The Time Is Now For Bud vs. Boots, It Makes Sense

Terence “Bud” Crawford was six years old when Green Day’s seminal ’90s pop-punk album Dookie came out. Jaron “Boots” Ennis was still three years from being born. I’m going to assume neither is intimately familiar with the album — particularly the non-single deeper cuts. So both welterweights would be well served to download it and have a close listen to the track “Sassafras Roots”:

So why are you alone wasting your time?

When you could be with me, wasting your time

Well, I’m a waste like you

With nothing else to do

May I waste your time too?

Crawford and Ennis each scored the finest wins of their careers last July. As any boxing fan remembers well, Crawford demolished Errol Spence inside nine rounds to become lineal 147-pound champion in Las Vegas. That was three weeks after Ennis pounded brave Roiman Villa into defeat in the 10th round of a one-sided but action-packed affair in the opposite coast’s gambling capital, Atlantic City.

It is now April. It has been nine months. Neither Crawford nor Ennis has fought since. Neither man has capitalized on the momentum of those sensational triumphs. Neither has a fight scheduled.

They are wasting their time. And rather than be a couple of wastes with nothing else to do, there should be a clear preference for all involved — for Crawford, for Ennis, and for fight fans — to make Bud vs. Boots happen.

A week ago, you could have perhaps made the case that Crawford had a more appealing option in the offing. He was one of the three leading candidates to challenge 154-pound titlist Sebastian Fundora, and one alphabet group even made him Fundora’s mandatory. But then the Nevada State Athletic Commission decreed that Fundora would not be physically cleared to fight until at least late September, and more likely, he’d be on the shelf until about December.

One thing Crawford, who is 35 years old and will be 36 by the time Fundora is ready to fight, cannot do is sit around wasting his time waiting for a Fundora contest. Nearly a year and a half of inactivity is no way to build on the career-defining Spence win.

He needs to get in the ring, and as long as Fundora is off the table for most of the rest of the year, in conjunction with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez continuing to insist he doesn’t see the point in facing Crawford, Boots is far and away Bud’s most compelling potential foe.

But why would Crawford want to do that? Why take on the most talented young fighter in his weight class — maybe in the whole sport — when Ennis is not himself a superstar and doesn’t bring life-changing money to the table?

Two reasons: (1) because getting paid to fight somebody is better than fighting nobody and not getting paid; and (2) because the longer Crawford waits, the more of a threat to defeat him Ennis becomes.

Everything is a risk/reward calculation, right? Every boxing decision is at least partially a business decision. Especially when you’re a veteran fighter with little left to prove and a Hall of Fame plaque assured, conventional wisdom says you pick and choose and don’t take on the most intimidating challenges if they aren’t accompanied by the most intoxicating paydays.

But as long as you’re not in full Floyd-Mayweather-in-his-40s “I’m retired except for exhibitions” mode — and there’s no reason to suspect Crawford is — you still have competitive urges and you have to fight someone.

Right now, Bud is 35 and Boots is 26. A year from now, they’ll be 36 and 27. Then 37 and 28. And so on. You don’t have to be Fibonacci to put the mathematical pattern together.

Ennis has, one assumes, not reached his peak yet. For at least the next three years or so, he should keep getting better and better. Crawford has shown no signs of slowing down whatsoever, but logic and biology make it more likely he declines than improves over the next few years.

It’s exactly the situation Canelo faces right now with David Benavidez: Sure, the fight could be worth a lot more dough to both of them in a year or two, but if victory is the objective, it’s a fight the older man should want yesterday.

Explaining why Ennis should want the fight right now requires far less mental contortion. This is his ultimate challenge and opportunity. The greats made their names and built their legacies on backs of the greats who came before them. Sugar Ray Robinson notched a win over Henry Armstrong. Rocky Marciano took out Joe Louis. Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao each grabbed half the baton from Oscar De La Hoya.

Granted, Crawford is at a different stage of his career than the icons who took “Ls” in the above examples — he’s the reigning pound-for-pound king after all. It wouldn’t be a torch-passing. It would be a torch-seizing. All the better for Boots if he can pull it off.

In short: If Ennis isn’t hungering for this fight to happen ASAP, then he isn’t wired to be great like we believe him to be.

Under different circumstances, a little more “marination,” to use the dreaded boxing term, would have made sense. After beating Spence, Crawford should have enjoyed a victory lap or a Canelo payday. He’s gotten neither. He’s twiddled his thumbs for nine months and there’s no end to the twiddling on the horizon. Same for Ennis. He should have built on the Villa win with at least a lateral step toward the end of 2023 and another opportunity this spring. But external forces — specifically, the end of the Showtime Boxing program, home to his last 12 fights, and the slower-than-expected development of a Showtime replacement — have conspired against him.

Marination only accomplishes something if the meat is placed in a marinade. Crawford and Ennis have been stuffed deep in the freezer. They’ve done nothing in the last nine months to build up their eventual showdown.

So, they may as well say “screw it” and cut straight to the chase, even if it’s not the financial windfall of their dreams.

And obviously, that would be a huge win for boxing fans.

Boots Ennis could prove to be what most of the world expected Spence to be: that pound-for-pound-level talent who can push Crawford to his limits and compete on roughly even terms with him. We got a coronation at T-Mobile Arena on July 28, and it was a masterclass to behold, but we didn’t get the Leonard-Hearns-like warfare and drama we were hoping for.

We’ve never quite gotten that from a Crawford fight — which is in large part a testament to Bud’s greatness.

He’s been extended here and there. Nearly 10 full years ago, incredibly, he had to dig deep to win a firefight with Yuriorkis Gamboa. And in 2021, he had his hands full with Shawn Porter for nine even-ish rounds before breaking through in the 10th. But that’s it. That’s the full list of competitive Crawford fights.

Ennis may be the foil he’s been needing. Or that we’ve been needing for him, anyway. Boots switches stances as seamlessly as any welterweight not named Terence Crawford, has exceptional footwork, is one of the rare boxers who can be effective while moving backward, and has pop in his mitts — enough to produce 28 KOs among his 31 wins.

Even more so than Crawford, Ennis desperately needs a challenge. Before he fought Villa, and lost one round on two judges’ scorecards and two rounds on the third, you could make a case that Boots hadn’t lost a single round in the first seven years and 30 fights of his pro career.

Ennis’ talent jumps off the screen at you — or out of the ring in front of your eyes. I was fortunate enough to be ringside in Atlantic City for Ennis-Villa, and then to be in the building in Vegas three weeks later for Crawford-Spence. Nine months ago, my eyes told me Crawford was the best fighter on the planet, and they told me Ennis was, though somewhat untested and unproven, potentially on his level skill-wise and athleticism-wise.

Bud vs. Boots is a dream fight that fans came into 2024 willing to wait for. But 2024 has unfolded in such a way that expectations and patience have been adjusted.

The iron may not seem hot at the moment, but if Crawford and Ennis were to stun everyone with the announcement that they’re striking it, it would immediately take on that brightest of orange glows.

So, Bud and Boots, please stop wasting your time. For the two of you to spend the bulk of 2024 sitting on the shelf would be pure dookie.