Horn travels from Australia to defend title against Crawford
LAS VEGAS — Terence Crawford doesn’t think moving up in weight will be an issue.
Jeff Horn doesn’t think fighting thousands of miles away from his native Australia matters much, either.
The two unbeaten fighters meet Saturday night for Horn’s welterweight title in a fight that offers an intriguing matchup of brawler versus boxer in a division that is suddenly getting a lot of attention in boxing.
The fight is significant for one other thing — it marks the first attempt to get boxing fans to buy ESPN’s new $4.99 a month app so they can watch the bout from the MGM Grand Garden.
“It’s the future, get used to it,” promoter Bob Arum said. “Jeff Horn and Terence Crawford will go down in history for the fight that pioneered this changeover in direction to consumer sports entertainment.”
Horn became a star of sorts thanks to his win last year over Manny Pacquiao before a packed crowd in an outdoor stadium in Brisbane. Not only did Horn pull off an upset — and highly disputed — win, but he did it in prime time on ESPN in the U.S. on a Saturday night as part of a new deal between Arum’s Top Rank Promotions and the cable sports giant.
That was heralded as a way to bring boxing back to the masses, and it worked. The audience peaked at 4.4 million viewers, the most for boxing on cable TV in more than a decade.
But the business model has shifted, with ESPN is looking for top fights to help convince people to sign up for the new app. So Horn agreed to a good payday to fight away from the comfort of home against a fighter some consider the top pound-for-pound boxer in the game.
“It wasn’t that hard,” Horn said. “The money was right and it was the right time for this fight. We were always thinking we’d go to America anyway and have a fight, so why not now?”
One reason would be that Horn is risking his unbeaten record against a fighter who has won titles in two weight divisions and beaten everyone in front of him. Crawford is a 7-1 favorite in the scheduled 12-round fight, which will be for a version of the 147-pound title that Horn won against Pacquiao in Australia last July.
Crawford (32-0, 23 knockouts) isn’t terribly concerned about the challenge ahead.
“He’s nothing that I haven’t faced before in the ring,” Crawford said. “We have to focus on him coming in with his head and using his elbows. Other than that, it’s just another fight.”
The two fighters were to have met April 14, but Crawford injured a hand in training and the fight was postponed. Now it’s been almost a year since he’s been in the ring, and this time it will be at 147 pounds instead of 140.
But he’s a master of the craft of boxing and can hit a bit, too. The Nebraska native is supremely confident in his abilities, and believes he deserves to be a superstar in the sport.
“I don’t feel like the layoff will be a big factor. I feel like I’m sharp and ready to go,” Crawford said. “I’m not just lying around and sitting on the couch. I should be good.”
Horn (18-0-1, 12 knockouts) has fought once since beating Pacquiao, stopping Gary Corcoran in Brisbane in December to keep his title.
Arum said he tried to get Pacquiao to fight a rematch with Horn but couldn’t get him to commit. Pacquiao will be his own promoter when he meets Lucas Matthysse on July 15 in Malaysia for another version of the welterweight crown.
Arum has both Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko under his promotion, and both figure to be attractions for the new ESPN streaming app.
“Terence Crawford in my mind is a superstar in boxing,” Arum said. “Every challenge and obstacle that Terence has faced he has overcome. He’s one of the throwback fighters to the ’80s. I really compare him to the great Sugar Ray Leonard, he’s that good.”
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