- Terence Crawford vs. Errol Spence Jr., expected to happen by early next year, collapsed at the final hour.
- Insider took a look inside how boxing’s biggest bout died.
- It is unclear if, or when, it can be resuscitated.
LAS VEGAS — Boxing’s biggest fight has collapsed at the final hour.
Representatives for American boxers Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. had been in discussions for a welterweight superfight since the summer, as Insider detailed in June.
The fight would have determined the undisputed world championship at 147 pounds and, perhaps, the No. 1 fighter in the entire sport.
Crawford and Spence have so much pedigree that a bout between them would have been the most significant welterweight showdown since Floyd Mayweather swept Manny Pacquiao aside in 2015. Athletes and celebrities would have packed into MGM Grand Garden Arena’s VIP seats in Las Vegas, and fans would likely have dressed to the nines as the fight would have been a marquee event for the fighters, the city, and the sport.
“I want Terence Crawford next,” Spence said after finishing Yordenis Ugas in style on Showtime Sports, earlier this year. “That’s the fight I want. That’s the fight everybody else wants.”
To Boxing Scene later in the year, Spence said: “I think it’s gonna happen. He wants the fight. I want the fight.”
—Errol Spence (@ErrolSpenceJr) October 5, 2022
Spence, Crawford, and Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) boss Al Haymon all wanted this fight to happen, a key source with knowledge of the situation told Insider in October.
But, after almost six months of negotiations, the deal is now dead, and it is unclear when, or if, it will be resuscitated.
So, what went wrong?
Two sources with knowledge of the Crawford vs. Spence negotiations told Insider in June that discussions for the mega match were underway, and November was a likely month for the event to take place.
With no official announcement in October, Insider checked in with those sources again at that time and were told the fight “will get made,” despite the protracted nature of discussions.
Organizers pushed the fight from November to early 2023 so that they could promote the match sufficiently. With a three-to-four-month promotion, the fight would have stood a greater chance of catching fire and transcending boxing to become a mainstream talking point across sports, one source said.
Crawford, according to sources involved with the fight, wanted transparency regarding finances, including how much money the event generated to ensure his purse percentage (payment) was an accurate reflection of the fight’s success.
“He was going to get transparency” throughout, a source told Insider, adding that Crawford made an “unusual” request to also oversee the marketing expenditure for the show.
A boxer usually does not get involved on this side, as their focus is to train and to fight, rather than to sign off on, say, $200,000 worth of expenses that could include things like press tours, free airline tickets for fighter teams, and so on.
According to a source with knowledge of the negotiation, PBC nevertheless agreed and sent Crawford an updated contract after granting his final requests.
However, Crawford never responded.
Instead, he announced an alternative deal with a niche platform called BLK Prime, and said he would be fighting David Avenesyan in December.
Prior to acquiring Crawford, BLK Prime had been broadcasting glorified club shows. Despite annual revenue of $5 million according to ZoomInfo data, BLK Prime provided a $10 million guarantee to Crawford, the fighter said.
This secondary deal “blindsided” Spence and PBC staff, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations. “Nobody saw this coming,” one source said.
PBC expected the fight to get finalized and had no idea Crawford “was really working on a secondary deal,” the source added.
Insider contacted representatives for Crawford on Thursday but did not receive a reply.
Crawford and Spence quarreled on social media
Crawford said in an Instagram Live video this week that representatives from two unnamed hedge funds reportedly wanted to pay him $25 million, and pay Spence $25 million, as guarantees for the superfight.
Crawford said he presented this offer to Spence, who reportedly inquired about “the backend,” meaning the money that could come should the fight prove successful at the box office — something that’s not known until after the conclusion of the show.
Insider confirmed this mystery offer with two sources close to the negotiations, who said it was rejected on account of it being from an unidentified party, with no indication of how the fighters would be compensated if the pay-per-view sales were significant.
One source, who was also close to the Mayweather and Pacquiao negotiations, said Pacquiao’s representative at the time, Bob Arum, laughed off a flat offer of $42 million. According to this source, the Top Rank boss was aware of how big the payoff at the backend would be.
Pacquiao went on to leave the ring $72 million to $76 million richer, and received an even bigger check later when the pay-per-views were tabulated to show a record 4.6 million US households purchased the event.
Haymon did not think Spence, or Crawford, should cap themselves at $25 million, the source said.
A third source, one who has knowledge of the pay-per-view business, pointed out Jake Paul’s recent eight-round win over Anderson Silva, which reached up to 300,000 pay-per-view sales on Showtime.
Though this figure is reasonable in today’s tough pay-per-view market, it fails to touch big-name boxers Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez or Deontay Wilder, the American heavyweight who fought a trilogy with Tyson Fury.
The difference between Jake Paul, and Spence-Crawford or Wilder-Fury, is that the latter two fights represent significant sporting competitiveness, with athletes at — or near — the peak of their boxing powers, this source said.
If a Spence-Crawford fight mirrored the popularity of the Wilder-Fury trilogy then, at an $89.99 price point, it could have generated approximately $67.5 million — more than the alleged combined fees offered by the mystery hedge funds.
The backend, for Spence’s team and PBC, was always going to be important, according to a source close to the negotiation, as they always anticipated it becoming a big, mainstream sports event.
Spence reacted to Crawford’s Instagram Live video
“Why it take you two weeks to say something,” Spence said in a tweet to Crawford this week.
The three-belt welterweight champion said Crawford claimed “that his concerns over having transparency on the revenues and expenses for the fight was the big issue that killed the negotiations.
“My side agreed to show him everything.”
Spence then challenged Crawford to post the draft contract from earlier this summer, which would show that his requests had been granted.
—Errol Spence (@ErrolSpenceJr) November 3, 2022
Spence also referenced the mystery hedge fund offer Crawford made. “He couldn’t tell me” where the source of the money was from, he said.
“This dude is a clown,” Crawford wrote of Spence, adding that he felt his opponent’s team was trying to “drag this negotiation out,” which is why he took the alternative deal from BLK Prime to fight Avenesyan next month.
—Terence Crawford (@terencecrawford) November 3, 2022
Where Spence and Crawford could go from here
Crawford already has a fight against David Avenesyan lined up for December 10 at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska. It is the bout he seemingly organized while the deal from Spence and PBC was still on the table.
Spence does not have an official match of his own lined up, but he does have options as he could box PBC stablemate Keith Thurman, or a mandatory challenger to one of his world championships, like Eimantas Stanionis.
He could even leave the welterweight division entirely and seek a fight at 154 pounds.
I tweeted mid-October that, with the Spence vs. Crawford event in disarray, a fight between Spence and “The Towering Inferno” Sebastian Fundora would be a strong consolation. Spence himself liked the tweet.
—Al Dawson (@AlanDawsonSport) October 21, 2022
A source close to Spence told us that it means the fighter is “not just interested in Fundora but perhaps the super welterweight division generally.”
Is a Crawford-Spence superfight dead?
A superfight involving Crawford and Spence could still happen should they emerge from these separate fights unscathed.
Haymon “would like to still do the business,” a source close to the PBC boss told Insider.
“Errol is still open to the fight,” a source close to Spence told us.
Organizers of the collapsed bout are concerned, though, that if the fight was problematic the first time around then it could be problematic again in the future.
If Crawford wanted a tune-up fight in 2022 then there may have been a way to do that which could elevate a fight with Spence.
One of Insider’s boxing sources close to the fight said Crawford and Spence could have shared a card, albeit in separate fights, with the winners’ meeting in the ring to announce the superfight in front of a significant global audience.
“This type of pay-per-view would have given an indication to how well a fight involving both Crawford and Spence would perform at the box office,” the source told us.
It is unclear if Crawford’s pay-per-view on BLK Prime will succeed or fail.
But had he fought on the same card as Spence, to hype a superfight, then he may have had a different bargaining position than the one he might have should the BLK bout fail at the box office.
As things stands right now, though, we have a deal that died, and ambiguity over whether two of boxing’s best fighters will ever actually fight to determine the true No. 1.