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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: (BAD) BUSINESS AS USUAL

By Paul Magno | February 22, 2021
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: (BAD) BUSINESS AS USUAL

Manny Pacquiao vs. Terence Crawford is old school boxing, but I'm not using the term "old school" in the good sense. Nope. Manny-Bud is showing itself to be a representation of everything wrong in the way the business of boxing has been handled over the last decade or two.

Mind you, Pacquiao-Crawford, the fight, is damn awesome. It would either be a true passing of the torch bout with Crawford brutalizing the Filipino icon en route to a much-needed breakthrough win or a mind-blowing, time-defying victory by Pacquiao that adds to his already prodigious legacy. And, stylistically, this one wouldn't likely be a stinker, either, as Crawford will hard-charge for the legacy-building win while Pacquiao fights back out of pride. 

The fight is not the issue. Give me that damn fight any day, any time you like. The problem is with the way the business is shaping up around it.

On the Pacquiao side, we're getting classic "let me at him, hold me back" posturing from Manny with a recent preposterous $40 million purse demand to get in the ring with Crawford.

"I like to fight somebody who has a title," Pacquiao told the Daily Tribune. "We told Bob [Arum] I get $40 million and Crawford gets $10 million…I will fight anybody. You know me, I don’t back away from any challenge. Bring ‘em on!"

Pricing yourself out of an undesirable fight is the old school boxing way of avoiding someone without looking like you're ducking him. When Pacquiao was still a Top Rank promotional stable mate of Crawford's, he wanted nothing to do with the Omaha, Nebraska native. And when he became a free agent, he wanted nothing to do with him either. And I still insist that the only way you get Pacquiao in the ring with Crawford is with a tranquilizer dart and a butterfly net. Asking for $40 million is pretty much an admission of not really wanting the fight, to be honest. As I wrote elsewhere:

"Barring some crazy Middle East site fee (significantly above the reported $40 million issued for Anthony Joshua vs. John Ruiz 2 back in December of 2019), there’s no way to put together the proposed $50 million main event purse right now. With in-person attendance limited and pay-per-view aching, asking for that kind of money is a deal killer.

And, maybe, that’s what Pacquiao is going for?

With Conor McGregor having been knocked out in the UFC Octagon recently, Errol Spence likely pursuing a unification bout with new WBA full champ Yordenis Ugas, and the rumored Ryan Garcia match disintegrating by the moment, the stars have aligned to make a Crawford fight the only legitimate blockbuster for Manny. And what Pacquiao knew in the past is what he still knows now– that Crawford is a stylistic disaster for him."

Again, just an old school way of saying "thanks, but no thanks" while saving face.

Now, let's move on to the Crawford side of this boxing-cynical dynamic, but we'll move past Crawford, himself, because I believe the man would fight Pacquiao even if he were contractually obliged to wear flippers during the contest, chug a gallon of milk between each round, and donate half his purse to a re-elect Ted Cruz fund.

The ugliness on the Crawford comes from, of course, Crawford's promoter Bob Arum.

Arum's been doing a shitty job with Crawford for awhile now. 

After using ESPN dough to re-sign the two-division world champ, the Top Rank bossman proceeded to NOT deliver on everything needed to turn the stellar fighter into the star he deserved to be. And then, as contract extension time began to near, he pulled his trusty "hold on, a mega-fight is just about to happen," teasing that Crawford would be getting his Pacquiao blockbuster shortly as mysterious Middle East investors were close to coughing up the monster bucks needed to make it happen. 

If that sounds familiar, that's because it is. It's one of Arum's greatest hits of hustling. Actually, he pulled the stunt (a few times) on Pacquiao, himself, back in the day as Manny reportedly started to grow frustrated over Arum's inability to deliver him a Floyd Mayweather mega-fight.

In this particular case with Crawford, Arum ditched the mysterious Middle East money men story and went straight for the jugular when Crawford and his attorney started to make public noise about Arum's inability to deliver big fights. Famously (or infamously) the aged promoter lashed out at Crawford's lack of marketability, griping over how much money he's lost in trying to promote him and how he was "no longer in the business of losing money on Terence Crawford."

Crawford's Top Rank contract reportedly expires this coming October and it's quite possible that Arum may use the recent Pacquiao quote to lure Crawford into re-signing. A big-money, high-profile Pacquiao fight certainly provides enough stick and carrot to draw Crawford forward, despite the nasty public battle between him and his promoter.

And why would Arum want to re-sign Crawford when he's "no longer in the business of losing money on Terence Crawford?"

Because he's Bob Arum and he never lets a high-profile client just walk away from him with reputation and record intact if he can help it. Based on decades of showing who he is, it sure seems like he engages in plenty of "if I can't have you, nobody can" nastiness and one could easily see him re-signing Crawford with ESPN money just so business rivals can't make a buck off of a free agent Crawford. 

Anyway, I'd bet the farm and the mules on Pacquiao-Crawford not happening and that, actually, there's not any more real interest in making it now than there was two or three years ago. Pacquiao is overpricing himself because Crawford is actually the only true, competitive big-fight opponent out there for him-- and that's not good for finishing his upcoming retirement victory tour upright. Meanwhile, Arum will just be using the appeal of Pacquiao-Crawford to hustle his own agenda into being. 

So, yeah, (bad) boxing business as usual. 

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

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