It was business as usual on Saturday night for Terence Crawford against Jose Benavidez Jr, in his first WBO welterweight title defence. Benavidez, once regarded as one of the sport’s top prospects, had stirred up bad blood between the two men with persistent trash-talking during the fight build-up, and it boiled over at the weigh-in when he pushed the champion who responded instinctively by throwing a right hand which missed.
As it turned out, the pre-fight theatrics counted for little in the ring. Crawford put on another boxing clinic; outworking and outclassing Benavidez before stopping him in the final round, with a peach of a right uppercut doing the damage. Statistically, the fight was a wipe-out with Crawford out-landing his foe by two to one, including most of the eye-catching and damaging blows.
With his performance, Crawford solidified his status as one of the world’s best boxers and triggered yet more talk of an all-American welterweight showdown with IBF titleholder Errol Spence Jr. It’s one of the best fights that could be made today in boxing’s traditional glamour division and in the sport full stop.
Both men are undefeated world champions and have looked virtually unstoppable so far in their careers, featuring on most boxing pound-for-pound lists today. Moreover, both are in their prime and operating at the peak of their powers. Both have traded barbs on social media and have made no secret of their desire to make the fight.
Should the contest materialise, it is a difficult one to call. Both men are tremendously-skilled competitors with no glaring weaknesses to speak of. Crawford is the more cerebral and versatile fighter, the better technician and boasts superior defence. Spence has the edge on workrate, power and durability. Ultimately, size may prove the decisive factor.
Crawford won his first world title at lightweight, while Spence is a career-welterweight and a big one to boot. He could easily fight at 154 pounds and has made no secret of his intention to eventually move up to that division and as high as 160 pounds. As the saying goes, a good big man beats a good little man, and if I was pushed to make a pick would lean towards Spence by the narrowest of margins.
This is of course just mental masturbation at this stage. Whether or not the boxing powers that be can start the ball rolling to make the fight happen is another matter entirely.
There has been no shortage of major boxing headlines as 2018 draws to a close, most recently the announcement of Canelo Alvarez’s blockbuster deal with DAZN, the richest in the sport’s history at $365 million. Boxing fans should not however expect the announcement of Crawford-Spence anytime soon, as disappointing as it may be to hear.
Crawford fights under the promotion of Bob Arum and Top Rank on ESPN while Al Haymon-managed Spence is aligned to Premier Boxing Champions and was last seen on Showtime earlier this year blowing out Carlos Ocampo in a round. Arum and Haymon have a notoriously fractious relationship, although they have demonstrated a willingness to work together in recent years.
In addition to the 2015 super-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, they finalised Crawford’s 2016 fight against John Molina, a voluntary defence of his light welterweight titles.
However, with the remaining cream of the crop at welterweight – Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and now even Pacquiao – being signed with Haymon, the balance of power is skewed in favour of the elusive boxing oligarch. Arum knows it and has openly expressed his doubts over Haymon’s willingness to negotiate Crawford-Spence.
It does not leave Crawford with many appetising options. The winner of a WBO eliminator between another Top Rank welterweight, Egidijus Kavaliauskas, and Nicaraguan Roberto Arriaza is his likely next opponent. Neither is particularly well-known or figures to present much of a challenge for the champion. Meanwhile, Spence does not yet have another fight scheduled.
Despite the wealth of big names in the Haymon stable, it is almost certain that he will not face any of them next. Porter will likely need to make a mandatory defence of his newly-won WBC title. Thurman has been out since March 2017 rehabilitating injuries and Pacquiao is set to face Adrien Broner in January.
All of this just exacerbates the frustration of fans who really want to see Crawford-Spence. The good news for them is that, realistically, it’s a fight which is too big not to happen. But neither is it likely to happen any time soon, as most of them desire.
The novelist Nicole Krauss once wrote that fear, being anticipatory, is always without knowledge. In her own words, ‘to be afraid that the plane will crash is, in a sense, to assume that the plane will crash’.
It appropriately summarises the mindset of fight fans who dread the over-marination of Crawford-Spence or a hardcore group who are already mourning the miscarriage of the fight and speculating what might have happened if it had taken place in the fighters’ prime, before it has even been conceived!
So fight fans, just remember that wish lists are for birthdays and quit getting schoolboy’s satisfaction from something intangible. When the fight does happen, you may find that the pleasure will be all the greater.
Article by: Paul Lam
Follow Paul on Twitter at: @PaulTheWallLam