Prior to his fight with Lamont Peterson this past weekend I was certain former unified junior welterweight champ Terence Crawford 32-0 (23) could and would handle IBF welterweight title holder Errol Spence 23-0 (20) when they eventually fought. Based on Spence’s eighth round stoppage of Peterson, that pick is a little shakier now and that’s great for boxing!
Crawford hasn’t even touched gloves yet with WBO welterweight titlist Jeff Horn but no sophisticated boxing fan believes Horn will upend Crawford in Crawford’s maiden welterweight bout. And once Crawford owns a title belt at 147 the countdown for a dream fight between he and Spence will have begun.
When it comes to Crawford and Spence, even a casual observer can glean they’re special talents. A bout between them — when it eventually happens — will involve two of the five best and most complete fighters in boxing. The welterweight division where both now compete has a history of that. During the late 40’s we saw Sugar Ray Robinson versus “Kid” Gavilan twice. In the 1960s, it was Emile Griffith versus Luis Rodriguez four times. During the 1970s Jose Napoles missed the super fight because when he fought Griffith he was on the decline and Hedgemon Lewis, Armando Muniz and Ernie Lopez, although very good, weren’t seen as a threat to him. Then in the early 1980s, Roberto Duran moved up from lightweight and fought as a welterweight at a time when Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns were emerging as elite welterweights. And in the late 1990s we got De La Hoya vs. Trinidad.
The first Leonard-Duran fight ignited the welter wars. It had the perfect theme…Leonard the all American kid with flash and charisma against the snarling killer Duran who hated the media’s love of Leonard. After the Leonard-Duran fights in 1980, Hearns arrived and his destruction of Pipino Cuevas for the WBA welterweight title got everyone’s attention because he was such a terrifying puncher. Leonard’s personality and presence dominated most of his opponents before they actually fought. However, Hearns, who wasn’t much of a talker or media hound, let his 32-0 (30) record speak for him. Along with that, Hearns’ trainer Emanuel Steward loved to schmooze with the media and gave them plenty to write about and that balanced out Hearns’ lack of charisma and quiet demeanor.
What made Leonard vs. Hearns so highly anticipated was that it matched Leonard’s sublime skills and speed versus Hearns’ power and physicality. Well that applies to Spence vs. Crawford. Spence doesn’t possess the height and reach of Hearns, nor does he have Hearns’ explosive one punch knockout power in either hand….but he’s more methodical and has better fundamentals. Crawford, in terms of fundamentals and versatility, is actually more complete than even Leonard was, with the difference being Leonard was a bigger puncher and stronger and faster. Going into Leonard-Hearns, it was widely believed that if Hearns couldn’t stop Leonard he’d probably lose. No one thought Leonard would fight as the predator, as he did starting in the sixth round, or that he would be getting out-boxed by Hearns at the time he stopped him in the 14th round.
When assessing Spence and Crawford, there’s no argument that Crawford is the better technician and more complete fighter. Yes, because Spence looked great stopping Lamont Peterson, many are now lauding Errol as being a super technician, and they’re mostly right. Spence showed great footwork and versatility, but Terence Crawford is on another level when it comes to being a totally complete boxer with unparalleled versatility. If Spence were to defeat Crawford it wouldn’t be so much because he is a terrific technician. The thing Spence would have going for him against Crawford is the fact he is clearly the bigger and more physically stronger man. Spence has fight-altering power at 147 and Crawford’s chin against a heavy handed puncher like Spence is unknown. So in the simplest terms, Crawford has never faced a physical force the likes of Spence and the closest Errol has been to sharing a ring with another fighter on Crawford’s level as a boxer with such a great ring IQ is when he’s watched Terence fight.
No one disputes that Spence-Crawford is a potential super fight.
The one issue that could prevent it from becoming a blockbuster is the lack of charisma and personality on the part of both Errol and Terence. They’re both good guys and easy to root for, but when it comes to personality neither is loud or colorful. I’ve paid close attention to recent interviews with each of them, and it boggles my mind how bland they both come across. If their personalities fought, it would be a draw. I’ve seen commentators do everything they could to wake them up, and nothing. It was frustrating to watch. Other than what they do in the ring, they give the casual fan nothing to grasp and you forget about them as soon as they’re no longer on the screen in front of you.
In order for Spence-Crawford to become another super fight, both fighters have to get the casual fans interested. Crawford’s style is a little more difficult for the less sophisticated boxing fan to appreciate, but his recent bouts have ended in a highlight reel knockout. And Spence, who seeks to win by KO exclusively, looks like a first tier pro as he goes about his business. Sure, it’s a little premature, but I doubt anyone reading this dispute that after all the dust settles, Spence and Crawford will be the last two welterweights standing. And the battle to determine supremacy will be resolved once they meet.
But without a Manny Steward out there making Spence’s case or a talker like Leonard making the case and garnering attention for Crawford….somebody has to ignite them. Both Errol and Terence need to welcome the camera and the interview opportunities. It doesn’t matter how great a fighter is, if the casual fan forgets him once he’s off the screen, his earning potential is dramatically reduced. Yes, fans do not need a clown act to appreciate a great fight, especially one between two guys on the level of Spence and Crawford…..but in order to care, they at least must know of the fighters, and I’m not sure that can be said about quasi- and casual boxing fans pertaining to Spence and Crawford?
It’s the difference between a widely watched HBO main event and a PPV fight. If they could talk and sell the fight, people would be paying $80 to watch it on PPV a year from now.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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