Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Crawford Cements Hall of Fame Legacy By Battering And Stopping Spence

The fight between undefeated Welterweight world champions Errol Spence and Terence Crawford for the Undisputed Welterweight championship of the world on July 29th in Las Vegas, NV was in some ways a throwback moment to when the best fighters fought the best where the politics that be in the sport rarely stood in the way of what could be viewed as progress. While such a return to the era where the best fought the best has become an elusive concept as decades have gone on due to a variety of issues related to the business of the sport of Boxing, Spence-Crawford served as an example of what the sport could be providing fans on a regular basis.

It is after all where two fighters who understand their respective positions in the sport opt to in large part make a fight that they want to have, happen between themselves and not be restrained by promoters or television/streaming network's own respective interests and agendas. In that aspect, both Spence and Crawford showed fellow boxers that ultimately it is the fighters who do the fighting and it is the promoters that are supposed to work in the best interest of the fighters, not the other way around.

Despite the positives that this fight brought to the table, the action that occurred inside the ring was probably a let down to sone Boxing fans. The reason for this was it did not take long before it became clear that this would not be the competitive fight that it appeared it would be on paper. What would happen instead would serve as another example of one fighter's generational talent and one fighter's courage in the face of being on that night at the T-Mobile Arena, the lesser fighter. In previewing this fight, this observer stated that the issue of activity might be something this fight would come down to, specifically the fact that due largely to injuries, Errol Spence had only fought once in the last three years prior to this encounter for all the marbles in the 147lb. Welterweight division as well as the current state of the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) group of promoters, that Spence has fought under the banner of for most of his career, in that many fighters who are aligned with the PBC have seen lengthy stretches of inactivity in recent years as the PBC has been struggling including apparently losing their broadcast deal with Fox Sports, which up until this year had been one of two network partners for the PBC here in the United States along with the Paramount owned Showtime, which has been recently rebranded to Paramount+ with Showtime in integrating the struggling cable network with it's parent company's flagship global streaming network.

While most of the above should not be directly tied to a fighter's inactivity, the fact remains that the biggest detriment to a fighter's career is inactivity. Something that by all accounts seemed to be exposed in this fight. After a relatively uneventful first round, Crawford stunned many by dropping Spence with a perfectly timed counter jab in the second round. Although this appeared to be a "Flash Knockdown" in that Spence did not appear hurt in being knocked down for the first time in his career, what was clear was Crawford has already figured out how to break Spence down and had his timing down to almost surgical precision. 

Over the course of the rounds that followed, this observer felt it was only a matter of time before the fight would be stopped. The reason for this was not only the systematic approach that Crawford was executing, but also that his hand speed and punching power was too much for Spence to combat. What was also evident was Spence, at least on this night, lacked the punching power to discourage Crawford from pressing forward, much less being able to gain control of the combat.

Round after round Crawford was administering a beating. Although Spence showed his mettle and was extremely "Game" in this fight, after six rounds, I felt that his corner needed to start thinking about their fighter's well being. Translation, I felt that the time had come where it was time to consider stopping the fight as it was so decisive in Crawford's favor, there did not seem to be much sense in allowing it to continue as gradually Spence was being busted up and there appeared to be no sign of the ebb and flow turning in his favor. 

My feelings that Spence had taken enough punishment seemed to be confirmed in the seventh round when Crawford scored his second and third knockdowns of Spence. At this point, I was shocked that even though Spence continued to show the heart of a warrior and survived the round, common sense and concern for his welfare did not come into the equation and the fight was allowed to continue.

As the punishment also continued being dished out by Crawford and Spence was increasingly unable to return much offense, Referee Harvey Dock mercifully stepped in and stopped the fight in the ninth round making Terence Crawford the first Undisputed Welterweight champion of the world in nearly thirty-eight years and the first undisputed champion in the division since the inception of the World Boxing Organization (WBO) in 1989. It also made Crawford the first male boxer in history to have successfully fully unified two weight divisions after previously becoming undisputed champion as a 140lb. Jr. Welterweight.

Although that accomplishment is astounding given all the political roadblocks and other things that occur in the sport that more often than not prevent such accomplishments, frankly my first thought at the conclusion of this fight was not so much about the historical significance of what I had just witnessed, as much as it was about wondering out loud why it took Harvey Dock, a competent world-class referee to use common sense in stopping this fight when the opportunity for Spence's corner to use good judgment was apparently ignored. Obviously, I cannot answer as to why his corner did not stop the fight, but what I will say is, I have seen plenty of fighters suffer similar beatings as Errol Spence did at the hands of Terence Crawford and while no one should ever take away from a fighter's heart and the courage they show in such circumstances, there comes a point where the corner, who's first responsibility should be to look out for the health and long-term well-being of their fighter, need to protect that fighter from themselves because more often than not, a fighter will keep going for as long as they are allowed to and unfortunately, that can also lead to fighters being seriously hurt. In any case, now the question for Errol Spence will be whether or not he will be the same fighter after suffering such a beating and the first loss of his career. It is a question that cannot be answered right now, but the possibility of this fight in addition to the injuries he has suffered might take something out of him going forward.

As for Terence Crawford, he would appear to be in an ideal position as a promotional free agent and now a two-time undisputed champion. While there is a rematch clause that would entitle Spence to a rematch, it does not appear as though that would be an advisable move based on what occurred in the ring and the likely need for time to recover. Whether or not Spence actually takes time to re-evaluate things may come down to whether those around him truly have his best interest.

 It may be more likely to see Crawford start fulfilling his mandatory title defense obligations from the respective organizations that now comprise the Undisputed Welterweight championship, as is standard after a championship is unified. Who he fights, on which network/platform, and under which promoter remains to be seen. Whatever Crawford does going forward, his future place in any Boxing Hall of Fame is cemented. 

For other fighters throughout the sport however, there is an obvious lesson to take from this. Not only do fighters have more power than they truly realize to make fights happen, but fighters also do not and should not be limited to fighting only fighters under the same promotional banner and if a promoter cannot secure consistent fights for a fighter that will allow that fighter to not only earn income consistently, but to also remain active where they will at least have a chance to be at their competitive best, it is the fighters responsibility to force the issue, even if doing so means taking their talents elsewhere. Ultimately a promoter is supposed to work in the best interest of the fighter, not the other way around.

"And That's The Boxing Truth."

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