Jeffrey McWhorter / AP
Thursday, July 27, 2023 | 2 a.m.
• When: April 29, doors open at 2:30 p.m., preliminary card 3 p.m., pay-per-view card 6p.m., main event ring walks/entrances expected around 8p.m.
• Where: T-Mobile Arena
• Tickets: $461+ at ticketmaster.com
• Pay-per-view: $85 on Showtime PPV
Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford had spent nearly five years waging a war of words against each other as fans clamored for the two to face off in a welterweight title unification bout.
Earlier this year, the two best 147-pound boxers in the world decided to put their contention aside in order to make sure the showdown happened. Negotiations stopped stalling and sunk into place once the 33-year-old Spence and 35-year-old Crawford jumped on a series of phone calls and spoke one-on-one to sort out a bout finally set to go down Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
“We both understood the assignment,” Crawford said during a recent virtual news conference. “We had the same goal and dreams in mind, so we just came together and made sure we were man enough and mature enough to get the fight made.”
It has made for a refreshing buildup to a blockbuster fight without trash talk serving as the primary driver of interest. Spence (28-0, 22 KOs) vs. Crawford (39-0, 30 KOs) doesn’t require any controversy.
The two fighters have done enough in the ring to make the bout arguably boxing’s biggest since Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao faced off in May 2015. And from a championship stakes perspective, Spence vs. Crawford is even bigger.
The winner will become the first unanimous welterweight champion in boxing’s four-belt era, which began in 2004. Spence enters holding the WBC, IBF and WBA titles, while Crawford possesses the WBO strap. The winner will also likely be near-unanimously referred to as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, with ESPN currently slotting Crawford at No. 1 and Spence at No. 4 in its rankings.
It’s so evenly matched that some sportsbooks opened the line near a pick’em, though Crawford has since taken action to sit as a narrow -160 favorite (i.e. risking $160 to win $100) with Spence coming back at +140 (i.e. risking $100 to win $140).
“I believe in this fight, there’s going to be highs and lows,” Spence said. “He’s going to pick it up, and then I’m going to pick it up. We’re both going to pick it up at different points of the fight. Whoever can adapt and whoever can impose their style on the opponent, that’s who’s going to win the fight.”
Here are the three biggest reasons each man could come out on top on what promises to be a historic night either way.
Three Reasons Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. wins
• Size and strength. Spence is only one inch taller — 5-foot-9 to Crawford’s 5-foot-8 — but his frame is noticeably bigger. The Dallas-based fighter has to cut a large amount of weight to make the 147-pound limit. On the other hand, Crawford, an Omaha, Neb., native, has spent most of his professional career at the 135-pound lightweight class. Crawford is used to fighting bigger opponents, but he arguably hasn’t encountered anyone as strong as Spence, who has routinely shown one-punch knockout power.
• Close-range ability. Spence has won two of his past seven fights, against Yordenis Ugas in April 2022 and Kell Brook in May 2017, by breaking his opponents’ orbital bones. That’s a testament to his lethal jab and his ability to consistently get inside to use it. Crawford has a reach advantage — 74 inches to Spence’s 72 inches — but figuring out how to utilize it will be a necessity if he wants to keep his face intact.
• Defense. Spence and Crawford’s undefeated records are even more impressive given that neither fighter has ever officially been knocked down in his professional career. Crawford has arguably come closer to hitting the canvas on more occasions, and that could be because he’s more willing to eat shots. Spence’s intricate footwork and quick-twitch movement have usually kept him out of danger.
Three reasons Terence “Bud” Crawford wins
• Speed and smarts. The highest-level bouts can come down to in-fight adjustments, and no one in boxing has more seamlessly switched up strategies from one round to the next than Crawford. He’s such a complete fighter, he can transform styles depending on what the situation dictates. Unlike the vast majority of his peers, Crawford can even bounce between orthodox and southpaw stances while keeping up the same rapid pace for which he’s known.
• Distance control.Getting close to Crawford can be easier said than done. He’s so fast, most fighters can’t catch up for an extended period of time, leaving him free to pick them apart with punches from the outside. Spence said that part of Crawford’s reputation “doesn’t matter to me at all,” but past Crawford opponents have come into fights with similar levels of confidence and quickly grown frustrated.
• Counter-punching talent. Mayweather is more associated with Spence — since the two have trained together and share a manager, Al Haymon — but Crawford might look more like the longtime pound-for-pound great in the ring. Like Mayweather, Crawford pounces on the slightest mistakes and often waits on his opponent to throw before engaging. If the jab is Spence’s trademark punch, the hook is Crawford’s, as he’s able to connect with either hand to answer an opponent’s initial attack.
This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.