By Rory Hickey: On Saturday night, Errol Spence Jr. (28-0, 22 KO) and Terence “Bud” Crawford (39-0, 30 KO) will meet under the bright lights of Las Vegas. The Vegas Strip is a lifetime away from DeSoto, Texas, where Spence grew up, or Omaha, Nebraska, where Crawford was born and raised. Terence Crawford and Errol Spence will be at the center of the boxing world this Saturday night.
The boxing world is waiting for them to finally face off in arguably the biggest fight possible in boxing. Errol Spence holds three of four welterweight championships (WBA, IBF, and IBA). Terence Crawford possesses the fourth in the WBO championship. Both men are in the top five of any viable ranking of top pound-for-pound boxers. The betting odds are close, Crawford is a slight favorite at around -150, and it is truly a coin-flip fight. The two undefeated champions have agreed to flip a coin to decide who will have the honor of walking out last on fight night.
In the last 25 years, the welterweight division has been home to some of the best boxing has had to offer, including Oscar de la Hoya, Zab Judah, Félix Trinidad, Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather, and Manny Pacquiao. In recent years, the welterweight division has remained strong, featuring the likes of Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Yordenis Ugas, Danny Garcia, and Lucas Matthysse. Those men, and others, have cemented the welterweight division as one of the deepest and most competitive divisions in boxing.
But two men have dominated the welterweight division and pound-for-pound rankings in recent years– and we will finally find out which man is better when Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. face off in Las Vegas.
Over the years, Spence and Crawford have been dominating opponents in the ring, with each performance judged in context against the most recent bout of the other. Each man believes the other receives too much praise from boxing media and the general public, and the adoration the other gets is praise they should receive.
So what took so long for these two ultra-competitors to settle things in the ring? As with many questions in boxing, the answer starts with their promoters.
Like Spence, Crawford was an oft-rumored Manny Pacquiao opponent. Many viewed Terrence Crawford as Bob Arum’s next cash cow following the eventual retirement of Manny Pacquiao. But Arum’s relationship with Crawford eventually grew sour. Arum was frustrated over Crawford’s unwillingness to engage in the self-promotion necessary to garner buzz and generate pay-per-view buys. Arum raised a lot of eyebrows when he questioned whether he would extend Crawford’s contract with Top Rank after it expires in two fights, “He’s got to promote like [Teofilmo Lopez] does, [Shakur Stevenson] does.
Like [Floyd Mayweather] did, [Manny Pacquiao] did. If he doesn’t, then who the f— needs him? He may be the greatest fighter in the world, but hey, I ain’t going bankrupt promoting him.”
Arum and Crawford went their separate ways, with Arum remaining financially viable and Crawford remaining arguably the greatest fighter in the world. In his most recent fight last November, BLK Prime Boxing handled the promotional duties of Crawford facing David Aveneseyan. It was a surprise Crawford allowed his fight to be the first-ever foray into pay-per-view for the new company. BLK did not disclose the number of pay-per-view buys that the event generated.
Bob Arum likely is not losing any sleep over not promoting Crawford, and Bud probably couldn’t care less.
Errol Spence Jr. is under the promotion of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC). Al Haymon, previously best known for being in Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s orbit, leads Premier Boxing Champions. Since the inception of PBC in 2015, the venture has been a bit of a mixed bag.
There have been some bad matchups, plus fighters with recognizable names and diminishing abilities, such as Robert Guerrero and Andre Berto, continue to receive opportunities. Boxers under the PBC banner are often inactive for long periods. All of those issues are not unique to the PBC, though. Premier Boxing Champions has done some good things too.
Boxing on network television is always a good thing, and getting fights on FOX was a positive. In June 2016, Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter showcased the welterweight division in primetime on CBS, the first time the network aired boxing since 1978. Another benefit to the PBC, with their fights appearing on a wide range of networks and platforms, has been giving young fighters a better opportunity to showcase themselves.
Mercifully, Spence and Crawford have finally put pen to paper, and the focus can shift to the fight itself, not who is to blame for the bout not happening.
Boxing is unlike major team sports in terms of having up-and-coming prospects who are well-known and massively promoted before becoming professionals. But Errol Spence Jr. was perhaps the closest equivalent. Spence was named ESPN’s Boxing Prospect of the Year in 2015. In May 2017, Spence traveled to Sheffield, England, and pummeled Sheffielder Kell Brook to win his first championship in a fight that gave a glimpse of what was to come for Spence. Spence has plowed through his welterweight competition, defeating the likes of Lamont Peterson, Mikey Garcia, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, and Yordenis Ugas. Spence is often smiling with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones after victories.
Spence has had some setbacks during his career as well. In October 2019, Spence survived a horrific car wreck after he drove his Ferrari 488 Spider into the median of a Dallas road and flipped multiple times before being ejected from the car. Spence was in the intensive care unit for six days and suffered facial lacerations but did not sustain a broken bone; or worse. He was later charged with DWI and received probation. Two years later, Spence was training to face the legendary Manny Pacquiao in a megafight before a detached retina forced him to withdraw. Now Spence has another opportunity at a career-defining fight against Terence Crawford.
Terence Crawford has won his last ten fights by KO, TKO, or his opponent choosing not to continue in the case of Felix Diaz. That includes all seven of his bouts as a welterweight. The last time a Crawford fight lasted the distance was when he picked apart the previously undefeated and oft-avoided Viktor Postol in July 2016 to give the Ukrainian his first loss.
In an earlier showdown with an undefeated challenger, Crawford smashed Yuriorkis Gamboa in June 2014, knocking him down four times before the referee waived off his ten count in the ninth round. Crawford cleaned out the junior welterweight division, defeating Julius Indongo and becoming the undisputed 140-pound champion in August 2017. Terence Crawford moved up to the 147-pound welterweight division to take on a new challenge.
Terence Crawford is not as braggadocious as fighters; many with lesser talent and fewer accomplishments can be. He mostly talks to the media only when necessary. In early 2018 Crawford postponed his welterweight debut against Australian Jeff Horn due to a hand injury. Horn and his team then directed some disparaging comments at
Crawford. The response by Crawford was brief: “You just keep training and keeping my belt warm because I’m f——- you up come fight night. You, me, and everyone know it”. Crawford then went out and did just that, landing nearly three times as many punches as Horn in a dominant ninth-round TKO victory to claim the WBO welterweight world title.
Spence vs. Crawford is a tough fight to predict. Neither man loses individual rounds too often, and neither has suffered a defeat as a pro. A wide range of outcomes is possible, given the potential for ring rust or slight age-related erosion in skills, along with how massive the event will be. In the last three years, Crawford has fought once a year, beating Kell Brook in 2020, Shawn Porter in 2021, and David Aveneseyan in 2022. Spence has fought only two times since the turn of the millennium, beating Yordenis Ugas in April 2022 and Danny Garcia in December 2020.
Despite Crawford and Spence being relatively inactive, it is hard to imagine either not being in top form for the biggest bout each has ever had. Each possesses the technical boxing ability to win rounds in their sleep, plus the power to alter any fight instantly. Spence and Crawford are both southpaws, presenting an interesting wrinkle to this megafight. Crawford tends to switch from a southpaw stance to a traditional orthodox stance mid-fight. Errol Spence has only fought two other lefties, Chris Van Heerden in 2015 and Emmanuel Lartei Lartey in 2013. Crawford has beaten higher-skilled southpaws Julius Indongo and Felix Diaz more recently. Each man has undoubtedly faced southpaw sparring partners in training for this bout, and both are so talented that adapting to the less common stance should not be a problem.
While Crawford may be more comfortable against a fellow lefty, Spence is naturally the bigger man. Crawford began his professional career at 135 pounds before moving to 140 and eventually to the 147-pound limit of the welterweight division. Errol Spence fought at 152 pounds as an Olympian before turning professional; and has been comfortably in the welterweight division since his pro debut in 2012.
Spence is about an inch and a half taller than Crawford, though Crawford has a reach advantage of about that distance, which could be a factor in the outcome.
Wagering on a draw, with odds hovering between +1200 to +1400, is intriguing; however, I like Terence Crawford to win on Saturday night by majority decision. I believe that Crawford will see his knockout streak end, and Crawford-Spence will be a hard-fought bout. I feel that Crawford will land a few more clean shots and make Spence uncomfortable by switching stances just enough to earn the win with a scorecard of 115-113.
Terence Crawford and Errol Spence have spent decades training and honing their craft for this fight. Along the way, though each has dealt with injuries, setbacks, and promotional hang-ups, both men have perfect records and have positioned themselves at the top of the mountain. After each man arrives in Las Vegas with their team, Crawford and Spence still have work to do. Press obligations will be satisfied, and the weigh-in will take place. Once both men officially make weight, they will size each other up in the ceremonial staredown for the last time before they fight. Spence and Crawford will each see their toughest challenge staring back at them. Then we will finally find out which champion is the best.