The American defeated Errol Spence to become the undisputed welterweight champion
Terence Crawford joined the greats – of all time – in the welterweight division with his prizefighting masterclass in Las Vegas, in a match-up with Errol Spence which pre-fight was regarded as the contest of the year.
In the build-up, although Crawford was a marginal favourite, it was hard to separate them. Yet, with this performance Crawford becomes boxing’s new pound for pound king. Without question. So supreme, so flawless, so dominant, so brilliant, that the ice cool operator from Omaha made his previously undefeated and elite level foe look like a novice.
This was seen as an iconic fight for all the 147lb belts: both men undefeated, both in their prime. It was not a thrilling fight, as it transpired, for the simple reason that Crawford comprehensively dismantled Spence, his jab magnificent and hurtful, his timed counters on point, and his command of the dance and the ring absolute.
The manner of this victory puts Crawford in a debate amongst the very best the division has ever produced, with the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson, widely considered the greatest ring technician pound for pound, of all time, with the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Jose Napoles and even the old timers like Kid Gavilan.
Maintaining a southpaw stance from the start, just like Spence, it took Crawford nine minutes to work out his rival, even putting his opponent on his backside, off balance, in the second round. Spence looked embarrassed by that; yet Crawford’s expression of focus never changed. Arguably, Spence edged the first and third rounds, but everything else had Crawford’s huge paw marks on it. Cold, calculating, he ruthlessly dismantled Spence with a performance of pinpoint control and fighting IQ, a picture of efficiency, high guard, and no punches wasted.
It was mesmerising, and made Spence look hapless. As his foe unravelled, Crawford dropped Spence twice in the seventh round, and although the defender of the three of the belts was being slowly beaten up, he never gave up, continued to throw, yet all to no avail.
Come the ninth, shipping heavy punishment the referee mercifully rescued Spence from any further beating. The rout was complete. And it was a rout.
They spoke quietly to each other, too, did the two protagonists, as respectful as they had been from the day this fight was announced.
Pleasing too, about Crawford – and indeed Spence – were these respect levels in the build-up, the fight itself, and afterwards. It was good for boxing, and ought to restore faith that the very best can act in the very best ways.
Spence called for the rematch afterwards, yet it was so emphatic a victory, a dismantling, that there may be little appetite for it again. Taking absolutely nothing away from Crawford’s supremacy, we may hear in the coming weeks that Spence was ‘tight at the weight’. Whatever, Crawford made a great fellow fighter look sluggish and very ordinary. But that is what brilliant fighters do.
Indeed, so brilliant is Crawford, it would not be unthinkable to step up to 154 pounds (super – welterweight) and fight the undisputed champion there, Jermell Charlo.
Charlo, who has an autumn date with Saul Canelo Alvarez in a super-middleweight fight, could be a target for Crawford. Indeed, and I am in fantasy fight realm here, if only the Mexican Canelo, the biggest name in the sport across The Pond, were still at middleweight, perhaps a fight for the ages would have been Crawford versus Canelo, harking back to 1987 when Sugar Ray Leonard stepped up to middleweight to fight the late great ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler – and beat him at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas. We can only dream.
But that is what Crawford did on a stellar night in Sin City. He made aficionados purr and coo from a display of majesty, timing and class which has become rare indeed, and reminded us that when mastery is at its best, it ceases to be a fight, but a physical art form.