THE sign of any potential star, even mid-fight Terence Crawford could be seen eyeing up his next opponent, going so far as to gesticulate to him after knocking down the man’s training partner in arguably the finest performance of 2023. With Errol Spence still there on the canvas, but the fight as good as won, Crawford decided to immediately turn his attention to Jermell Charlo, who was that night ringside bathing in the acclaim and newfound stardom his to enjoy following the announcement of a money-spinning fight against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in September.

Standing up with alacrity, and doing so far quicker than Spence, Charlo seemed as interested in the back and forth as Crawford, at which point cogs started to turn. The idea, on the face of it, was something like this: Charlo, a super-welterweight, would avenge his gym mate’s inevitable loss in the near future, but only after he had dethroned Alvarez at super-middleweight and emerged as a genuine boxing superstar.

Crawford, of course, although in the middle of his own fight, liked the thought of that. It may even have been an idea he had entertained before the Spence fight had started. Either way, you could see on his face, already animated on account of how easy he was finding it in the presence of Spence, how excited Crawford appeared by the idea of Charlo and another challenge.

Because the special ones tend to think like that, you see. Like any great snooker player, or world-class womaniser, they are always thinking one step or conquest ahead, never content with their current position, forever of the belief they must have something planned – something bigger and better – in order to capitalise on their virility, aware of how brief it typically is.

In the case of Crawford, the world’s best welterweight, he lined all this up while high on momentum, the early rush of it. He could feel it at that stage wrestling with the adrenaline coursing through his veins and he knew, based on the virtuosity of that display against Spence, he would be the talk of the town – Las Vegas and others – until, that is, Canelo Alvarez, the former pound-for-pound number one he had displaced, arrived to take back everything he claims to own.

Crawford is enjoys his victory lap after beating Errol Spence (Getty Images)

This Alvarez did, as planned, last weekend. Back where these days he belongs and feels most comfortable, and where Crawford shone so brightly nine weeks ago, the Mexican proceeded to thrash Jermell Charlo for 12 rounds, in the process reclaiming the right to call the shots and plot the boxing calendar going forward. In one fell swoop, he had managed to reduce Charlo, a potential Crawford opponent in a potential superfight, to the role of humbled also-ran and then, not just content with that, pooh-poohed the idea of him, Alvarez, being the one to perhaps fight Crawford in the future. “He is not in my plans,” he told the media after beating Charlo.

Frankly, it would have come as a surprise, as well as a disappointment, had Alvarez said anything other than that, for let’s be honest: no fun can be had from seeing Crawford, a man who won his first world title at lightweight (135 pounds), now competing as a 168-pound super-middleweight. Nevertheless, in simply being asked the question, and swiftly batting it away, it is clear both how powerful Alvarez remains, in terms of the entire boxing landscape, and also how desperate we all are to see Terence Crawford fight worthy opponents in superfights from here on out.

Because ordinarily and in a more star-studded division there would be no need for Crawford to entertain touring additional weight classes in order to feel competitively nourished. He would, in this ideal world, simply remain where he is, where he is both dominant and where, in July, he recorded the best win of his 15-year professional career.

Boxing being boxing, however, it’s a tad quixotic to think in those terms. In reality, Crawford, at 35, knows his window of opportunity is small and only getting smaller and knows, too, that a rematch against Spence, which nobody really wants or needs to see, serves only to stop the flow of any momentum he accrued beating Spence first time around. This thought likely unnerves him and, moreover, whenever he looks around at welterweight, he sees no other opponents who would be able to match, commercially and financially, what the Spence fight was able to do for him earlier in the summer.

That’s maybe why, during that fight, he was getting creative, both with his punches and with his scouting. It was maybe why, with Spence crawling around on the canvas, Crawford not only looked outside the ring – or box – for potential opponents, but then, when locating one in the form of Charlo, made a concerted effort to start the promotion post-haste.

It was shrewd, of that there is no doubt. It also offered an indication of where Crawford is looking to take his career, both as far as weight class is concerned and calibre of fight. Indeed, to see Crawford and Charlo engage the way they did in July only made the prospect of Charlo fighting Alvarez in September all the more maddening and regrettable. For while a victory against Alvarez for Charlo would have no doubt elevated him to superstar status in the sport, and made a potential Crawford fight extremely alluring and lucrative, there was always the danger, what with Charlo being a super-welterweight and Alvarez being a super-middleweight, that Alvarez vs. Charlo would merely end up being the latest in a long list of fights between two men who were unevenly matched in terms of weight and bonded solely by a desire to make money together. (And so it proved.)

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Jermell Charlo embrace after their fight at T-Mobile Arena on September 30, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Still, that’s not to say losing against Alvarez has irreparably damaged Charlo’s reputation, nor is it to say a future fight against Crawford no longer appeals. (In fact, it was something of a relief to hear Charlo confirm his intention to return to the super-welterweight division and immediately pick up where he left off.) What that defeat does do, however, is perhaps reduce the appeal of fighting Charlo from Crawford’s point of view, particularly as he is clearly looking to break ground and make history during the time he has left. “I’m over Jermell Charlo,” Crawford confirmed following Charlo’s loss. “He’s no longer on my hit list. He went out there, lay down, and let Canelo spank him with no type of resistance.”

To go where another man has already been holds no value, monetary or otherwise, for Crawford, it would seem. Beating Charlo, and becoming a world champion in a fourth weight class, would still mean a great deal in the record books, and in the context of his legacy, but the man from Omaha is evidently looking for something more than that now and, for that, it’s hard to criticise him.

In a sense, then, one could argue Canelo Alvarez has beaten Terence Crawford without needing to actually fight him. He took back Las Vegas, his home, for one; this despite the fact his performance against Charlo was not a patch on Crawford’s against Spence in July. More than just that, though, Alvarez, by “spanking” Charlo and promptly ridiculing the idea that he, Alvarez, may be the one to fight Crawford instead, appears to have cordoned off various roads for “Bud”, taken control of the lights, and finally, as he waits and wonders why everything remains on red, let his tyres down.

Now, with superfights in short supply and Crawford resigned to going over old ground against Spence, there is every chance he will look out of the ring that night – Spence again on the canvas – and see at ringside only a gaggle of fighters either turning away or, somehow worse, on their knees begging Crawford for a fight of no interest to him.