It takes no courage whatsoever to say after the fact that a particular match-up did not deserve the build-up that it received. I am on record as saying I did not foresee Viktor Postol giving Terence Crawford much in the way of difficulty, but I restrained myself from stating that Crawford vs Postol did not merit pay-per-view status.
But to my eyes, Postol’s stoppage of Lucas Matthysse was as much about La Máquina, for whatever reason, being a greatly diminished force since losing to Danny Garcia back in 2013. So for me there was no compelling logic to think Postol would present serious difficulties for “Bud,” who, as we saw, is both more powerful and more versatile, not to mention just an overall better boxer, all of his outings since defeating Ricky Burns in 2014 demonstrating this.
But the fact is the majority of ardent boxing fans, a group among whose number I count myself, were completely fine with Top Rank featuring Crawford vs Postol on pay-per-view, instead of as a standard HBO broadcast. The reasoning was that these were clearly the two best boxers in their division, both title holders, thus high-level competition and excitement were more or less a given.
Well, not much of either was on display last night as Crawford cruised to a one-sided decision victory, Postol winning, maybe, two rounds. And if we care about the future of the sport, this should be of concern, because if boxing is going to ask people to pay money to watch fights, they should be competitive and entertaining fights.
Obviously, sometimes matches which appear compelling turn out to be duds; there can be no guarantees and everyone understands that. But to my mind, Terence Crawford has yet to establish himself as any kind of crossover attraction and Viktor Postol is no draw whatsoever. Had their fight been closely contested and dramatic, all the hardcore boxing fans would be justified in saying, “See? We told you this was going to be a pay-per-view worthy fight!” But it wasn’t. And instead a significant win and a tremendous performance in what is looking more and more like a Hall of Fame career, were seen by far fewer people than should have been the case.
And boxing fans helped make that happen. How does that make sense? One can almost see Bob Arum in the Top Rank boardroom cynically explaining to his minions why Crawford vs Postol should be on pay-per-view: “The hardcore guys are gonna talk this match up for us. No one knows who the hell Postol is, but we’ll use that to our advantage. Yeah, I know, he hasn’t really beaten anyone that good except for Matthysse, but he’s undefeated and that just makes him look more like the kind of boxer who’s a well-kept secret, a behind-the-scenes elite talent. Those serious ‘boxingheads’ see him as something special. Hell, some of ’em are gonna pick him to win! You watch, they’re gonna buy this fight. And sell it to anyone who’ll listen.”
To be fair, Arum has publicly acknowledged that it would have made more sense to have the bout on HBO, explaining that the network did not have enough openings on their schedule. He also had stated that the price tag would be below $50; this turned out to not be the case. But these concerns are beside the point for those who wanted to see the fight; the bottom line was they had to pay for it, and no doubt many decided not to.
So, there are two concerns here. First, as mentioned, Crawford is at a stage in his career when he needs attention to build up the kind of profile and status he deserves. Last night probably didn’t help, unless the viewing numbers far exceed what is probable. And second, many who did get talked into spending their hard-earned cash for the fight, aren’t likely feeling that terrific about it.
Denigrate them as much as you like, dismiss them as “casuals,” keep telling ’em they “don’t know shit about boxing,” but the fact is the fight game needs their interest and their money to keep the sport relevant. And after watching last night’s one-sided action, do you think they’ll be anxious to put their money down again?
Great performances from gifted boxers are wonderful to see, but boxing is a sport; it’s about competition. Yes, I can appreciate watching a master at work, but, call me crazy, if the fight is on pay-per-view, I’m expecting to see that master tested in some way, shape or form. No, this isn’t the talk of a ‘Haymonite’ or avid PBC fan, far from it, but no one can argue the simple fact that boxing needs more fans, and a gifted prizefighter like Crawford deserves them. Putting Crawford vs Postol on pay-per-view likely did nothing to help in either regard.
Let me conclude with a statement which really deserved more applause and accolades than it received. Following his close decision win over Shawn Porter in a hotly contested battle, Keith Thurman explained why he, as one of boxing’s top talents, wants all his performances on free TV. For all I know, he could make more money if his fights are on pay-per-view, but Thurman was definitive in his comments.
“I didn’t have HBO growing up,” Thurman told reporters after his action-packed battle with Porter. “I didn’t have Showtime growing up, and if you have HBO and you have Showtime, and they make it pay-per-view, now you’ve gotta come out of your pocket some more. I want everybody to have an opportunity to witness ‘One Time,’ and I want boxing to come back to the forefront of network television.”
I got a feeling Terrence Crawford might be sympathetic to these sentiments. I know I am.
— Michael Carbert