Terence Crawford may find the grass isn’t greener after moving on from Top Rank

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 20: Bob Arum (L) and Terence Crawford (R) victory pose as he defeats Shawn Porter for the WBO welterweight championship at Michelob ULTRA Arena on November 20, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford said he’s moving forward with his career now that’s he’s out of his contract with Bob Arum’s Top Rank. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — Terence Crawford did what he does Saturday, both in and out of the ring. He proved himself to be one of the great welterweights of this or any vintage with a classic performance in a 10th-round stoppage of a game Shawn Porter.

Crawford was leading on all three cards, counterpunching beautifully and controlling the fight, when he viciously dropped Porter twice in the 10th round of their WBO welterweight title fight at Michelob Ultra Arena.

After the second knockdown, Porter’s father/trainer, Kenny, walked up the steps and asked referee Celestino Ruiz to stop the fight. He did, and a short while later, Porter announced his retirement, ending a very solid career in which he became one of the big stars of his era.

In the ring, Crawford is a star of the highest order. If he’s not the best fighter in the world, he’s only 1B to Canelo Alvarez’s 1A. It’s a different story outside the ring, where Crawford hasn’t proven to be the kind of attraction that elite welterweights before him like Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, Sugar Ray Leonard and others have become.

Crawford became a free agent upon the conclusion of the bout and said he’d move on from Top Rank. He had been with Top Rank since 2011, when he moved to 14-0 by stopping Derrick Campos.

Since moving to welterweight in 2018, he had been repeatedly frustrated with the promotional company’s inability to land him fights against the sport’s marquee names, particularly Errol Spence Jr.

Spence was in the crowd watching, but immediately bolted upon the fight’s conclusion. Porter raved about Crawford and said he felt Crawford was the better fighter of the two, but Spence didn’t stick around to speak for himself.

Crawford, though, made it clear that he’s moving on.

“I’m pretty sure my decision is made already,” Crawford said. “Bob [Arum] couldn’t secure me the Spence fight when I was with him. So how are you going to secure me the Spence fight when I’m not with him? I’m moving forward with my career right now and I wish everybody the best.”

Crawford’s a great entertainer in the ring, but it takes far more than that to become a pay-per-view star. Mayweather became the richest boxer ever by relentlessly selling himself, doing interviews repeatedly, marketing himself outside the ring by appearing in WWE matches and on “Dancing with the Stars,” and never walking away from a camera without something to say.

Crawford won’t say two words if one will do, and so while he’ll be adored by the hardcore fans, he may find that the grass is not greener if he expects to sell loads of pay-per-views.

Now, whoever signs him will do so with the understanding that it’s incumbent to make the Spence fight, and others like it that arise. But Crawford isn’t poised to make a Mayweather-like run of massive, financially successful fights.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 20: Terence Crawford (R) knocksdown Shawn Porter (L) during their fight for the WBO welterweight championship at Michelob ULTRA Arena on November 20, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
Terence Crawford knocked Shawn Porter down twice en route to a TKO win at Michelob Ultra Arena on Nov. 20, 2021 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

He was brilliant throughout, though he said he wasn’t pleased with his performance and noted he was better against the likes of Jeff Horn and Felix Diaz. He sparred with the media for not giving those fighters more credit, but correctly noted that few fighters are ever the same after they face him.

Kenny Porter wasn’t about to let his son get battered by Crawford. He was on the ring apron quickly after the second knockdown.

He spoke compassionately and lovingly about his son as he explained why he put a halt to it when most trainers would have at least let it go on for a few more seconds.

“I knew everything that was going to happen before it happened,” said Kenny Porter, who said Shawn hadn’t spoken to him about his plan to retire before the post-fight news conference. “So, this was something that was coming. Not to be negative towards him, but because I’m his father, I can see these things. … I could see it in training. I could see it in his movements. I could see it with him looking at the clock to see how much longer I got to be here today.”

Crawford has plenty more left in him. Arum had mentioned Spence and undisputed super lightweight champion Josh Taylor as potential future opponent for Crawford, but that’s out the door now.

But he’ll have big fights because the best are going to want to fight him.

Porter, who fought Crawford, Spence, Yordenis Ugas, Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia among others, raved about Crawford, but struggled to put a finger on what makes him so difficult.

“When you’re trying to describe the way somebody is and struggling to say exactly what they are, you say they’re different,” Porter said. “That’s exactly what Terence Crawford is to boxing. He’s different. You can’t pick up everything that it is that he does, but you just know he does everything more than exceptionally well. I felt in my fight with Errol Spence Jr., going 12 rounds, it was not as tough as fighting Terence Crawford.”

It’s a daunting task and he well may be able to end his career undefeated, particularly if he gets past Spence.

But whether he becomes that cash cow superstar, that remains to be seen. He’s got it down perfectly with gloves on his hands. It’s the other places that require some work, regardless of the promoter.