Spence or Crawford: A Generation Will Be Defined by the Answer

Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn Email

The two best welterweights of their era will clash when Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford battle for the undisputed crown in a historic showdown Saturday, July 29 on SHOWTIME PPV.

PBC Boxing Video Thumbnail

Spence vs Crawford FIGHT PREVIEW: July 29, 2023 | PBC on Showtime PPV

The welterweight division has whittled to two. 

On Saturday, July 29, from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, live on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), Errol Spence Jr. (28-0, 22 KOs) will put his WBC, WBA and IBF 147-pound World Titles on the line against WBO Champion Terence Crawford  (39-0, 30 KOs). However one defines the king of a weight class, whether it be having all the belts, being the man to reestablish the lineal crown left empty since the retirement of Floyd Mayweather, recognition from media bodies, etc…it’s all on the line.

So is a piece of immortality.

Was this the Spence or Crawford Era at welterweight? 

Decades from now, this could be the fight that decides how this generation at welterweight is remembered. As one of boxing’s enduring glamour divisions, generational rivalries that define the passing of time at welterweight carry an extra air of prestige. Spence-Crawford is a special matchup with spectacular company.

Every great welterweight hasn’t had a generational rival. Some, like Mickey Walker and “Sugar” Ray Robinson, had to move up the scale to find their greatest rivals. Those with such adversaries continue to reap rewards. 

The rivalry between Jack Britton and Ted “Kid” Lewis remains a marvel. From March 1915 to February 1921, they fought twenty times with Britton edging Lewis at 4-3-1 against 12 “No Decisions.” Lewis won the welterweight title twice, Britton three times with Britton scoring the lone knockout in the series in 1919. Herb Goldman’s all-time welterweight rankings in the December 1997 issue of Boxing Digest narrowly rated Britton ahead of Lewis all-time.  

With a rematch clause secured for Spence-Crawford, there is reason to think we may see this showdown more than once. Neither man will have the luxury of 20 meetings. It raises the stakes, and the pressure, in the modern era for each individual fight. We’ll know soon who handles that pressure better.

What happens if, after twelve rounds, viewers and judges don’t agree on who the better man was? History says official verdicts often matter most. 

Any list of all-time great welterweights tends to have Emile Griffith somewhere near the top. The gap between Griffith and his greatest welterweight rival couldn’t have been thinner. Griffith’s place in history could easily belong to Luis Rodriguez. From 1960-64, they faced off four times, exchanging the welterweight title twice, with three of four bouts decided via narrow split decision. In its day, some saw Griffith’s fortune as more than bad luck for Rodriguez. 

All these years later, one can find astute historians who remember the context of the rivalry but the official results have mattered more than the fury of the moment. Griffith holds the higher place among the welterweight immortals.

Entering Spence-Crawford, there is some speculation that any rematch could ultimately occur above the welterweight limit. Welterweight results will be what matters to the welterweight annals. Thomas Hearns is evidence of that. In 1989, he received a draw in a super middleweight rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard that even Leonard acknowledges Hearns won. It was small consolation for losing the fight that forever links them, the 1981 welterweight title unification where Leonard came from behind to stop Hearns in round 14. 

The victory made the Leonard legend, stamping his place in the conversation with names like Robinson and Henry Armstrong as the greatest welterweight of them all. 

An additional aspect of Spence-Crawford is their age. It took several years to get this fight in the ring. We have a clash of seasoned veterans, rather than younger men, in pursuit of validation. The last great generational clash at welterweight also featured older men. It still mattered to history.

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao split the biggest purse ever in a May 2015 unification bout. More than five years of anticipation passed as the two circled each other at 147 pounds. Mayweather, then 38, won a tactical match over the 36-year old Pacquiao. There were complaints from some corners that Mayweather had waited out the younger man until he was less dangerous. 

The win aged well. 

Mayweather vacated the welterweight crown after one more fight while Pacquiao continued on into his late 30s with high quality wins over Timothy Bradley, Adrien Broner, and an undefeated Keith Thurman. It proved Mayweather had beaten a still great fighter, solidifying the case for him as simply greater. It’s a distinction that will continue to grow as we get farther from the event.

Such will be the case again this weekend. Either Spence or Crawford will stand out as the best welterweight since Mayweather—perhaps beyond—and the definitive welterweight of their time. 

They’re fighting for every honor in the world they can today. History tells us they’re also fighting for how they’ll be remembered through enduring tomorrows. 

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

Subscribe to RSS
Related News