Terence Crawford, Kell Brook and boxing’s age-old problems


Boxing is a sport of such highs and lows. At its best, the rare mix of artistry and savagery, that few other sports are capable of, produce bouts and moments in history unlike many others. Yet, at its worst, it can be a sport riddled with cheats, greed and self-interest that leave fans infuriated and questioning their love and passion for it.

As boxing has begun to return to normal over these last few months, fans have been reminded about everything they love about the sport. Teofimo Lopez produced the performance of his lifetime to upset Vasyl Lomachenko in a superb twelve round battle. Gervonta Davis knocked out Leo Santa Cruz with an inch-perfect left uppercut and imprinted his name firmly in the forefront of many boxing fans.

Finally, this past weekend, Terence Crawford displayed, with surgical precision and tactical game-planning, why he is one of the best boxers in the welterweight division right now. His fourth-round knockout of British fighter Kell Brook was nothing more than has come to be expected from the Nebraska native.

Starting slow, downloading the information on his opponent, before making the crucial adaptations and finishing them with clinical precision and power. The trademark switch from orthodox to southpaw is something seen by all his opponents in his fighting career, but something that no-one, thus far, has been able to deal with.

Kell Brook, the Sheffield-born fighter, was no different in this regard. His first few rounds were bright and offered some hope that there was something left in the man who had fought Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter prior. But the whimper with which he went out in the fourth was painful to watch. Unable to adjust, in any manner, to something which he knew was coming, confirmed to many what they feared they already knew. The Kell Brook, we once knew, is no more.

However, as the fallout to this continued this week, the focus turned away from the fight and towards the respective fighters. In this manner, the recent careers of Kell Brook and Terence Crawford offer up a compelling and all-too-often example of where Boxing gets it wrong.

The whimper with which he went out in the fourth was painful to watch

For Kell Brook, it is a case of ‘what if?’ In 2014, he travelled over the pond to America and defeated Shawn Porter to take home the IBF Welterweight strap. Yet, it would be nearly three years until he fought another elite boxer at that weight eventually losing the belt via eleventh round KO against Errol Spence Jr. at Bramall Lane.

Following this, it would be another three years until this fight against Terence Crawford which represented his only meaningful fight in the intermediary and, quite frankly, perhaps his last at the elite level of the sport.

For a man with such power, technique and stature at the weight class it’s a damning indictment on his commitment and the management of his career that his legacy has panned out this way. So many opportunities were available. Fights with Amir Khan, Danny Garcia, and Manny Pacquiao to name but a few could, and should, have happened during his prime.

Yet, Brooks incapability to stay focused and driven and Matchroom Boxing’s failure to deliver those big fights for him have derailed his career and tainted his legacy for those who knew what he was truly capable of.

Terence Crawford’s problems, at a glance, seem minimal. An unbeaten, three-weight world champion, and pound-for-pound number one contender, on the surface, should have nothing to complain about. But management tensions and his limited popularity amongst the casual boxing audience mean his legacy is at stake too. The need for fighters to self-promote is evident, and Terence falls short in this department undoubtedly.

There is so much that could be done that is just ignored by those in charge of this sport.

Yet Messi does not need to speak a word and yet people all over the world now his name and tune in to see him play. In much the way that Barcelona, as an institution, have globalised his name, boxing must look to do the same with Crawford, and all their stars. Invest in the fighters, draw out their characters, advertise them to the masses regularly not simply a few weeks before they fight. There is so much that could be done that is just ignored by those in charge of this sport.

Bob Arum, who commented that he could build a house in Beverly Hills with the money he lost on Terence Crawford over the last four fights, might want to reconsider. Rather than slate Crawford, perhaps consider his title, a promoter, and think about what he could do to help and promote the fighter he so often maligns.

Boxing, at is best, is unlike much else. The nerves in your stomach as the bell rings to start a super fight is unrivalled. And yet the sense of annoyance and disappointment is so often felt with mismanaged careers and missed opportunities. That seems no clearer than with Kell Brook and Terence Crawford. Boxing can, and must, do better.

Image: Jose Miranda via Flickr

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