As Manny Pacquiao prepares for his first fight in a year against World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse, the Filipino fighter's old World Boxing Organization (WBO) version of the title changed hands after Terence Crawford scored a technical knockout against Australian Jeff Horn last week.
It was only the second title defense of Horn who took the title from Pacquiao in last year in Brisbane via unanimous decision.
Soon after the match, in an interview with The Manila Times, Bob Arum said that he would not recommend that Pacquiao fight Crawford if the opportunity ever presented itself.
"I don't think Manny wants to fight Crawford and I think it will be a very bad fight for Manny. I don't think Manny could compete against Crawford at this time in his career," the promoter said. However, he also added that he'll help make the fight happen if it's what Pacquiao wants.
It's not the first time that Crawford's name is mentioned alongside Pacquiao's for a fight. Back in 2016, Pacquiao was looking for a foe after his loss to Floyd Mayweather and Crawford was one of the names that popped up. The Filipino fighter eventually settled for a third match with Timothy Bradley.
"We did say yes to the boy from Omaha," Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer back then, said referring to Crawford in an interview with On The Ropes Boxing Radio. "And I heard [Crawford] said yes too, but I think Bob might be protecting him a little bit right now because he might be his next ace in the hole, might be the next top fighter."
A lot has changed in the two years since Pacquiao defeated Bradley and recaptured the WBO welterweight title by beating Jessie Vargas and then dropping it against Horn.
Pacquiao's record is now at 59 wins against seven losses and two draws with 38 stoppages although it has been more than eight years since he scored his last knockout.
For Crawford, it was full speed ahead as he collected belts and added names to the list of his victims. He was the undefeated and undisputed champion of the super lightweight divisions by capturing the IBF, WBA, WBO, and WBC versions of the title. He has a pristine record of 33 wins without a loss with 24 knockouts.
On paper, it's easy to understand why Arum would advise Pacquiao to stay away from Crawford. Pacquiao lost to Horn, who lost badly to Crawford. Logic dictates that Pacquiao would also have a tough time against the undefeated American.
It has also been a while since we last saw Pacquiao fight, and his bout against Matthysse will be his first without Roach in his corner. The two have been alongside each other since Pacquiao defeated Lehlo Ledwaba for the IBF super bantamweight title way back in 2001.
But throughout his career, one thing is certain: when he's inside the ring with an opponent who's willing to exchange, Pacquiao is at his best. In the past few years when he was still near his physical prime, the eight-division world champion clamored for matchups against foes similar to Erik Morales or Miguel Cotto or Juan Manuel Marquez, but he was stuck with the likes of Horn, Bradley, and Chris Algieri who mostly just wanted to stay away from trouble.
Going up against Crawford could satiate Pacquiao's need to entertain again, to give fans another classic fight to remember him by -- in case he does not get that against Matthysse.
Would Pacquiao be a favorite against Crawford? Maybe not.
Certainly not, according to Arum, but wasn't he also the one who said Pacquiao should stay clear of Cotto when the Filipino fighter was still campaigning in the super featherweight and lightweight categories?
There are great reasons why Arum wants to build up Crawford. He's a young fighter at only 30 years of age in a wide open welterweight division that he could dominate for the years to come.
In a recent interview with FightHub TV, Arum went as far as to say Pacquiao himself openly admitted that he wants no part of Crawford.
"He thinks that Terrence with his skillset at this stage of Manny Pacquiao's career, would be too much for him," Arum said, although we could not independently confirm that these words were ever uttered by Pacquiao.
There could be another play here as Arum might be doing this to actually gauge fan interest in a Crawford-Pacquiao fight. Certainly, Top Rank would benefit greatly with that fight, especially if Arum really thinks Crawford can score an easy win.
A victory over a big name like Pacquiao still matters and it could help turn Crawford into a bigger star. Arum should know as he tried this before with Bradley in a move that ultimately failed as the American fighter was retired by Pacquiao back in 2016.
For the fighting senator, one thing is clear: his days as a boxer is quickly drawing to a close and he needs to be very picky with his next fights because these could very well be his last and Crawford presents a very interesting proposition. It gives Pacquiao another opportunity to really showcase his skill and that old fighting heart. If he can't, then it could be the perfect ending -- bowing out of the sport by still facing the very best the sport has to offer.