DURING an exclusive interview with Stephen Espinoza the Showtime Sports President discussed the challenging negotiations which led to Errol Spence and Terence Crawford eventually agreeing to fight on July 29.
On Saturday night the two leading welterweights will finally square off inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Their meeting is one to saviour from the build-up right through until the final bell but as is often the case with super-fights this one faced its own number of problems to overcome.
For a long time, it did look like one of, if not the best fight to make in boxing would pass us by like so many others. The seeds were planted five years ago when the two men full of pride and swagger met backstage at the Maurice Hooker-Alex Saucedo fight in Oklahoma. Their friendly-fire exchange is now the stuff of boxing legend on YouTube. But that was as close as they ever got to one another until their first press conference last month to officially announce their showdown.
With everything going to plan so far Espinoza sat down with Boxing News during fight week to describe the journey travelled to arrive at one of the biggest fights in modern times.
“In terms of the fight itself I hesitate to compare anything to Mayweather-Pacquiao because it’s an outlier in every single respect. But in terms of fights that there was demand and anticipation and expectation that would be made I’d put this up there in that category,” the 53-year-old said.
“People have been pining for it and complaining about it and wishing for it and cursing about it for quite a while so it’s a relief to be able to deliver that to the industry. As a boxing fan it’s exciting, obviously. This is a truly fight fans dream fight. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
One part of how this career-defining fight came to be is the conversations between Spence and Crawford to help seal the deal. With the negotiation process proving difficult and some points hitting a dead end one side of the table chose to take matters into his own hands.
“It was pretty difficult,” Espinoza recalled.
“I wouldn’t put it in Mayweather-Pacquiao territory quite yet, but it was at least in terms of the negotiation process. It was as complex and as lengthy as any I’ve been involved in.
“Certainly, fights like Mayweather-Pacquiao and Davis-Garcia were a bit more complicated in terms of the operation and how you actually carry out the promotion. But in terms of the negotiation itself this was as lengthy and as time consuming as difficult and challenging as any that I’ve been involved in.
“He [Crawford] was involved very much so from the start so that’s one unique aspect of it. He was far more involved than just about any fighter that I can recall in the negotiation that I’ve been aware. But there came some points that we were at an impasse.”
Crawford became a free agent when his contract expired with Top Rank following his win over Shawn Porter in November 2021. A routine win against David Avanesyan last December earned the 35-year-old a substantial amount of money when working with BLK Prime for the pay-per-view. Crawford wanted to fight Spence and Spence wanted to fight Crawford but something in the lengthy negotiation period needed to change because of the impasse.
“Crawford’s response to us well let me just get on the phone with Errol and we’ll talk it out man to man,” Espinoza said.
“Everyone checked with Errol, and he said sure, no problem. So, as unorthodox as it is that’s what happened. They got on the phone with each other, I don’t think anybody was on except for them two. I heard what was said but no-one really witnessed it.
“Errol said at least one of them was a half hour long and then coming out of that regardless of how it got done they told us the resolution. It was some fairly significant points. Some real basic foundation deal points like financial splits, like how the rematch works. Those were things that they got on the phone and resolved among themselves.”
BN asked Espinoza what he thought about not being involved in some significant points being made without him.
“There was a little bit of risk because you never want them to come back with something completely unorthodox that they just created out of whole cloth. And something that we have to disappoint and say I’m sorry that resolution doesn’t actually work for everyone else.
“But these guys have been around the block. They’re pretty specific points. I didn’t think the of that was that high. At the end of the day, it’s their payday, it’s their legacy, they’re the ones that are gonna have to live with this deal. At a certain point they’re both smart enough and experienced enough to know what they’re talking about so why not let them negotiate their own deal, at least in that certain respect.”