After Terence Crawford, the unified junior welterweight world champion, finished polishing off Felix Diaz in a masterful 10th-round knockout victory Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York, attention immediately turned not only to his next fight but also to which network might televise it.
As far as the next opponent, Julius Indongo (22-0, 11 KOs), from the African country of Namibia, has the two major sanctioning body belts that Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs) doesn’t have, and Indongo is the main target. The 34-year-old southpaw was ringside Saturday night with his promoter, Nestor Tobias of MTC Nestor Sunshine Promotions.
“Indongo wants the fight and we want to make the fight,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN this week. “(Tobias) wants to make the fight and (Matchroom Boxing promoter) Eddie (Hearn), who has an option on his next fight, will cooperate.”
Arum said he was not sure where he would locate the fight if it gets done, but Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, is a possibility.
Terence Crawford unleashed a one-sided beating on Felix Diaz on Saturday, prompting Diaz’s trainer to stop the fight before the start of the 11th round and give Crawford his fifth successful defense of his junior welterweight titles.
Unified junior welterweight titlist Terence Crawford dominated Felix Diaz, while Andre Dirrell took home a vacant title in a fight that included a trainer sucker-punching one of the fighters and — according to ESPN’s Dan Rafael — a bad referee decision.
“First, I want to make the fight, get it done; then we’ll figure out where it will be. But we are looking at the end of July, beginning of August,” he said.
Indongo is dealing with a minor hand injury that he suffered in his unification victory against Ricky Burns on April 15 and also has a mandatory defense due against Sergey Lipinets. But Arum said he hopes Crawford and Indongo can fight for all four of the belts.
“I think the chances are very good,” Arum said. “We’ll go to all the organizations and tell them to quit f—ing around with the mandatories, and let’s make history and unify all the titles.”
Since the four-belt era began in the late 1980s, all four belts have been on the line in one fight only three times: Bernard Hopkins’ knockout of Oscar De La Hoya to unify all four middleweight titles in 2004; Hopkins’ defense of all four in his next fight against Howard Eastman; and, in Hopkins’ next fight, his loss of all four by decision to Jermain Taylor. By the time Taylor faced Hopkins in an immediate rematch, one of the belts had been stripped because Taylor failed to make a mandatory defense in time.
“Crawford’s gonna fight this summer. If we can get the fight for the unification (against Indongo), that’s fine. But he’s gonna fight this summer.”
Crawford’s fight with Diaz was his 11th appearance since 2013 on either HBO or HBO PPV, but it seems unlikely his next fight will be on the network. Arum, who has a long history of ups and downs with HBO, has hinted for months that the days of Top Rank relying on HBO to support his biggest stars are over.
When asked about that at ringside after Saturday’s bout, Arum told the assembled media, “That’s none of your f—ing business! What the f— are you talking about? HBO has done great for boxing. They’ve been very good to boxing. I have nothing bad to say about HBO, but they’re just a f—ing network. That’s all they are. They don’t own the business of boxing.
“And you may also want to call up the guy over at Showtime (Stephen Espinoza) and tell him the same thing. He don’t own boxing. He’s just a f—ing network that puts on stuff for their subscribers.”
If Crawford, 29, is going to fight in August, HBO has made it clear it does not have a date for him that month. The same goes for proposed fights between junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko in a rematch with Orlando Salido and a super middleweight fight between titleholder Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez and Jessie Hart.
“Everybody wants to know who’s the next guy that Terence Crawford wants to fight. I’ll fight anybody. It doesn’t matter who it is.”
Arum, who hasn’t done meaningful business with Showtime for years, clearly has something up his sleeve he doesn’t want to discuss that goes beyond whatever his issues with HBO are. But Arum did not sign a slew of elite amateurs out of the 2016 Olympics — gold medalists Fazliddin Gaibnazarov and Robson Conceicao, silver medalist Shakur Stevenson, bronze medalist Michael Conlan, and Olympians Teofimo Lopez Jr., Antonio Vargas and Jeyvier Cintron — without knowing the TV platform he would utilize to promote and develop them.
Arum also has welterweight Manny Pacquiao’s world title defense against Jeff Horn on July 2 in Brisbane, Australia. The fight will take place during the day in Australia, so it will be evening in the United States, but Top Rank has not announced TV plans yet. HBO, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, made Top Rank an offer to televise the fight live but has been rebuffed.
Arum reiterated that wins by Crawford and Pacquiao in their next fights could lead to a showdown between them later in the year, when Crawford likely will move up to welterweight. After stopping Diaz, Crawford said he wants to fight Pacquiao. Crawford called out Indongo and also said he hopes to face Pacquiao after that.
“Everybody wants to know who’s the next guy that Terence Crawford wants to fight,” Crawford said after beating Diaz. “I’ll fight anybody. It doesn’t matter who it is.”
Arum said that those who say Pacquiao is somehow dodging Crawford don’t know what they’re talking about.
“The idea that Manny won’t fight Crawford is ridiculous,” Arum said. “He won’t fight him if there’s no money, but there’s going to be plenty of money for that fight. It’s a big fight.”
With or without HBO, Arum made it clear his guys will be active, including Crawford this summer.
“Crawford’s gonna fight this summer,” Arum said. “If we can get the fight for the unification (against Indongo), that’s fine. But he’s gonna fight this summer. Now, don’t ask me, ‘Did (HBO) give you a date?’ That’s yesterday’s news. I’m a f—ing promoter and I’m gonna get a fight that people want to see. I’m gonna put it on, on a date that I want to put it on, and just wait.”