Saturday, June 23, 2018

Is Spence-Crawford The Next “Super Fight” In The Welterweight Division?

As the sport of Boxing enters the summer of 2018, the focus has started to develop on what major fights might be made for later in the year. Of course, most would say that “The Fight” of 2018 has already been made, the highly anticipated rematch between undefeated unified Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. While the circumstances of the first encounter between Golovkin and Alvarez as well as the saga that has led to the rematch being signed, cancelled and re-signed is an ongoing story that has been present here at The Boxing Truth® as well as throughout the entire sport, there are other possible encounters that could be made and if they are made frankly deserve as much attention as Golovkin-Alvarez.

The month of June has featured two world championship bouts taking place in Boxing’s 147lb. Welterweight division that produced what some might call logical outcomes, but in the process also developed a possibility of what could be the next “Super Fight” in a division rich in historic encounters that have carried such a label. The first of these two world championship fights took place on June 9th at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. Undefeated WBO Welterweight world champion Jeff Horn made the second defense of his crown against undefeated former two-division world champion Terence Crawford, who was attempting to win a world championship in a third weight class.

In previewing this fight, I expressed my view that the story of the fight would center on whether Horn would be able to effectively disrupt Crawford’s ability to get into a rhythm as he was able to do at points in his fight against Manny Pacquiao when he won the WBO Welterweight world championship in July of last year. From the outset of the fight it was evident that although the champion came out aggressively in attempting to bring the fight to Crawford as he had against Pacquiao, that it was the challenger Crawford who had an upper hand in catching Horn coming forward and had particular success when the two fighters would engage in exchanges of punches. While Horn was able to have periodic success in landing his right hand during the course of the bout, the difference in timing and Crawford’s hand speed, I felt became the story of the fight.

Horn simply could not find an answer to avoid Crawford’s quick hands, ability to counter punch, and overall effective offense. Crawford implemented a systematic approach that eventually took it’s toll on the champion. Crawford’s ability to vary his attack, use precision timing to both get his punches off first as well as counter the majority of Horn’s offense gradually broke the champion down as Crawford would ultimately score a knockdown of the always “Game” Horn in the ninth round and was able to get a stoppage with a follow-up barrage of punches to become the new WBO Welterweight world champion.

Following his victory when asked who he would want to fight next in the division, Crawford simply replied that he wanted the other world champions, that he wanted the “Big Fights” and told his promoter Bob Arum to “Make It Happen.” One such champion who also saw action recently was undefeated IBF Welterweight world champion Errol Spence, who defended his piece of the World Welterweight championship against undefeated IBF number three rated Welterweight contender Carlos Ocampo on June 16th at the Ford Center in Frisco, TX.

Spence, who was making the second defense of his IBF crown that he won in May of last year by stopping former champion Kell Brook, made short work of Ocampo, landing a flush left hook to the body that sent the challenger down for the count with one second left in the first round. While this title defense for Spence was short, he made just as loud of a statement as did Crawford in his victory over Jeff Horn.

An obvious conclusion coming out of these two fights is the potential of a Spence-Crawford showdown. A fight that would frankly bring back similarities to the classic “Super Fights” of the past. Two undefeated world champions both with significant followings, both with the ability to knock an opponent out, and each holding a claim to the World Welterweight championship. While it may appear simple to “Make It Happen” as Crawford told Bob Arum, there are other possibilities that could prevent an encounter between the two happening in the near future as has sometimes been the case with regard to major fights in the past.

The most obvious of potential obstacles is both Spence and Crawford are promoted by rival promoters and as such that in itself can be a difficult hurdle to clear. It is also important to remember that there is another world champion to keep in mind, former world champions who will soon be squaring off for a vacated world title, and a bout between a future Hall of Famer and a longtime top contender in the division all of whom may want to interject themselves into the discussion of potential opponents for either champion.

The vacated World Boxing Council (WBC) Welterweight world championship will be at stake when former world champions Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia meet in August at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. The winner of that fight would be a viable option for both Spence or Crawford if a fight between the two is not in the immediate plans. Future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao will be getting back into the ring in July against current WBA number one rated contender Lucas Matthysse in a bout to determine interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s Welterweight ratings currently held by Matthysse. The current WBA world champion Keith Thurman, who briefly unified the WBA and WBC crowns in the division by defeating Danny Garcia last year is currently inactive due to both recovering from elbow surgery as well as an injured left hand that forced him to pull out of a scheduled bout on May 19th and saw him relinquish the WBC crown. Thurman, like both Spence and Crawford, is an undefeated world champion who has an exciting style and when he does return to active competition will almost certainly be in the discussion as a potential opponent for either fighter.

For a division that has been known as being one of the most competitive in the entire sport as well as for many classic battles throughout Boxing history, we may be seeing what could be the beginning of the next golden era of the Welterweight division, with so many possibilities and fighters at the top or near the top of the division who could each make an argument as being the number one fighter in the weight class. If circumstances such as conflicts between promoters, mandatory title defense obligations, and other things that could prevent a major “Super Fight” from happening, this observer can think of no better way to kick off this era than an encounter between two undefeated world champions to further unify the division, Errol Spence vs. Terence Crawford.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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