Terence Crawford could return to the ring later this year, but don’t expect to see the WBO welterweight world titlist against fellow titleholder Errol Spence Jr. or Manny Pacquiao just yet. Crawford and his promoter Top Rank are in talks with Matchroom to face Kell Brook in November.
Brook, a former 147-pound titleholder, lost the belt against Spence in 2017, but has won three consecutive fights since then.
Is a fight against Brook the best option for Crawford right now, outside of megafights against Spence and Pacquiao?
Steve Kim, Nick Parkinson and Ben Baby share their thoughts on Crawford’s future and offer opinions on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s return in Mexico, Canelo Alvarez’s next move and the possible Jose Ramirez-Josh Taylor superfight for all the marbles at 140.
Outside of Spence and Pacquiao, is Brook the best option for Crawford?
Kim: No. Let’s be honest. This is a very good matchup if you go back in time to 2015. There was a time after Brook defeated Shawn Porter by majority decision to win the IBF welterweight title, when Brook was the best 147-pounder in the world, while Spence and Keith Thurman were still climbing up the ladder as young fighters. Brook defended the title against Jo Jo Dan, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Bizier before he made the ill-fated decision to move up two weight classes to face middleweight king Gennadiy Golovkin in September 2016.
While Brook had some good moments against Golovkin, he was stopped in Round 5 and suffered a broken eye socket in the process. In his next bout, Brook moved back down to defend his welterweight belt against Spence, and lost by KO in the 11th round. Brook broke his left orbital bone in that fight. Those battles haven’t completely stripped away his skills, but they have left him lacking what he once had.
Brook is not-so-Special K at this point in time, and while he’s still a pretty solid fighter, in no way is he elite. Ironically, Porter, the guy he first defeated to win his title, is in a much better place in his career and is universally considered a top-five welterweight. That matchup for Crawford would be much more amenable to the boxing fan.
Parkinson: Spence or PacMan are clearly the better fights for Crawford, who needs a big name opponent on his record. But if he can’t get a unification fight next, then Brook is the best option. Brook looked very good in a stoppage win over Mark DeLuca in February after damaging stoppage losses to Golovkin and Spence.
Facing Brook (39-2, 27 KOs), 34, offers Crawford the chance to better Spence’s display versus the Englishman. Brook, meanwhile, has a point to prove as he believes putting on the extra weight to fight Golovkin at middleweight and then boiling down two divisions to welterweight to face Spence in his next fight took its toll in the ring. Three fights in as many years later, Brook is ready for one last big night.
Crawford-Brook would sell well to a U.K. television audience too. Crawford is well known in England after wins over Amir Khan and Ricky Burns. Other candidates like Porter, whom Brook defeated six years ago, have different promoters/broadcasters than Crawford, which are obstacles to overcome. Porter is also friends with Crawford, while Keith Thurman is reportedly asking for too much money. Brook is an easier fight to make at this point.
Baby: He’s not the best, but Brook is the best among Crawford’s realistic options. The top welterweight options for Crawford fight for Al Haymon under the Premier Boxing Champions umbrella. Spence is the top 147-pounder under Haymon, and still the fight that boxing fans have wanted to be for years. It’s akin to the Mayweather-Pacquiao rivalry from the early 2010s, except for the fact Crawford and Spence don’t have nearly the same amount of star power.
A Crawford-Brook fight may not be terribly competitive, but it should be entertaining. Brook is flawed and willing to engage, a recipe that bodes well for fight fans. If Crawford looks impressive, he can continue to make the case that he deserves a crack at one of the PBC welterweights. Then again, that would be good for the sport, so that means it won’t happen until it’s too late.
Where’s Canelo? What should be his next move?
Kim: Canelo isn’t on his traditional date on Mexican Independence weekend in September for the second straight year. His biggest battle at this moment may be with DAZN, who signed Canelo to a five-year, 11-fight deal worth $365 million two years ago. But the reality is that for both sides (Canelo/GBP and DAZN) to be back on the same page, Canelo will have to face a legitimate challenge, and then have that third chapter with Gennadiy Golovkin in the first half of 2021 (when, hopefully, live audiences can return to sporting events).
Alvarez is probably a full-fledged super middleweight at this moment, so WBA titlist Callum Smith and WBO titleholder Billy Joe Saunders — who are both aligned with DAZN — should be at the top of Canelo’s list.
These are solid matchups that would allow Canelo to add another belt to his vast collection.
Parkinson: Big names in boxing, crowd-pullers like Canelo, are delaying announcing their next fights in the hope that fans will be allowed back at boxing events late this year. It’s understandable: delaying Canelo’s ring return by a couple months could be worth millions of dollars. Britons Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders, who both hold versions of the world super middleweight title, are being considered for Canelo’s next fight in November. A U.S. venue seems more likely, but traveling to the U.K. to face either Smith or Saunders would attract a 20,000 live gate (if it is allowed by then).
Canelo has seen his regular dates in May and September evaporate — it seems unlikely Golden Boy and streaming service DAZN can push back Canelo’s next fight beyond November or December at the latest. The 30-year-old last boxed in Nov. 2019 and cannot afford to go longer than a year out of action at this stage of his career. Saunders and Smith hold much more value and appeal than Canelo facing WBC mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim, which has to be viewed as a fall-back option.
Baby: I imagine Canelo is hanging out and thinking of all the ways he won’t be facing GGG. Not that I blame him, to be honest. Even if the outcomes of the first two bouts have been disputed by most folks not named Adelaide Byrd, Canelo may think he has nothing to gain by giving GGG another shot.
But here’s a counterpoint. GGG could be what Ward was to Gatti, Morales to Barrera or Marquez to Pacquiao — a legacy-defining rival. And right now, whether Canelo likes it or not, there are plenty of observers who still don’t believe Canelo has definitively beat GGG. If that doesn’t get rectified, that will always be a nagging complaint about him no matter what he does for the rest of his career.
The third fight between Canelo and GGG would undoubtedly be considered among the best trilogies in boxing history, and it would give Canelo a chance to prove his dominance over a worthy rival.
How should Top Rank bring Zayas along in his career now that fights are happening?
Here is what Xander Zayas had to say in the immediate aftermath of his first professional win, a first-round TKO of Genesis Wynn. Video by Steve Kim
Kim: Young Xander is just that — young. He turns 18 on Saturday and at that point he will be free to pretty much fight in any jurisdiction moving forward. But from the very beginning, his manager Peter Kahn and promoter Top Rank have said they absolutely will not rush him in this process. Right now Zayas is 4-0 (3 KOs) and he’s still a four-round boxer.
Zayas has a huge upside. He has really good all-around skills, and because of his age and his wiry frame, there’s a very good chance that Zayas — who is currently a welterweight — will be making his first title run at middleweight. That is one of the unknowns that exist in his development, which is why everyone involved will take their time with him. Unlike Teofimo Lopez Jr. and Shakur Stevenson, who were put on the fast track as they inked deals with Top Rank, there really isn’t that sense of urgency with Zayas.
Parkinson: It’s difficult with the current situation, but Zayas would benefit from being as active as possible, fighting four to six times inside the next 12 months against varied opposition. His next opponent has only had one fight and as part of his development, Zayas will need to face more experienced fighters. But there’s no rush, and fighting a variety of opponents with different styles will be a key consideration to build up his experience when most boxers his age are still in the amateur ranks.
Baby: Zayas needs to be brought along slowly. Despite all the hype surrounding Top Rank’s youngest signing, he still lacks serious ring experience. Zayas is already in the deepest division in boxing. As he continues to move up in weight as he gets older, he’s going to face plenty of current stars who could one day move up to junior middleweight or even middleweight (including Vergil Ortiz, Errol Spence Jr. and others). It will be wise for him to learn on the job before he really tests himself against some of boxing’s top names.
There’s no need to rush Zayas. If he’s truly as good as everyone says he is (and the start to his career indicates), he has the potential to be great and possibly the first Puerto Rican superstar since Miguel Cotto — a void the sport has not been able to fill. Top Ranks should give him more rounds under his belt and slowly ramp up the level of competition.
Is Josh Taylor taking too much of a risk against Apinun Khongsong?
Kim: Expect Khongsong to come into this fight well prepared and ready to score an upset. And keep this in mind — Khongsong is Taylor’s IBF mandatory. If Taylor wants to keep both belts (his other being the WBA) and then have the possibility of consolidating the division against Jose Ramirez (who has the WBC and WBO straps), he needs to go through Khongsong. Just like Ramirez did against Viktor Postol this past weekend.
If Taylor is the guy we think he is, he should overcome Khongsong. Then he’ll move on to bigger and better things.
Parkinson: Not really, and Taylor did not have any choice in the matter as this is a mandatory defense of his IBF junior welterweight title. Khongsong has built up an impressive record of 16-0, 13 KOs, but mostly in his home nation of Thailand and not against the level of opposition Taylor has been beating. Taylor has been operating at a higher level for some time and Khongsong is not among the world’s elite (no other governing body, or ESPN, ranks him in the world top ten), so it’s a good fight for Taylor to set up a clash against Ramirez next year.
Baby: It really shouldn’t be a risk. You’re talking about someone who could is in line to fight as the undisputed champion at junior welterweight taking on an unknown fighter with zero notable opponents on his pro ledger. If Taylor can’t get through Khongsong with no problems, then he may not need to be too worried about beating Ramirez. If anything, this should be a good tune-up fight for Taylor as he ramps up for the future unification bout with Ramirez.
And if we’re being completely honest, I highly doubt Top Rank would have allowed the fight to occur if they thought there was any legitimate risk in Taylor’s first fight with the promotional company.
Should Chavez Jr. be allowed to fight? Can he revive his career? How?
Kim: Until he clears up his current situation with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (Chavez is currently suspended indefinitely for refusing a pre-fight drug test last year before he faced Daniel Jacobs) he shouldn’t be allowed to fight anywhere, period. Because if he does, it once again sends a very dangerous precedent where fighters can basically escape any type of discipline just by moving to a rogue jurisdiction.
As for reviving his career, regardless of his eligibility, there is a harsh reality here: Chavez is now 34 years old, and the last meaningful victory came in 2012 when he stopped Andy Lee in seven rounds, before he was dominated by Sergio Martinez. From that point on, his career has gone downhill and he has squandered one undeserved opportunity after another.
All he really has left now is his lineage.
Parkinson: Questions around Chavez’s compliance with doping tests mean he faces a fight for the right to fight before he can even contemplate boxing in the U.S. again. Chavez will have to convince fans, and boxing authorities, that he is serious about the sport and about complying to drug testing regulations, while he has an improved commitment to make weight (which he has failed to do for recent fights) if he wants to generate interest again. A slow, gradual return to bigger fights, perhaps a rematch with Sergio Martinez (who recently returned to the ring after six years in retirement), would be better than immediately returning to top of the bill status.
Baby: First, yes, he should be allowed. Anyone healthy enough to get their skull bashed for a living certainly has that right. But Chavez Jr.’s career as a viable money fighter is all but over. The footage of Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. burying his hand in his face and looking perplexed as his son quit on the stool against Daniel Jacobs said everything one needs to know.
Boxing fans will forgive a fighter’s lack of talent. The absence of the fighting spirit, however, is unforgivable. And after years of being carried by his last name, fans have likely seen enough of Chavez Jr. As far as his future goes, we’ll find out soon enough.