Friday, December 16, 2022

After Knocking Out Avanesyan, Will Crawford Finally Face Spence In 2023?

The fight between undefeated WBO Welterweight world champion Terence Crawford and European Welterweight champion David Avanesyan, which took place in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, NE on December 10th was one that did not have significant public demand. This was due to the desire of most Boxing fans to see Crawford face undefeated IBF/WBC/WBA world champion Errol Spence in what would be a full unification bout for the Undisputed Welterweight championship of the world. As negotiations for that fight between the promotional free agent Crawford and the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) group of promoters, which represents Spence for a potential showdown in 2022 stalled, it created a necessity for the WBO champion to get back in the ring against the next highest available contender or risk the potential for further “Ring Rust” as it had been more than a year since the champion was last in the ring. 

While this observer detailed why that was in previewing this fight, I was nevertheless interested to see how the longtime top contender and current European champion David Avanesyan would fare against one of the best fighters in the world in his first world championship fight. A further piece of intrigue that surrounded this encounter was that it was the first entry into the sport by digital streaming network BLK Prime, who guaranteed Crawford an estimated $10 Million for the bout. Although this was not the fight that the majority of Boxing fans likely wanted to see Crawford in, it was nevertheless interesting from the standpoint of the Welterweight division, traditionally being one of the most talent-deep in the entire sport. As such, any top contender such as Avanesyan or former world champion should be viewed as a serious challenger whenever they are able to get an opportunity to fight for a world title because it is a division where any top contender can take advantage and become a world champion even if there are more lucrative fights that may loom ahead for fighters who hold world titles in the division. Even though the same can be applied to virtually any division in the sport, the Welterweights have a long history of being one of the most competitive in Boxing and it is truly rare to see a world champion dominate the division over several years without at least having a few hard fights along the way, that is if they are able to hold onto their championship for a significant period.

As he has done in three weight classes including the Welterweight division, Terence Crawford has been able to be a dominant fighter and like many below the Heavyweight division, he has moved up in weight in search of both more world titles and of a challenge along the way. One thing that I did touch upon in previewing this bout that was of keen interest at least in my eyes was whether the distractions outside of the ring from a bitter split with his former longtime promoter Bob Arum to the failed negotiations for the showdown with Spence, would divert Crawford’s focus going into what appeared to be a possibly dangerous fight against Avanesyan. This appeared to be valid both because of the issues the champion has been dealing with as well as the fact that this bout would be taking place in his hometown.

With a sellout crowd in attendance at the CHI Health Center, the fight exceeded the expectations that many fans had. This was largely due in my eyes to the way Avanesyan approached Crawford. From the opening bell, the challenger attempted to apply pressure on Crawford and make him uncomfortable. This resulted in the two fighters exchanging offense earlier than expected and less of a feeling out process that is normal to see in the early rounds in many fights. To his credit, despite being off thrown by the champion, Avanesyan was able to hold his own through much of the fight and also managed to catch Crawford with a few flush right hands periodically. While Avanesyan was clearly not interested by the occasion, Crawford showed tremendous calm and did not appear to be irked in any way by being put under pressure from the outset and he also seemed to dictate the combat simply by landing combinations and either tying Avanesyan up on the inside or being able to move subtly in order to avoid getting caught by the challenger on the ropes or trapped in a corner.

What clearly was a competitive fight between two world-class fighters came to a sudden conclusion in round six when the champion connected with a right uppercut followed by a short left hook to the head that sent Avanesyan down on his back, out cold on the canvas. A sudden and brutal end to his latest title defense should be viewed as a statement-making performance by Crawford who has been subjected to criticism by some fans in addition to the recent issues he has combatted in terms of the business of Boxing outside of the ring.

The question coming out of this fight is much the same as it was following the champion’s previous title defense over former two-time Welterweight world champion Shawn Porter in October of last year. Will Crawford and Errol Spence meet in the near future to determine an Undisputed World Welterweight champion? This observer sincerely wishes that I could tell the reader that yes, the fight will happen in the near future and also wish I could said if that were the case that it would not come at the expense of Boxing fans being asked to pay an inflated fee to view it. Unfortunately, the truth is, I cannot say neither is the case.

One can hope however, that with promoters that continue to rely on what has increasingly become an outdated model of pay-per-view and have continued to struggle as a result that no matter what their personal interests in a fighter might be, that they collectively realize that it is time for change. Change not just in regard to the antiquated pay-per-view model, which as we now approach 2023 rarely gives the consumer value for the price as compared to subscription-based options that are available on the market, but also change in the realization that fights of significant public interest need to be made in a timely manner not only in the best interest of the fighters, but of the sport. Whether the newest entry into Boxing promotion BLK Prime will adapt accordingly having seen the numerous flaws of going with the outdated status quos that be in Boxing or if they will go with the flow, which will only hinder the sport more remains to be seen. The hold outs that have thus far refused to embrace change and have even gone as far as to try and force those that have entered the sport to go with the status quos may not want to admit it, but things need to change. With Boxing fans continuing to reject an outdated model only with rare exceptions and now yet another highly anticipated fight between two undefeated world champions being delayed solely for business interests rather than what would benefit not only the sport, not only the fans who support it, but also the fighters themselves, I have one question for those hold outs as I often call them. How much evidence do you need in order to see the need to change and adapt accordingly? 

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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