Monday, December 7, 2020

Should Spence-Crawford Happen In Early 2021?


The fight between undefeated unified IBF/WBC Welterweight world champion Errol Spence and former two-division world champion Danny Garcia had one central story going into the encounter. How would Spence, one of Boxing’s hottest rising stars look in his first fight following surviving a near fatal car accident shortly after he unified the IBF and WBC world championships in the 147lb. Welterweight division in October of last year. Beyond that obvious question, an encounter between Spence and Garcia would be compelling under normal circumstances.


After all, it was an encounter between two of the top fighters not just in the Welterweight division, but of the entire sport. The circumstances of Spence coming back from a horrible car accident as well as the circumstance of the fight taking place in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic was also intriguing. On December 5th, the two fighters entered AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX to do battle before a crowd of an estimated 16,000 spectators under specific COVID-19 protocols.


Despite the circumstances in which Spence entered this fight, it was not surprising to see the champion take the initiative and force the action. At his best, Errol Spence is an offensive-minded fighter that often proves to be very difficult for opponents to combat simply because of the work rate he establishes throughout a fight. In many ways, this fight was no different in that it was Spence forcing the action and bringing the fight to Garcia.


Although Spence was the fighter generally throwing his punches first, what was interesting was to see Garcia almost being able to keep pace with the champion’s offensive output for much of the early portion of this fight. While Garcia did not match Spence punch for punch, what he did do was make the champion be defensively responsible as well as establish some effective work to Spence’s body. A truly tactical bout in every sense of the word through the first six rounds, Spence gradually was able to step up his activity as the fight progressed and over time the tempo of the combat increasingly favored the champion.


While much of the fight could be described as simply one fighter outworking the other, the main story of the fight in this observer’s view was not so much the offensive production of Errol Spence, but rather Garcia’s inability to let his hands go with consistency as the fight progressed. In previewing this fight, I pointed out how Garcia is a solid boxer/puncher who is capable of hurting fighters in the midst of exchanges of offense.


Having said this however, Garcia at his core is a precision counter puncher and when a fighter has such a trait, there are times where they can become complacent in waiting for an opportunity to let their hands go by way of counter punching rather than being on offensive-minded and looking to get their punches off first. While it is indeed a task that is easier said than done to be offensive-minded against a fighter like Spence who is also a boxer/puncher, but is more known for his punching power, I feel Garcia waited too long for opportunities to present themselves for him to attempt to counter punch and once he did let his hands go, he was not consistent and did not throw with enough volume to make much of a difference in terms of the scoring as at the end of the twelve round world championship bout all three judges scored the fight in favor of Spence giving him a lopsided unanimous decision victory.


Sometimes it is as simple as saying one fighter was able to do more than the other. The other interesting sub-plot that accompanied this fight was what would lie ahead for the winner. Quite frankly, Errol Spence turned in as good a performance as one could expect against a fighter of Danny Garcia’s caliber, especially given the circumstances that Spence was coming back from in addition to the difficulties created by the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic. While some may feel that he may have been able to force a stoppage particularly later in the fight when the effects of both fatigue as well as the punishment Garcia had sustained throughout began to become apparent, Spence’s performance was as dominant as could be short of getting a stoppage win.


Off of the strength of his performance as well as his performances against Mikey Garcia and Shawn Porter in 2019 before the near fatal accident, Spence should be pitted against another top star of the sport. Although current WBA Welterweight world champion Manny Pacquiao may indeed be the most lucrative option that might be available to him, this observer believes an equally viable option could be undefeated multi-division world champion and current holder of the WBO Welterweight crown Terence Crawford.


Crawford recently scored a fourth round stoppage of former IBF Welterweight world champion Kell Brook in November. Much like Spence, Crawford has been able to dominate most opposition that has been placed before him and depending on one’s perspective, stylistically a fight between the two might be one of the most exciting bouts that could be made in the sport. There are however, a few potential roadblocks that could prevent a fight between the two from taking place in the near future. In terms of the sport itself, former two-time Welterweight world champion Shawn Porter has been named the World Boxing Organization’s (WBO) top contender in the Welterweight division, which puts him in line to challenge Crawford for his portion of the Welterweight world championship next.


Although much like anything in the sport of Boxing, it is far from a given that a world champion will fulfill their mandatory defense obligations especially if a more lucrative offer might be available to them, it is logical to assume that Crawford would want to face Porter first in order to fulfill his obligations as to ensure that he will not be stripped of the WBO title and thus would be in position to enter a unification bout with Spence should he get passed Porter. Perhaps the more obvious roadblock that could stand in the way is the fact that Crawford is currently under contract to promoter Bob Arum and his company Top Rank Inc., whereas both Spence and Porter are aligned with the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) group of promoters and even though the two entities did work together earlier this year to bring the Heavyweight world championship rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury to fruition, generally rival promoters are not eager to work together on a regular basis to ensure that fights that have sufficient public demand are made within a reasonable timeframe simply because of the various business interests that each promoter has, which more often than not are not the same.


One of the many criticisms the sport of Boxing has faced for many years is the fact that many marquee bouts that draw significant interest and could elevate the sport to higher levels often do not get made within a reasonable timeframe. While the formula of the delaying such fights in order to drum up interest over a period of time is one that is as old as the sport itself, it is a formula that has seen its flaws exposed more than once and in a sport where promoters are often too reliant on both their own ways as well as unfortunately outdated and overpriced methods of getting their product out to the audience, which ultimately limits their reach, there comes a time where promoters have to put their respective business interests as well as their egos aside to do the right thing by both the fighters themselves as well as the Boxing fans who continue to support the sport in the midst of horrible circumstances and who have been asked repeatedly to pay inflated fees to watch the sport they love.


If the promoters truly had the best interest of Boxing in mind, we would see what would amount to a mini tournament take place where Crawford will defend his title against Shawn Porter and the winner would face Errol Spence in a unification bout, where that winner would then face Manny Pacquiao to determine an undisputed Welterweight world champion. A concept that is not all that unlike the stepladder format in which many tournaments held by the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) are structured.


The scenario that this observer has laid out is a simple and clear path toward determining an undisputed world champion in the Welterweight division. It is however, only as simple and clear as the promoters, Boxing’s various sanctioning organizations, and even the networks that are involved in the sport will allow it to be. It is clear however, with the outdated concept of pay-per-view continuing to dwindle due largely to an unwillingness by those who continue to rely on such a model to adapt, the public demanding more marquee fights at reasonable price points where more consumers of every economic level will be able to access said fights, and what has to be a growing frustration amongst television networks that are not seeing the types of returns for their pay-per-view investments, something needs to change in order for all the above to succeed. With 2021 on the horizon and with the COVID-19 epidemic continuing to worsen, it is time for the promoters and networks to come up with alternative ways in order to get their product in front of as many eyes as possible. One of the best ways to do that would be to work together in implement a scenario where the best fighters fight the best and ensure that the consumer does not have to pay an inflated fee or find an alternative way to see those fights as they happen.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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