By Chris Williams: Top Rank’s April 14th card on ESPN pay-per-view headlined by WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn vs. Terence Crawford has been moved from Madison Square Garden in New York to the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Superstar Manny Pacquiao will be fighting in the co-feature bout against Mike Alvarado (38-4, 26 KOs).
Pacquiao said this week that he would like to fight WBA World welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse. It’s unclear whether Top Rank considered that option. It certainly would have been a better fight for Pacquiao than facing Alvarado, who is no longer a world ranked contender at this late stage in his career. Alvarado is a former world champion, but that was 5 years ago. Alvarado only fights weak 2nd tier opposition nowadays.
If Pacquiao wins his fight against Alvarado, the plan is for him to face Vasyl Lomachenko or the winner of the Horn-Crawford fight.
The price of the Horn-Crawford ESPN PPV card is yet to be determined. Many fans would be interested in purchasing the card on PPV if it’s priced at $20, but not if it’s $60 to $75. That would be way too high for the lack of interesting fights in the main event and the co-feature. Horn-Crawford and Pacquiao-Alvarado are both mismatches on paper. Let’s be honest. Alvarado has next to no chance of beating Pacquiao, and the same goes for Horn in his fight with Crawford. Horn fights like a club fighter. He’s just a big fighter, who uses his size to win fights at 147. If Top Rank prices the card too steeply, they could lose a lot of buys, as it’s not a particularly great card. Horn vs. Crawford and Pacquiao vs. Alvarado are likely to be one-sided affairs. Crawford will be a heavy favorite to beat Horn, as will Pacqiuiao to defeat Alvarado. It’s quite astonishing that Pacquiao is fighting on the undercard of Horn vs. Crawford, as he’s far more popular than either of those 2 guys. It’s like placing Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the undercard. It makes no sense. It would be interesting to know how Top Rank was able to get Pacquiao to agree to fight on the undercard of Horn-Crawford. Some feel that it’s disrespectful to Pacquiao to be assigned as an undercard fighter now. It was bad when we saw Pacquiao fighting Jeff Horn in his own hometown last July in Brisbane, Australia. Pacquiao was roughed up for 12 rounds and lost the fight by a questionable 12 round unanimous decision. It looked like a hometown decision win for Horn. Why Pacquiao was ever put in the position to fight Horn in his own hometown of Brisbane, Australia is the big question. If that wasn’t bad enough, Pacquiao is now fighting on the Horn vs. Crawford undercard. It’s shocking how Pacquiao is being matched at this point in his career by Top Rank.
Putting Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) in with the 37-year-old Alvarado will give the Filipino star a good chance of scoring a rare knockout. Alvarado is well past his best, and he’s never been a solid fighter even when he was in his prime 6 years ago. If Pacquiao is in good condition for the fight, he should knock Alvarado out. An impressive knockout win for Pacquiao will help build interest for his next fight, which will be either a match-up against the Top Rank promoted Vasyl Lomachenko or the winner of the Horn vs. Crawford fight. Both of those fighters are with Top Rank as well. Either way, Pacquiao will likely be fighting one of Arum’s Top Rank guys in his second fight of 2018. Alvarado is with Top Rank as well.
Also on the card is WBO World super bantamweight champion Jessie Magdaleno (25-0, 18 KOs) defending his title against unbeaten Isaac Dogboe (18-0, 12 KOs). Top Rank promoter Bob Arum added the Magdaleno vs. Dogboe card to make the ESPN pay-per-view card bigger.
According to ESPN, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum says he has a number of other cards coming up for New York, so he wanted to have the Horn-Crawford card take place in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Mandalay Bay is a great venue and we’re happy to put this card on there,” Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said to ESPN.com. “You’ve got a lot of boxing in New York coming up, so it made sense to move the fight to Las Vegas when Mandalay Bay became available.”
Top Rank’s decision to have Crawford-Horn in the main event of the April 14 ESPN PPV card appears to be a calculated move on the promotional companies part to give Crawford a big boost by having him be viewed by the boxing fans as the star of the card. Unfortunately, Crawford and Horn are NOT pay-per-view fighters in the U.S. Having them in the main event as the selling point for the April 14th ESPN PPV card is a bold move on Top Rank’s part. You can call it a gamble on their part to sell a PPV card with Crawford and Horn headlining it, considering that neither of them are attractions. Crawford’s previous effort in fighting in a main event on pay-per-view against Viktor Postol in 2016 was arguably a failure with the fight bringing in low numbers of buys. For Top Rank to be trying it again, this time with Horn as Crawford’s opponent, seems like another wrong-headed idea.
Horn’s fight with Pacquiao last July on ESPN brought in big ratings, but only because of the Filipino star. Horn isn’t a draw on his own because he’s not known by the casual boxing fans in the U.S. The likely idea of having Crawford-Horn fight in the main event on April 14 instead of Pacquiao is to give the perception to the boxing public that Crawford is the star the fans need to be focusing on. In theory, if the fans think Crawford is the guy they need to have their attention on, then they might want to pay to see his fights on ESPN PPV in the future. It’s worth a draw for Top Rank to use that method, but I don’t think it’s going to work. It’s tricky business to try and build a fighter into a pay-per-view star. If the fighter lacks an exciting fighting style and if their personalities are boring, then they don’t become PPV stars. Crawford is a switch-hitting counter puncher, who uses a lot of movement. He’s not a guy with an explosive style of fighting like Gennady Golovkin and Saul Canelo Alvarez. Top Rank has been lucky in the last decade to have 2 PPV attractions in Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto. Those 2 possessed exciting fighting styles from the start of their careers, and they were always very popular with the boxing fans. Crawford has lacked an exciting style of fighting, and he’s only been popular in his home state of Nebraska. Top Rank has had other fighters like Tim Bradley, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez that were on PPV when matched against Pacquiao. Those guys were never big PPV guys when they were the A-side on PPV events that didn’t include Pacquiao as the opponent.
Crawford unified the light welterweight division in his last fight in beating Julius Indongo by a 3rd round knockout on August 19. Crawford chose to vacate his titles and move up to 147, where he was installed immediately by the World Boxing Organization as Horn’s mandatory challenger. Crawford, 30, will now get his chance to fight for Horn’s WBO 140 lb. title on April 14th in the main event on ESPN PPV in Las Vegas, Nevada. If Crawford wins the fight, Arum’s first move will likely be to try and convince Pacquiao to fight him next on ESPN PPV. If that effort fails, then Crawford will likely be defending his WBO welterweight title against one of the top contenders in the WBO’s rankings. It could be #3 WBO Bradley Skeete. Of course, it’s always possible that Arum will match Crawford against one of his Top Rank stable fighters like Konstantin Ponomarev, who is ranked #13 by the WBO. That fight likely won’t draw much interest, but it would be a match-up involving Arum’s Top Rank guys, so it’s a win-win for him. Arum will likely first make a huge effort to try and get Pacquiao to agree to fight Crawford. If that fails, we’ll likely see Crawford defend against the likes of Skeete or Ponomarev.