The big Errol Spence Jr-Terence Crawford welterweight unification bout isn’t happening, at least not any time soon.
With talks breaking down and Crawford moving on to fight unheralded second-tier contender David Avanesyan for a reported $10 million guarantee on upstart streaming service BLK Prime this December 10, the fight world fell into a collective fit of mourning.
Mourning time in boxing has become exceedingly brief in this age of social media, however, and it didn’t take long for fans to leap from the grief stage to the anger stage. In the wake of the big fight’s collapse, fingers have been pointed and both sides have taken to social media to argue their case about the other side being to blame for everything.
But let’s get beyond the finger pointing. Let’s take a good, hard (and honest) look at who needs who the most in this dynamic and whose legacy will be hurting the most if this “must-make” legacy fight never gets made.
Errol Spence Jr.
The Desoto, Texas native won his first belt the hard way, when he flew over to the UK in 2017 to take the IBF strap via eleventh-round KO from defending champ Kell Brook in Brook’s own home town. Defenses against Lamont Peterson, Carlos Ocampo, and Mikey Garcia were solid enough, but not exactly the stuff of legends. A win over defending WBC titlist Shawn Porter, however, confirmed that Spence, indeed, lived up to his nickname of “The Truth.” Post-Porter victory, Spence would survive a horrendous car accident that would force him out of the game for over a year. Upon his return, he would notch an impressive decision win over Danny Garcia. As things lined up for a blockbuster passing of the torch bout with Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao, though, Spence would have to pull out due to a retina injury. In yet another “comeback” bout, he’d stop Cuban Yordenis Ugas (who, as a late replacement for Spence, upset Pacquiao to win the WBA title) in ten rounds. The 32-year-old Spence now stands as the unified IBF, WBA, and WBC world welterweight champ.
“Bud” Crawford, from Omaha, Nebraska, came into the welterweight division after achieving fully-unified, four-belt champ status in the junior welterweight division and holding the WBO lightweight belt before that. He would win the WBO welterweight title via ninth-round TKO from Jeff Horn, who had won the belt in a controversial upset of Manny Pacquiao just about a year earlier. Defenses against Jose Benavidez Jr and Egidijus Kavaliauskas were solid, but nothing extraordinary. An Amir Khan pay-per-view showcase was a commercial flop and proved little more than the elite-level Crawford was significantly better than the well-weathered, four-time beaten Brit. Crawford’s defense against former titlist Kell Brook was similarly pointless. His last win, though, is probably regarded as the best and perhaps most significant victory of his career as he stopped the durable Shawn Porter in ten rounds.
Why Spence Needs Crawford
Errol Spence has to have Crawford’s WBO belt if he wants to be the fully-unified welterweight champion and firmly establish himself as THE king of the 147 lb. division in the present tense. More importantly, he needs to defeat the “other” best welterweight of his generation to affirm that he was, indeed” the best of the post-Mayweather era.
Why Crawford Needs Spence
Other than Shawn Porter, Crawford has fought none of the universally regarded best welterweights of this present tense scene. Isolated from the best opposition by his long-standing commitment to Top Rank Promotions, Crawford has missed out on several possible legacy-defining fights. Now, as a promotional free agent, certain business moves have continued to foster a great divide between himself and the rest of the best in the division. Fighting and beating Spence allows him to cut right to the front of the line and affirm his claim of being the very best of his generation’s welterweights.
It’s clear that Spence’s resume at 147 tops Crawford’s resume at 147. If Spence beats Keith Thurman in their proposed WBC-mandated title fight, “The Truth” will hold victories over a handful of the other best of his generation. He’ll also hold victories over shared opposition Kell Brook and Shawn Porter when the two were closer to their primes.
“Bud” Crawford’s resume simply doesn’t carry as much weight at welterweight, although his world title at lightweight and unified champ status at junior welterweight are big-picture important when it comes to his professional legacy.
Really, both fighters need each other when it comes to how they’re remembered. If they don’t settle things in the ring, their respective legacies will be defined, to a great extent, by the fight that neither beat the clear “other” top guy.
But, ultimately, Spence can back his case for superiority with the fact that he beat Danny Garcia, Yordenis Ugas (the man who retired Pacquiao), (maybe) Keith Thurman, as well as Kell Brook and Shawn Porter when it mattered more. Crawford will only have his win over Shawn Porter (two years after Spence beat Porter) to support his case for generational welterweight superiority. Crawford needs Spence more than Spence needs Crawford.