In Perspective: Spence vs. Crawford

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Michael Rosenthal takes a look back at Terence Crawford's epic win over Errol Spence Jr. last Saturday and the entire Pay-Per-View card.

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Spence vs Crawford HIGHLIGHTS: JULY 29, 2023 | PBC on Showtime PPV

Terence Crawford had to fight back tears when he was asked what his monumental knockout of Errol Spence Jr. on Saturday meant to him.

That’s because everything he dreamed of since he took up boxing as a seven-year-old had come true only a few minutes earlier. As you can imagine, the first undisputed welterweight champion of the four-belt era was overwhelmed by the moment.

Crawford gave a virtuoso performance before a sell-out crowd of 19,990 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, putting his previously unbeaten opponent down three times before finishing him off in a brutal ninth round.

The victory not only gave him all four major 147-pound belts, it also made him the first man of the era to become “undisputed” in a second division. That’s impressive even if you minimize the value of titles these days.

Even more important than any of the above was that his breakthrough came against an opponent who will one day be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

As Crawford put it afterward, “It means everything because of who I took the belts from.”

Indeed, when fans look back on the career of Muhammad Ali, they think more about his ability to take down great opponents – Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman – than what titles were at stake.

This was Crawford’s Liston-Frazier-Foreman moment, a breathtaking victory over one of the best fighters of the generation that will be used as irrefutable evidence of his greatness for generations to come.

And he almost didn’t get the opportunity. Crawford (40-0, 31 KOs) has had universal respect for some time but he had difficulty reaching an agreement with Spence (28-1, 22 KOs) in on-and-off talks that spanned years, which left him without a true defining victory.

And, because Crawford was in his mid-30s, the clock was ticking. He was faced with the real possibility that he would never get his big chance.

Finally, a one-on-one call between the fighters themselves served as the impetus that led to an final agreement in May. Crawford had his opportunity. And to say he took full advantage of it is an understatement after what we witnessed on Saturday.

“I kept praying to God that I’d get the opportunity show the world how great Terence Crawford is,” Crawford said. “And … I believe I showed how great I am.”

Spence? Don’t feel too badly for him.

First, like Stephen Fulton Jr. against Naoya Inoue, Spence took an enormous risk and should be applauded for that. The sport would be a lot more compelling if more fighters would put it all on the line.

And, second, one loss – even a devastating one – doesn’t erase earlier accomplishments or preclude more success in the future for the 33-year-old. He’s still the gifted technician who bounced back from a horrific car accident and eye surgery to regain his form. He’s still the guy who beat the likes of Kell Brook, Mikey Garcia, Shawn Porter and, most recently, Yordenis Ugas.

Spence is a special fighter. He simply ran into a better one on this unforgettable night.


Isaac Cruz SD 12 Giovanni Cabrera

Split decision? Isaac "Pitbull" Cruz (25-2-1, 17 KOs) didn’t deliver a spectacular performance but the 135-pound lightweight contender gave a solid one, maintaining pressure on the elusive Giovannu Cabrera (21-1, 7 KOs) and connecting on many more meaningful punches than him. According to CompuBox, Cruz had a massive 152-55 edge in power shots landed. That lopsided success rate is why I had Cruz winning nine of the 12 rounds. The judges saw it differently. One had Cabrera winning (114-113) while the other two scored it for Cruz (115-112 and 114-113). At least the right man won. Cruz, who had come back from an 11-month layoff, can now return his focus to pursuing a title shot in the top heavy 135-pound division. And, of course, he remains a threat to anyone.

Alexandro Santiago UD 12 Nonito Donaire

Donaire fell short in his bid to win a major title at 40 years old. The seasoned 27-year-old Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) outboxed the future Hall of Famer to win the vacant WBC World Bantamweight title and establish himself as a major player in the division. Donaire (42-8, 28 KOs) was competitive, which means we might not have seen the last of him. However, he wouldn’t commit to returning. He certainly couldn’t accomplish much more. He’s already a nine-time titleholder in four divisions, which a string of memorable knockouts. That’s why Hall of Fame voters won’t have to think hard when they consider his induction. Donaire has had a fabulous two-decade career, both in terms of success and the entertainment factor. Not many have provided the number of thrills Donaire has.

Yoenis Tellez KO 3 Sergio Garcia

We might’ve caught a glimpse of a future star on the Crawford-Spence card. Yoenis Tellez agreed to face clever Spanish veteran Sergio Garcia on short notice even though the 23-year-old super welterweight prospect from Cuba had only five pro fights, which was a risk. The gamble paid off in a big way. Tellez outclassed, dropped and finally knocked out Garcia (34-2, 14 KOs) in less than three full rounds. That’s the same Garcia who recently took both Sebastian Fundora and Tony Harrison the distance. Tellez (6-0, 5 KOs) has the ingredients to have long-term success: ability, speed, power, poise and a great trainer in Ronnie Shields.

Steven Nelson UD 10 Rowdy Legend Montgomery

Steven Nelson is a man of many facets. For example, Crawford’s stablemate did a tour of military service in Afghanistan, he designs and produces the outfits boxers wear into the ring, he does stand-up comedy and he’s training to become a pilot. He also reminded us on the Crawford-Spence card that he’s an excellent boxer, easily outpointing Rowdy Legend Montgomery (10-5-1, 7 KOs) in a super middleweight bout. Nelson (19-0, 15 KOs) was fighting for only the second time after more than a two-year layoff, the result of an injury. And he looked sharp. His goal now, at 35, is to finally take full advantage of his considerable potential. Let's see what the future holds.

For a closer look at Spence vs Crawford, check out our fight night page. 

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