Terence Crawford, the 2017 ESPN.com fighter of the year, will open his 2018 campaign challenging welterweight world titleholder Jeff Horn on April 14 at Madison Square Garden in New York, as long as the deal is finalized, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN on Tuesday.
Crawford, during an interview at ringside on Saturday night on ESPN’s telecast of the Gilberto Ramirez-Habib Ahmed super middleweight world title fight in Corpus Christi, Texas, said, “We’re real close. I’d say 90 percent done deal. Right now, my main focus is on Jeff Horn.”
Arum, who promotes Crawford and co-promotes Horn with Duco Events, said Horn has already signed for the fight but he still needs to close a deal with Crawford.
Arum said he was close but then added, “But I don’t do percentages. Close is not there. There is signed contracts. But we’re working hard to get the thing done and, hopefully, we’ll get it done pretty soon.”
Arum said the fight would go on pay-per-view if former welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao, who lost his belt via highly controversial decision to Horn in Horn’s hometown of Brisbane, Australia in July, comes to terms with Arum to appear on the card during a break from his duties as a senator in the Philippines. It would be the first pay-per-view since Arum and ESPN entered into a long-term agreement last summer for the network to serve as the exclusive television home for Top Rank events.
Besides working to finish a deal with Crawford, Arum is also working to iron out a deal with Pacquiao. One potential opponent for Pacquiao is the long-faded former junior welterweight titlist Mike Alvarado (38-4, 26 KOs), 37, of Denver.
Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs), 30, of Omaha, Nebraska, a former lightweight world champion, knocked out Julius Indongo on Aug. 19 to become the undisputed junior welterweight champion. Crawford retained his two belts and won the two that Indongo had to become the first junior welterweight to hold all of the major belts of the four-belt era and only the third ever, joining former middleweight world champions Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor, who did it more than a decade ago.
Crawford then vacated the titles in order to move up in weight and was installed as the mandatory challenger for Horn.
After Horn (18-0-1, 12 KOs), 30, defeated Pacquiao he retained the 147-pound belt by 11th-round knockout of Gary Corcoran on Dec. 13, also in Brisbane, with his next defense mandated to come against Crawford.
Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs), who recently turned 39 and is the only fighter in boxing history to win world titles in eight weight divisions, has not boxed since the fight with Horn. While he has said he considered retirement he later said he would continue with his boxing career.
If Pacquiao appears on the card with Crawford-Horn it remains to be seen which fight would serve as the headliner.