There's been a change of plans for unified junior welterweight world champion Terence Crawford's next fight, a May 20 defense against highly regarded contender Felix Diaz.
For the first time, Crawford will play the main arena at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Initially, Top Rank, which will formally announce the fight at news conference at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, planned to stage the card at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
Top Rank had a hold on the date at the Prudential Center but when company officials were in New York two weeks ago promoting Irish Olympian Michael Conlan's professional debut at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on March 17, Garden officials approached them about Crawford's next fight.
"When we were in town for the Conlan fight they asked us why we were going to the Prudential Center," Top Rank president Todd duBoef told ESPN. "We know how hard it is to get a Saturday night at the Garden at that time of year. We assumed the Garden was off limits because they always have so many dates they have to hold for the NBA and NHL playoffs. But they said, 'Listen, there may be an opportunity. Would you be open to shifting the fight to the Garden? I said, 'We love going to the Garden.' They said, 'Are you interested? We think we can pull it off.'"
Top Rank looked to Newark in part because featherweight Shakur Stevenson, the 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist, is from Newark and will have his second professional fight on the card and figured to bring a crowd.
"But for Crawford there was no magic to fighting in Newark," duBoef said. "We want Shakur to fight in Newark and we expect to have him fight there, but it will be bigger when he's a more developed fighter. I think going to Madison Square Garden is a great platform for Crawford as well as for Shakur.
"I think it's the best of both worlds for the event. The fans from Newark who want to come out and see Shakur fight can easily come into New York. It's about a 15-minute train ride. And Terence has fans throughout the area and whether he was going to fight in Newark or New York or Las Vegas his fans are great about traveling from his hometown (Omaha, Nebraska)."
DuBoef also believes that Diaz, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist from the Dominican Republic, will help draw.
"Felix Diaz has Dominican roots and there is a strong Dominican presence in New York," he said. "The Garden said they will be very aggressive in marketing the fight and we were able to work something out."
DuBoef said the arena, which can hold around 20,000 for a fight, likely will be set up for about 10,000, a similar configuration that has been previously used, including for early Miguel Cotto fights Top Rank promoted there.
In February 2016, Crawford defended his title by fifth-round knockout of Hank Lundy at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, the smaller 5,000-seat arena in the building. DuBoef said he believed it was time to move him into the main arena.
"I think he's had a terrific last couple of years, including getting fighter of the year in 2014 and he has a wonderful fan base that travels," he said. "I think the timing is right. It all came together nicely. We know he did terrific fighting in Omaha and Las Vegas. A lot of his fans traveled to Las Vegas for the Viktor Postol (unification) fight in July. It's a natural progression to build his brand by bringing him to the most prestigious arena in the world.
"It just makes a lot of sense. At the end of the day, we were able to come together and get creative in the structure of the deal with Madison Square Garden. They were proactive and they worked with us. The Garden came in kind of at the 11th hour, but we're thrilled."
Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs), 29, will be making his fifth title defense against Diaz (19-1, 9 KOs), 33, who has been calling him out for ages and finally got the fight.