AFTER several years of posturing and false starts, Errol Spence Jnr, the number one ranked welterweight, will take on number two, Terence Crawford, in a mouth-watering 12-rounder at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on July 29. Premier Boxing Champions promote and Showtime PPV broadcast in the US. A UK broadcaster is yet to be confirmed.
HOW BIG IS IT?
PLENTY of educated voices in the industry are calling this the most-anticipated contest in boxing since Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao at last came together in 2015. That was indeed a ginormous event but this one, if we’re honest, is very unlikely to match it. Though hardcore fans will lap it up, neither Crawford nor Spence are close to being the household names that Mayweather and Pacquiao were back then. Why? Simply, this is the first truly big fight either of them has had and neither has captured the public’s attention like their predecessors.
Nonetheless, expect it to perform well both at the box office and on pay-per-view, at least in the context of the current era. But it would be a surprise if this crossed over to the point that your average London cabbie has any idea who either fighter is before or after the event. In America, the noise will be louder, but here in the UK it will barely register to the wider public.
Regardless, in our little boxing bubble, it will feel like party time in the days leading up to the event. Embrace every moment.
CRAWFORD, 39-0 (30) and 7-0 (7) at welterweight, is the man with the best form purely by virtue of his superior level of activity in recent years. His most worthwhile victories in the division came against Shawn Porter (rsf 12) in November 2021, Egidijus Kavaliauskas (w rsf 9) in December 2019 and Jose Benavidez Jnr (w rsf 12) in October 2018. His most recent outing came in December 2022, when he trounced David Avanesyan in six.
The 27-0 (22) Spence Jnr, meanwhile, has seen out of the ring problems limit his time in the ring. The opening bell will end a 13-month hiatus since the career welterweight stopped Yordenis Ugas in 10 rounds back in April last year. Before that, he was out for 14 months after outpointing Danny Garcia in December 2020. That followed a points win over Shawn Porter, 15 months prior. Spence, then, can boast just three outings in the last 48 months.
In truth, neither can claim to be particularly nuanced in the art of building a superfight.
THOUGH Crawford also trumps Spence in this department, it’s important to note that both Kell Brook and Shawn Porter were past their best by the time they encountered Terence.
Spence impressively halted Brook in 2018 in the Englishman’s first loss at 147. Though Kell had his moments it was clear that Spence was a special talent as he broke down the home fighter in Sheffield to score an 11th round triumph. By the time Brook lost to Crawford in four, three years later, he was not the same force.
Crawford followed that success with a 12th round stoppage of the always gutsy Porter, who then immediately retired, in 2021. Though by then, Shawn was two years older than when he gave Spence his hardest fight when losing over 12 memorable sessions.
AGE & EXPERIENCE
IT’S tempting to say that 35-year-old Crawford and 33-year-old Spence are already past their best but if one is being completely fair, we’re yet to see evidence of that. Which is different to when Mayweather and Pacquiao came together eight years ago; that bout was in the making since 2009 and in the six years it took to get them in the ring, Pacquiao lost twice and Mayweather’s form had noticeably dipped.
Even so, their combined age of 68 is four more than the sum of Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns when they had their rematch in 1989 – eight years after their titanic opener. Times have changed since then, however.
Crawford’s experience at world level is greater, by virtue of belts also won at lightweight and super-light (where he won all four). Yet Spence is the naturally the bigger man and though boxing has been little more than a hobby in recent years, he’s beaten a better quality of opposition in the weight class.
In boxing terms, huge. Not only is it vital that the sport highlights it’s capable of making fights everyone wants to see – this has been the consensus number one matchup among fans for years – it will also mark the first time the welterweight division has had a universally recognised leader since 2016.
All sanctioning body belts are up for grabs so expect the usual ‘undisputed’ and ‘four-belt era’ fanfare as the sanctioning bodies’ presidents, with extortionate sanctioning fees filling their pockets and garish belts in hand, jostle for attention in centre ring before the fight begins. To Boxing News, however, such nonsensical terminology – and expense – is wholly unnecessary; this, very simply, will crown the world welterweight champion.
In fact, this bout is so well-matched it offers the perfect chance for promoters, boxers and broadcasters to get on board with a simpler, cheaper system. One that doesn’t need bogus belts to sell a bout and one where the fighters don’t have to stump up a hefty slab of their purse for the privilege. Don’t hold your breath on that.
But all cynicism aside, this is the most important fight that can be made outside of the heavyweight division.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN?
THOUGH predicting how thrilling a contest will be is an impossible task, the manner in which both go about their business suggests this one will deliver in a way that Mayweather-Pacquiao did not.
We’re a long way off from shutting the curtains to the outside world, losing ourselves in their styles and gameplans, attempting to find out how their respective camps have treated them, and locking down a prediction. But, at this early stage, the odds that slightly favour Crawford (4/5 to Spence at 11/10) seem about right.
He’s been the more active, he’s arguably the more versatile and he has a mean streak that very few, if any, in the sport can match. That he has a fitting dance partner in Spence, however, is exactly why this is the can’t miss event of 2023.