Showtime’s Espinoza on Restarting Spence vs. Crawford Talks

If Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford expect to fight each other anytime soon, their negotiations will have to be conducted differently—much differently—than the first time around, according to a highly partisan participant.

WBA, WBC, IBF welterweight champion Spence and WBO titlist Crawford were engaged in serious conversations to fight each other for the undisputed championship in November, but their talks went belly-up after a few key demands from Crawford were not met. In his much publicized Instagram Live monologue, Crawford said the deal breaker was that Al Haymon, Spence’s manager and the founder of Premier Boxing Champions, refused to give him financial transparency.

Crawford instead went on to fight David Avanesyan in December, stopping the Russian inside six rounds in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. That fight was streamed by BLK Prime, a newcomer to boxing. Crawford said he was paid $10 million by BLK Prime for the Avanesyan fight. It is not clear if Crawford will work with the company again. Spence, of Desoto, Texas, will likely face Keith Thurman in the late spring.

Both fighters have expressed interest in starting where they left off, but the situation is not so cut and dry, according to Stephen Espinoza, the head of Showtime Sports, the cable network that would most likely stage Spence-Crawford. Haymon’s PBC has an exclusive output deal with Showtime, which makes Espinoza a natural ally of Spence. Crawford, on the other hand, is a free agent.

“Well, it’s still an attractive fight,” Espinoza said of Spence-Crawford in an interview with FightHubTV. “No one is going to hold grudges and say we’re not going to deal with him (Crawford) just because the first time didn’t quite go the way we wanted. But there’s other factors now. [Spence’s] mandatory (Thurman) has been ordered, and there’s all of that. There’s the assumption, ‘Oh, well, you can wave a magic wand and make it all go away to get a Crawford fight.’ I don’t know if that’s the case right now, it’s not as simple as that. I have no doubt that no one from this side, from Errol to everyone else, is throwing that opportunity away. They’re still looking and saying, ‘Look, this can realistically be made.’ Great.

“But having said that, nobody wants to go through that experience again. I know there’s a lot of different versions of what happened. I know that from this side, it felt like the rug being pulled out from under us with very little notice, and so yeah there’s a little bit of damage control that can be done there. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to jump back in negotiations if there’s an opportunity to do so.

“There’s got to be a different dynamic,” Espinoza continued. “There were certain points where a range of issues that Terence brought up that really didn’t get resolved and they lingered out there, and then things all fell apart. So, no one wants that dynamic again.”

In order for negotiations to be revived, Espinoza said they will have to be conducted in a far more diligent and efficient manner. That means, according to Espinoza, that Crawford would need to accept a deal that may not be “perfect” to him. To be sure, both Crawford and Spence agreed to fight without a guarantee in their negotiations last year.

“So, in order for this to be a productive thing moving forward, there’s got to be a different way of going about it than sitting there and going an inch at a time over months and months,” Espinoza said. “So if this is going to get done—look, we all know what the issues are and what the basic structure is. Either people are interested, or they’re not. No one wants to waste any more time. So, if he’s (Crawford) interested—there’s no perfect deal. There’s an old saying. A good deal is a deal where everyone is unhappy. Instead of trying to get the perfect deal, let’s do the best deal we can under the circumstances before this thing passes its expiration date.”

Espinoza said he himself is not currently engaged in conversations with Crawford but that is not to say that there aren’t discussions going on between Crawford and Haymon.

Bottom line, Espinoza’s optimism for a Spence-Crawford fight seems to depend on how willing Crawford is to access PBC and Showtime’s terms.

“I don’t want to point fingers, but if you ask this side, I think a lot of the dragging on was due to Terence’s own asks and the timetable in which he was responding,” Espinoza said. “It seemed like a lot of time would go by after each offer, and there was a stubbornness that dug in after certain points that we thought shouldn’t have been insurmountable. I’m sure he’s got a different take on it. Nobody wants to sit there and be in a soap opera of weeks and weeks of negotiations. If we’re going to jump back into it, let’s jump back into it and get it done quickly.”

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