And they were on my mind in July, as you'll read below. I never really released this article, instead, I decided to hang on to it as a reference for what did happen, as opposed to what might happen. Turns out Pacquiao would go on to face Chris Algieri and treat him like a sparring partner, while Crawford essentially did the same thing to Pacquiao's former sparring Ray Beltran.
There was a marked difference in Pacquiao from the Bradley fight, and the same can be said for Crawford a bout removed from Yuriokis Gamboa. They were both better than those performances.
Crawford, new to championship skies, soared over Beltran in an "A" fighter performance, while Pacquiao reacquired the look of a championship bully, as opposed to the workman-like challenger opposite Bradley.
Knowing what I know now, I slightly disagreed with the Summer 2014 version of myself when considering a fight between Pacquiao and Crawford, and modified it ever so slightly. It would be a more competitive fight than I'd outlined originally, as Crawford is technically sharper and brimming with much more confidence. But Pacquiao, once again wrapping a world championship belt around his waist near his most ideal weight, has fully regained the killer instinct that made him a monster.
For now, I invite you to rewind with me back to the 4th of July before I bring you forward to this past Thanksgiving weekend. Seasons change, but certain things about fighters never do.
"Yeah, this is something I would die for/October's own but it's looking like July 4/ I just wish they'd let you try it first/ This time I'm really going off - Fireworks"
Drake feat. Alicia Keys, Fireworks
As grills across America explode with beef and flavor, WBO Lightweight champion Terence Crawford was probably bumping the cool ass song above while having visions of beef with Filipino icon and reigning WBO welterweight boss Manny Pacquiao.
Replace Drizzy's "October's own" with November, and Crawford would really be on to something because that's the next time Pacquiao will make his way to the ring. Fresh off of an exciting 9th round mugging of a game Yuriokis Gamboa, Crawford is suddenly a nova star in fistic terms of appeal with the honchos at HBO, as they have hot options to consider with the Omaha, Nebraska product.
Among them would actually be a date with Pacquiao in China.
With a pool of fighters to chose from that includes the likes of a now trial-horse Mike Alvarado, newly crowned WBO super lightweight champ Chris Algieri and the pedestrian Luis Abregu, all of a sudden Crawford makes a lot of sense and is an upgrade of any of those names.
Algieri, still a relative unknown, would be best served giving Ruslan Provodnikov a rematch. Alvarado, shopworn and approaching ESPN club fighter status, doesn't deserve to be mentioned with Pacquiao.
Do I really even need to go there with Abregu? Like... Really?
If Pacquiao can't get Juan Manuel Marquez (who cleaned up Alvarado in a classic) enticed to go for a historic 4th world title for his beloved Mexico and a 5th bout in their epic rivalry, then his brain trust would have to think about Provodnikov (who really cleaned up Algieri in my opinion).
But that would create a dilemma for Freddie Roach, who trains both and loves them in different ways. He would be partial to Pacquiao given their history - but such a bout would also ruin both of them.
Which brings me to Amir Khan, who has been vocal about the prospect of facing Pacquiao this fall. This match makes the absolute most sense in terms of box office appeal and intrigue. Khan was the first fighter (Shawn Porter and Provodnikov the other) to ascend to championship heights as a result of his gym battles with Pacquiao.
His departure from Freddie Roach was an ugly one, making a match-up between them something that would be beautiful to watch.
But we don't know if the newly restored bonds between Top Rank's Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy is good enough to super-cede any interference that would stem from the notorious Al Haymon, whom Khan signed with this past spring.
When searching for a high voltage fight to make for Pacquiao outside of these options that would be relatively easy to make and guarantee drama, Mikey Garcia comes to mind. He is a highly skilled super featherweight champion, and a big one at that, for a Pacquiao who has never really been a welterweight in my opinion. They are under the same promotional banner and network, and stylistically they would create an epic action fight.
Throw out any of these options with just one other name to present to Pacquiao, and a Crawford fight explodes right in front of me.
"Bud" (as Crawford is known) is rounding into his physical prime at 26, so it would be interesting to see how he carried his weight (he weighed 152lbs on fight night for Gamboa) against Pacquiao.
Is he ready for such a stage and an elite fighter the caliber of Pacquiao? Well, let's find out.
MANNY PACQUIAO VS. TERENCE CRAWFORD
There's an expression that tells us that "youth is wasted on the young". It is sage based on experience, and it came from a place of farsightedness that up close - would be difficult for someone too young to be able to see.
After seeing him with Beltran, Crawford would seem capable of giving Pacquiao fits. I love his balance and the way he plants his feet in the ring, and he reminds me of all-time great Pernell Whitaker in that respect, though he's not quite as nuanced or as refined as "Pete".
He's adept in the pocket, he's a solid ring general, is well schooled and has a toolbox full of skills. But Pacquiao would hammer him into submission. It is a fight that would be very similar to the beating he administered to Lehlo Ledwaba, both in style and in texture, more than a decade ago.
Crawford is ambidextrous, and would probably try a conventional and southpaw stance against Pacquiao in an attempt to leverage him for shots. The problem is he'd either be available for the full brunt of Manny's lethal straight left, or catch unusual right hand shots and combinations from all over the place.
Crawford is a stand-up guy and a stand-up boxer who doesn't offer much upper body movement.
Pacquiao's extreme and dynamic footwork would befuddle the conventional Crawford and get him to make fundamental mistakes. He'd strike Pacquiao on occasion, but he'd get chipped on more frequent ones, and he'd go back to his corner at the end of rounds wondering what the hell just happened to him.
He was very impressive in adjusting to Gamboa and Beltran in the middle of both fights, settling into a nice rhythm to really dominate, while showing the poise of a real veteran. But Gamboa was a division beyond what he can physically handle - and he did manage to rock Crawford. He also bothered "Bud" with his speed. "Pac-Man" would shock him with his.
Pacquiao somewhat manhandled tough, in-their-prime physical specimens in Timothy Bradley and Chris Algieri. Like Crawford, both were men of great will who seldom relent in any way. Algieri, rangy with freakish conditioning, was made to quit in some ways while being dropped like tennis balls.
Pacquiao also broke the spirit of Bradley in a way I don't believe any welterweight would, so there's no way a recent lightweight unfamiliar with the pedigree he'd face would come close to fairing better.
An exciting action fight for 3 or 4 rounds would start to turn into a one-sided affair, as Pacquiao would get into a "No Flex Zone" (I love that song) and turn up the volume on his speed. He'd land a game changing straight left at some point, and then spill violent torrents on Crawford until white towels became white flags in the corner.
Manny Pacquiao, in an explosive, star-studded and almost nostalgic performance, would subdue a very brave and talented Terence Crawford via 10th round TKO.