Welterweight contender Amir Khan struggled mightily to make a decision on which fight he should take between two major offers. Should he take up the challenge against welterweight world titlist and pound-for-pound star Terence Crawford, or should he take on former welterweight titlist and bitter British rival Kell Brook in a fight that has been talked about for years?
In the end, former unified junior welterweight titlist Khan opted to face Crawford, whom he met face to face at a London hotel to formally announce their fight on Tuesday.
Crawford, the former lightweight champion and undisputed junior welterweight world champion, will make his second welterweight title defense against Khan on April 20 in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing card that ESPN will carry on pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET), the first PPV event of the promotional company's seven-year deal with the network.
The venue has not been determined yet, but Top Rank promoter Bob Arum recently told ESPN that the fight would take place either at Madison Square Garden in New York or at one of the MGM Resorts International arenas in Las Vegas: the MGM Grand Garden Arena, T-Mobile Arena or Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Khan had been far down the road with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn on a deal to face Brook, who is also with Hearn. When Khan signed with Hearn last January, one of the main reasons was to help facilitate the long-awaited match with Brook.
But Top Rank came to Khan with a strong offer -- at least $5 million and the chance to win another world title on a major American pay-per-view -- because it needed a name opponent for Crawford to face.
Khan said he struggled with the decision, but ultimately the opportunity to fight one of boxing's elite fighters won out.
"The decision as to fighting Kell Brook or Crawford has been one of the most difficult decisions of my career to date," Khan said. "Clearly, the U.K. fans want to see Khan versus Brook, but I could not turn down the opportunity to fight for the WBO title. That is not to say that the Brook fight won't happen, as I want that fight to happen as soon as possible.
"Fighting a world champion won't be easy, but this is exactly the challenge I need at this stage of my career. I am fully motivated and ready for the best training camp of my life. Crawford is beatable, and I want that WBO title. It's going to be one hell of a fight."
Hearn made no secret that his preference was for Khan to fight Brook, but he ultimately could not stop him from accepting the Crawford fight because he does not control Khan's promotional rights outside of the United Kingdom. Still, he will serve as Khan's promoter for the bout and said he understood the reason for his decision.
"There has been a lot of speculation regarding Amir's next fight, but the lure to trying to win another world title was too much to turn down, and now he faces arguably the No. 1 welterweight in the world in Terence Crawford," Hearn said. "It's a fight he believes he can win, and on his night, Amir has all the speed and skills to beat the very best. I believe it will be a fascinating and dramatic matchup."
Crawford has wanted to face top opponents, but the other welterweight titleholders -- Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter, not to mention former titlist Danny Garcia -- are not available to him. Not only do all four of them have other fights lined up, they each fight under the Premier Boxing Champions banner and are tied to the PBC broadcast partners, Showtime and Fox, while Crawford is tied to ESPN. That makes any deal extremely complicated.
Khan did not come with such issues and though he may be a notch below those fighters, he has a bigger name than any of them.
"It's always been my goal to fight the best fighters out there, and I look at Amir Khan as one of the top fighters in my division," Crawford said. "I know some people are writing him off, but I am by no means overlooking him. He's a former unified world champion, and come April 20, I'll be looking to go out there to seek and destroy. I'm excited about this fight because I believe it can push my career to another level."
Arum said he was happy to provide Crawford with a top opponent for the first pay-per-view fight of the Top Rank-ESPN partnership.
"The Crawford-Khan showdown is a very interesting matchup of two elite fighters," Arum said. "Khan, when fighting at welterweight, is as good as there is, but he is fighting the division's best fighter and a pound-for-pound great. It will be an entertaining and competitive fight. We are also excited to join forces with ESPN on our first pay-per-view venture under the Top Rank on ESPN agreement."
ESPN has invested heavily in its deal with Top Rank under which there are live network cards, streaming cards on ESPN+ and an array of shoulder programming. But pay-per-view events were always considered another important element of the partnership.
"Crawford is a world champion, a global phenomenon and perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, and Khan is a fighter that everyone wants to see every time he steps in the ring," said Burke Magnus, ESPN's executive vice president of programming. "This is what boxing needs, more big-name showdowns, and this fight is a perfect example of the vision that we had when we teamed up with Top Rank."
Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs), 31, of Omaha, Nebraska, moved up to welterweight and knocked out Jeff Horn in the ninth round of a one-sided fight to win a world title on June 9. He made his first defense with a one-sided 12th-round knockout of Jose Benavidez on Oct. 13, but Khan is a more significant opponent than either of them.
Since moving up to welterweight in 2014, the 32-year-old Khan (33-4, 20 KOs) owns wins against former titleholders Devon Alexander and Luis Collazo and former junior welterweight titlist Chris Algieri. But in 2016, Khan made the audacious move up two divisions to challenge middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez and paid the price. After outboxing Alvarez for several rounds, he suffered a brutal sixth-round knockout.
Khan took off 23 months in the wake of the defeat, but he has won two fights in a row since his return, a first-round knockout of Phil Lo Greco in April and a lopsided 12-round decision against Samuel Vargas in September, after which most thought he would next face Brook this spring -- until Crawford entered the picture.