout was Oscar De La Hoya, and it was Oscar, who despite being washed up, was the draw in the bout, not Floyd.
If you look at the biggest stars in boxing since Muhammad Ali they are, in chronological order – Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. All five had things working for them that jump-started their marketability and drawing power that Crawford doesn’t have working for him.
Sugar Ray Leonard, who was the original Golden Boy, was the media darling of the 1976 Olympics. Leonard fought with a picture of his childhood sweetheart, Juanita, taped to his boxing shoe during the Olympics and sported a Pepsodent smile. Ray was portrayed as the kid next door and Howard Cosell coddled him during his early pro bouts as if he were Ali’s younger brother. Couple that with Leonard’s speed and flashy style and the fact that he could flat out fight, he was a budding superstar by the time he had the gold medal placed over his neck. By the time he turned pro NBC, ABC and CBS were all bidding to televise his debut. Leonard showed up at the perfect time — the end of the Ali era was minutes away — and like Ali, Ray had natural charisma.
Mike Tyson is without question the best managed and marketed fighter in boxing history. Tyson’s first five bouts were made with the single purpose of making him look like an Alien, like something from another world winning. Those bouts were recorded and sent out to many members of the boxing media. From that point on Mike was fighting on network television every other month and then HBO on his way to becoming a top contender. And via so many fans seeing those fights it was impossible to miss how Tyson combined speed and power. His quick and exhilarating knockouts skyrocketed him into the single biggest draw after Muhammad Ali.
Oscar De La Hoya became the official golden boy after he won a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics. Oscar was good looking and spoke well. He appealed to both young and hardcore boxing fans. His good looks attracted female viewers to boxing and his pretty boy persona often led to many diehard male fans wanting to see his good looks rearranged. Like Sugar Ray Leonard, De La Hoya was a monumental crossover star and because of that he could pick and choose his opponents as if he were ordering from a menu. And it is because of De La Hoya that the next two fighters became huge box office attractions due to their high profile bouts with him.
Floyd Mayweather was a bronze medal winner at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia and an HBO staple almost from his pro-debut. He fought Oscar De La Hoya 11 years after turning pro in what was the highest grossing bout in history at the time. Ten months later he befriended Vince McMahon of the WWE and participated in one of the main events at Wrestlemania XXIV. From that point on Floyd donned the black hat and willingly welcomed the role as the arrogant and cocky bad guy and every bout after that was on PPV.
Manny Pacquiao, who was a non-stop punching dynamo when he turned pro, made his name fighting some of his biggest career rivals, namely Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez on HBO. Then a year after Mayweather fought De La Hoya, Pacquiao fought Oscar and beat him more convincingly than Mayweather had, and from that point on, like Mayweather, every subsequent fight was seen via PPV.
Terence Crawford, heading into his PPV bout with Viktor Postol this weekend, has nothing close to the running start that Leonard, Tyson, De La Hoya, Mayweather and Pacquiao had entering the PPV world of professional boxing. On top of that, Postol is barely known to quasi boxing fans, let alone the casual observers you need to bring in to do substantial PPV numbers. Gennady Golovkin, the acknowledged best fighter in the middleweight division and a perceived life-taker, fought once as the main event of a PPV card and only drew 150,000 buys. And Golovkin was probably better known to casual boxing fans than Crawford is. Granted, Crawford is fighting a better opponent in Postol than Golovkin did when he fought David Lemieux, but no one who is considering buying the fight is doing so because they know or care about Postol. Those who plan to catch Crawford this Saturday night are doing so because they want to see him and believe this will probably be the sternest test of his eight year career.
Terence Crawford looks to me to have all the tools needed to become a major PPV attraction. He can box and he can punch, he can fight inside and outside. And if you hit him hard, he’ll hit you back just as hard multiple times. Crawford is cocky and confident in the ring and is Evander Holyfield-esque in willing to fight the baddest and the best. Just on his skill and mindset, Crawford has the potential to become as big or bigger than any fighter currently on the scene. However, it’s too soon to charge fans $60 to see him.
Sadly, if Crawford looks great against Postol Saturday night, I fear not enough fans will get to see his super talent. And the shame of that is – if he fails at the gate, due to no fault of his own, it may work against him for some time to come. And that would be a travesty because there just aren’t that many great fighters around to dismiss prematurely because some promoter is in a rush to gouge the public peddling the next Mayweather or Pacquiao.
Wouldn’t it make more sense seeing Crawford look Sugar Ray Leonard-esque against Postol on HBO and then later this year make his PPV debut versus Manny Pacquiao in Pacquiao’s comeback bout after his brief retirement?
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Terence Crawford PPV Debut