As WBO welterweight champ Terence Crawford shadowboxed before the media (12uppercut included) Tuesday ahead of a weekend showdown with Egidijus Kavaliauskas at Madison Square Garden, he was asked an uncomfortable question.
Would he actually move back down from 147 pounds to 140, a division he cleaned out completely, if he's not able to get the big-money title unification fights he wants?
"140? No, I'm going back down to 135," the pound-for-pound ace deadpanned.
Credit to the man they call Bud. I wasn't sure he had this kind of dry comic timing. But as he kept riffing, it became clear that his impromputu crowdwork didn't hint at a deeper issue as much as bludgeon it with haymakers:
Despite being one of the finest boxers on earth, Crawford has yet to capture the zeitgeist. To become a transcendent star whose name is known even to the uninitiated.
And perhaps it's been our fault all along.
"When I was at 140, everybody criticized me and said I was too big for 140," he said. "When I was at 135, everyone said I was too big for 135. If I was to go back down to 140, what would everybody say? [That] I'm picking and bullying people."
Hearing the implication out loud -- that fans and critics can't just accept this man at long last and quit faulting him for not moving heaven and earth to make hypothetical superfights no human has the power to make by himself -- bums me out. It's just generally sad, and perhaps even an indictment of boxing culture itself.
People, it's time we learned to stop worrying and love the Bud.
So, as one observer asked, why not just say screw it and move up to 154 for more opportunities?
"I'm going to 160 after this," he fired back, still deadpanning like some kind of jab-slipping Marty Funkhouser. "You think I'm playing. My next fight, I'm going to 160," he repeated, lightly laboring to conceal a smirk.
But why stop there, he wondered?
"When I beat this guy, this guy, this guy, they're gonna say you gotta fight Canelo. Canelo's at 178, so I might as well move up to 178," he said, clearly laundering agitation with sarcasm.
We're fighting at 147! Then 140! And 135! 160! And all the way to 178! It was a bit like Howard Dean's bloodcurdling 2004 Iowa Caucus speech, just without the career-ending scream or the Tom Harkin. But it was equally troublesome, because an undefeated world champ should never have to defend himself like this; fans and media alike should be doing it for him.
Instead, the dude almost sounded like he was laughing to keep from crying over the loneliness of being marooned on 147 Island.
In our modern-day Boxican Standoff of Top Rank, DAZN, and PBC -- perhaps a better metaphor is some kind of zany three-way Berlin Wall -- unification bouts and dream fights that should absolutely happen by all logic are actually incredibly tough to make because of money and streaming rights and pay-per-view territorialism, and also money. It's not Bud's fault that he, as a Top Rank fighter, hasn't fought PBC's Errol Spence already, or Manny Pacquiao or Shawn Porter or Soda Popinski.
And yet, there's a public perception that he's on the wrong side of the street. And that this is something to be held against him.
"Well, [PBC's] Deontay Wilder is about to fight [Top Rank's] Tyson Fury, and you never hear about any 'sides of the street.' It's just something people say when it comes to Terence Crawford," he said.
Crawford can only fight the guy in the opposite corner. He can't fight Al Haymon and Eddie Hearn. He can't fight Boxing Twitter. He can't fight nobody, either, so let us pray that Fox and ESPN's joint pay-per-view effort for February's Wilder-Fury rematch builds up the kind of momentum that allows Bud to unify that welterweight strap.
Because if that can't happen, I'm gonna need an SSRI prescription, a box of tissues, one of those weighted blankets, and more Ben and Jerry's than my bodega can keep cold at once.