At long last, Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford will meet for welterweight supremacy on July 29 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, sources told ESPN, and unlike Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, this matchup is materializing while both are still in the prime of their careers.
Crawford and Spence will earn eight figures guaranteed, per sources, and there’s a bilateral rematch clause that the loser can trigger within 30 days after the fight (the rematch must take place before the end of the year. Crawford signed a two-fight deal with PBC, sources said.
The undisputed welterweight championship will be on the line in the welterweight summit meeting, a fight that has been in the making for five years. Spence-Crawford is one of the most anticipated boxing matches in some time, and with good reason.
Crawford is ESPN’s No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer and Spence is No. 4; neither has come all that close to losing. They’ve both displayed mean streaks in the ring, too: Spence is coming off a TKO victory over Yordenis Ugas in April while Crawford scored a spectacular KO of David Avanesyan in his most recent performance in December.
How do Spence and Crawford match up? Who holds the edge? ESPN takes an early look at this potential super fight.
Is this the right time for Spence-Crawford?
Absolutely. This is the rare time boxing marinated a matchup to perfection. Sure, the fight has been plenty viable since 2018, but never has there been more on the line for Spence and Crawford.
With his win over Ugas in April 2022, Spence returned from surgery in August 2021 to repair a detached retina and picked up a third welterweight title. The bout with Crawford will crown an undisputed champion, something that seemed almost impossible in the past.
Crawford has the WBO welterweight world title while Spence has accumulated the other three belts — WBC, IBF and WBA. The issue, as always, came down to the fractured nature of boxing.
Spence, like the majority of the sport’s elite welterweights, is aligned with PBC. The company rarely does business with Top Rank, Crawford’s longtime promoter, but Crawford and Top Rank parted ways after his victory over Shawn Porter in November 2021.
When Crawford became a promotional free agent, the biggest roadblock to the megafight for all four belts was removed.
The boxers have never been regarded in as high esteem as they are now. Crawford rose to No. 1 on ESPN’s pound-for-pound list after Canelo Alvarez’s upset loss to Dmitry Bivol last May. Spence is just three spots behind him at No. 4.
The winner won’t just be recognized as the unquestioned best boxer in the stacked welterweight division; he’ll probably be the undisputed pound-for-pound king. — Mike Coppinger
How do the two match up?
This shapes up as a genuine coin-flip fight in a sport that too often serves up mismatches in major bouts. Spence is bigger, perhaps stronger, and owns the better jab. He’s a natural 147-pounder who competed at 152 pounds in the Olympics.
Crawford, meanwhile, won his first title fighting at 135 pounds but has filled out nicely at 147 and possesses uncanny strength for the division. He’s a switch-hitting boxer who can seamlessly adjust from orthodox to southpaw and deliver power shots from both stances.
“Bud” is the better finisher and owns a more versatile offensive arsenal. But Spence is more defensively responsible. Mix it all together — along with the stakes — and it’s impossible to envision anything but an action-packed bout waged on the highest level. This one will be worth the wait. — Coppinger
What does this mean for the rest of the rising welterweights?
It might mean the best of the rest at 147 pounds will have to be patient for a while. We’re talking about five fighters in particular here: Jaron “Boots” Ennis, Vergil Ortiz Jr., Eimantas Stanionis, Keith Thurman and Conor Benn — when Benn is cleared from his positive drug test by the UK Anti-Doping agency. The good news is most of these fighters are still in their 20s — all but the 34-year-old Thurman — and Benn, Ortiz and Ennis are 26 or younger. Which means that getting the Crawford-Spence situation sorted shouldn’t eat too much into their futures. The expected rematch must take place before the end of 2023, Coppinger reported. And even if there’s a third fight, Crawford and Spence should be done fighting each other by next summer.
What could get really interesting is if some of those fighters decide they want to fight each other in the meantime. That would create very intriguing non-title fights and could help delineate what’s going on behind Crawford-Spence. Already, Stanionis and Ortiz, will fight each other on July 8. The one person who might get stuck in the waiting game is the former champion, Thurman, who turns 35 in November and was expecting to face Spence this summer.
This is one of boxing’s youngest, deepest, most intriguing divisions. Of the main contenders, only Ugas is 36 — and he already lost to Spence. Crawford turns 36 on Sept. 28, but he’s the best there is at the moment. So this division is set up to be one of the best in the sport both in the present and in the future. — Michael Rothstein
How Spence wins
Over the past several fights, Spence has proven to be very versatile. Against Mikey Garcia, a technically sound fighter who was moving up in weight, Spence was the better boxer and systematically picked him apart. Spence didn’t drop a single point in a unanimous decision victory. Most recently, in the unification bout against Ugas, he cranked up his output, imposed his will on the inside and earned a TKO.
Against Crawford, Spence will have the size advantage. Spence is considered a big welterweight, while Crawford moved up to the division after becoming the undisputed junior welterweight champion.
The way Spence picked Ugas apart over 10 rounds was his most impressive victory as a welterweight champion. If Spence can vary his offensive attack with the types of punches thrown to the head and the body, it should make it difficult for Crawford to time and set up a counterattack.
Spence seemingly has more paths to victory than Crawford in this long-anticipated matchup. That’s why he is projected to be the favorite on fight night. — Ben Baby
How Crawford wins
The strategy will depend on how Spence plans to attack Crawford. Crawford’s win over Porter is a prime example of how methodical he can be in the ring. Throughout the fight, Crawford did an excellent job of countering the aggressive Porter and moved backward to create the necessary distance to land those powerful counters.
Crawford will have a slight reach advantage over Spence. Between that, Spence’s abilities as an inside fighter and the size differential between the two men, Crawford’s best strategy might be to control the action on the outside and try to look for angles and windows to throw power counters.
This is how Crawford has won his last two fights. The first knockdown in the 10th round against Porter came on a counter left uppercut after Porter jumped in with a combination of his own. That set the wheels in motion for a knockdown later in the round that forced a TKO win.
Against Avanesyan, Crawford was caught flush a little more than usual. But in the sixth, he ended the night on a counterpunch. A straight left hand followed by a southpaw right hook floored Avanesyan and left him on his back, unable to even take a 10-count.
Finding similar success against Spence could be key to Crawford beating his biggest rival. — Baby
Will the winner be the undisputed No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter?
Probably, although there are some other fighters who might have a say, particularly Naoya Inoue if he scores one of his impressive victories over Stephen Fulton when they meet on July 25 in Tokyo. Inoue has a true claim. So, too, could Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, the top two heavyweights that have been circling about each other for over a year now. Those are the other likely contenders here, but if there’s a definitive winner of Spence-Crawford without any controversy (it’s boxing, so you never know), that fighter should be No. 1.
Crawford and Spence are Nos. 1 and 4 in the ESPN pound-for-pound rankings, so it would make sense that the winner would secure the top spot. But it isn’t always quite that simple. There’s also a man not yet mentioned, former No. 1 Canelo Alvarez, who might be able to get back into the conversation with a decisive win over John Ryder in May, after an impressive win in his trilogy fight with Gennadiy Golovkin in September. For now, that sextet is the group of fighters who should be considered. It could lead to an intriguing end of 2022 for the sport. — Rothstein