Crawford and Porter have been good friends, in a small boxing world for decades it seems, and insist they will remain so, but the partnership between Crawford and his promoter, Bob Arum, changed in victory. In simple terms, their contract has expired and there is little desire to sign a new one; there are plans to continue working together it seems.
Porter was dropped twice in the tenth, seemed hurt, but was up before the count of ten and was then saved by his corner. It looked, it has to be said, about right; Crawford was never going to let Porter survive the round or the fight. Crawford is a clinical finisher, brutal at ending fights once he has an opponent hurt or vulnerable. In the Mandalay Bay ring, in front of over 11,000 people, Porter was ready to cross the line and get hurt before he was saved. Crawford won for the 38th time and it was his best.
In the fight's aftermath, as Crawford continued to eye his promoter, Arum, there was a quick comment from Porter to announce that after 36 fights, he is going to retire. It was not a shock and he understandably does not want to become what is known in boxing as a “gatekeeper”, the man the kids are measured against. That is, trust me, one of boxing's most destructive jobs.
“Shawn never prepared like I wanted him to,” said the boxer's father, Kenny, the man who stopped the fight. “We never discussed the ending, we never needed to; he was hurt and that's it. It was my decision.” It was harsh, if truthful, and Shawn had to stand there, shoulder-to-shoulder with his father, as he spoke. That was tough to watch. The pair have been a glorious double act during Porter's wonderful career; he had previously only lost three tight decisions to top, top fighters and had won and lost the world title twice. He leaves the sport with dignity and, as his father insisted, they will still meet for breakfast every day.
At the time of the stoppage two judges had Crawford a round up and the third had him three up at the end of nine. The scoring was, certainly by the time of the first knockdown, increasingly looking like an irrelevancy.
Crawford has now won 16 consecutive world title fights at three different weights and stopped 13 of the men in the opposite corner. He won his first world title over seven years ago, he has been one of the sport's best fighters for a long time, but has never really been one of the sport's most popular. There is a vast difference between the two things in the modern game. Sadly, hype, ego, distortion, stupidity and the truth can blur the lines of what should be crystal clear.
Crawford has talked about wanting big fights, the type of fights that could transform his profile and his bank balance. Arum has talked about delivering them and has tried to negotiate them. The main objective has been Errol Spence, who is unbeaten and another champion at welterweight. Spence is promoted by Arum's fiercest and bitterest rivals. The talks have collapsed so many times in frustration and dispute. Arum has been left angry. Crawford has been openly critical.
“He's got to promote himself better,” said Arum a year ago. “He might be the greatest fighter in the world, but I'm not going bankrupt promoting him.”
“Promoting is his job, my job is fighting,” replied Crawford at the time. “He gets paid for promoting, I get paid for fighting.”
They have since kissed and made up, but the Spence fight remains at the very core of their lingering differences. “I will just offer him big fights from now,” said Arum, who is 90 later this year.
There is, right now, no contract between the pair, but Arum insists that he will continue to chase Spence. Spence, incidentally, is currently recovering from surgery on a detached retina. As a guide, which is often useless in boxing, Porter dropped a split decision to Spence in their title fight in September 2019. Spence's future is, it has to be firmly stated, unclear.
Arum could also offer Crawford a fight with Scotland's Josh Taylor, who holds all four of the belts at light-welterweight and has talked about fighting Crawford and moving up in weight for a long time. Arum promotes Taylor. The fight is realistic, not a fantasy.
There is also a fighter called Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis, unbeaten, ten years younger than Crawford at 24 and rampaging all over the welterweight division. Crawford needs Spence, Taylor or Ennis at welterweight – perhaps all three - and then a move to light-middleweight to become the star he believes he can be. That is, in modern boxing, a ridiculous shopping list. Only Saul Canelo Alvarez pulls off magic tricks like that.
Crawford was very good in Las Vegas, make no mistake. He will clear a minimum of six-million dollars, a high for him in a fight that certainly raised his profile. However, he is not the first great fighter to risk never quite becoming a massive star.
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