While 2022 may be remembered as one of boxing’s greatest years in decades in terms of the quality fights that were put on, it got better on Thursday when unbeaten welterweight champions Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford agreed to terms for a unification bout on Nov. 19 in Las Vegas.
ESPN first reported the news.
When unbeaten welterweights who each hold a belt fight for the title, it’s often a big deal in boxing.
Spence-Crawford will feature two top five pound-for-pound fighters gunning for the undisputed championship. Crawford, who is No. 1 in the Yahoo Sports pound-for-pound rankings, holds the WBO welterweight title. He is 38-0 with 29 knockout. Spence, No. 5 in the Yahoo Sports rankings, is 28-0 with 22 knockouts and holds the IBF-WBA-WBC welterweight belts.
No venue has been finalized.
This is the kind of fight that can help increase interest in boxing. The sport has been blessed in recent years with superb young talent, many of whom are blossoming now. But to build the sport and increase the fan base, it needs bouts like Spence-Crawford that reach across boundaries and can create new fans.
Spence, a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, was compared early in his professional career to the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard in terms of his ability to do everything in the ring. Spence is a southpaw and Leonard was orthodox, but Spence is a brilliant boxer who has a great chin, big pop in both hands and terrific lateral movement. He can fight well going forward and backward.
Crawford is a brilliant technician who fights southpaw and orthodox and switches between them seamlessly and almost effortlessly.
That show will get the mainstream following and buzz that most fights, even quality ones, don’t get today. And so it’s an opportunity to grow the fan base by filling the card not just with talented fighters, but with talented fighters in compelling bouts.
Spence-Crawford is one of those fights that is almost guaranteed to be compelling.
Crawford-Spence: Right fight at the right time
One of the problems that has hindered boxing, though, is that promoters now spend so much money putting the main event together, particularly on a pay-per-view card, that there is nothing left to fill out a quality undercard and to market, advertise and promote the show. And so if there isn’t a controversy or some means to grab the public’s interest, the fight suffers at the box office.
Filling an undercard with great fights doesn’t guarantee that it’s going to sell. But if that is done, and the fights turn out as expected, fans will feel as if they’ve gotten their money’s worth. You can add new fans that way. It’s a long-term investment.
Spence-Crawford is going to deliver. The early pick here is Crawford, as he’s more versatile and has more ways to win. I don’t discount Spence because he’s largely lived up to the hype that surrounded him not only coming out of the Olympics but then when he sparred in his early days as a pro with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
But Crawford is a mean and ornery sort who is one of boxing’s best finishers. He’s a slow starter and that could be problematic against Spence, but he’s one of the smartest fighters in the sport and has a better feel for when to step on the accelerator than anyone.
It’s really a time for celebration, as this is a major fight that is happening while the fighters are unquestionably in their primes. Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, for instance, met in 2015 when both were past their primes. Would the fight have been more compelling or the outcome different if they’d fought in 2010? No one will know, but there’s an argument to be made that the answer to both questions is yes.
I would have favored Mayweather no matter when he fought Pacquiao because of his style, but it’s still debated in boxing circles.
Thankfully, the Spence-Crawford fight is happening when it should and that’s a reason for boxing fans to give thanks and save their pennies. Nov. 19 is going to be a huge night for the sport and its fans.