Whether you were Team Crawford or Team Spence, boxing experts predicted a close, competitive, thrilling fight between the two top talents for the unified, undisputed world welterweight championship Saturday in Las Vegas.
The only part everyone got right was that it was thrilling. But it was far from close or competitive.
Crawford, age 36 of Omaha, Nebraska (40-0, 31 KOs) handed Spence Jr. of Dallas, age 33 (28-1, 22 KOs) his first knockdown, and then his second, third, and fourth on the way to his first loss by ninth round TKO when referee Harvey Dock stopped their title fight at 2:32 of the ninth round.
Crawford beats Spence sent an electric shock through boxing including the 19,990 fans present at the T-Mobile Arena, not so much the victory but the margin and the method. Crawford was the stronger, smarter, and faster fighter. It was the speed combined with ring intelligence driving a powerhouse performance by Crawford.
Upon winning the fight, Crawford seemed nearly as shocked as the fans, although not surprised. “I am so mixed with so many emotions, I can cry right now,” said Crawford.
“Nobody believed in me when I was coming up. It means everything because of who I took the belts from,” said Crawford. “They talked bad about me. They said I wasn’t good enough and I couldn’t beat these welterweights. I just kept my head to the sky and kept praying to God that I would get the opportunity to show the world how great Terence Crawford is. Tonight, I believe I showed how great I am.”
Spence Jr. was gracious in defeat and made no excuses. ““He was just better tonight. He was using the jab. My timing was a little bit off. He was just the better man tonight.”
“He was just better tonight,” said Spence. “He was using the jab. My timing was a little bit off. He was just the better man tonight.”
Crawford is now the WBC, WBA, WBO, and IBF champion. Crawford became the first male fighter to become an undisputed champion in two weight divisions. He now can lay claim to being the world’s top pound for pound boxer, challenged only by the performance earlier in the week by unified bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue of Japan.
Crawford Took Command, Never Let Go
From the moment Crawford entered the T-Mobile Arena, accompanied by Eminem AKA Marshall Mathers, he was in control. A notoriously slow starter, Crawford lost a close first round to Spence Jr. It was the only round of the fight Spence Jr. won on the scorecards. From the second round on, it was all Bud Crawford’s show.
In the second round, Crawford scored his first knockdown of Spence Jr. It was a flash knockdown, catching Spence Jr. completely by surprise. He could not hide his shock hitting the canvas for the first time. He popped up, seeming to be unhurt, but his thinking was rattled and he never got his head together. Later, Crawford said he knew when it happened he would win the fight.
From that point, Crawford used his superior hand speed to catch anything Spence Jr. threw his way, leading with a strong jab and exceptional movement and feints to create openings for powerful straight rights, and hooks from both sides, peppered by withering body shots.
Although Spence Jr. is the naturally bigger man, it seemed the opposite. Crawford used his physical strength to bully Spence Jr. and catch anything coming his way.
By the end of the third round with Crawford coming on strong, there was a sense of concern between Spence Jr. and trainer Derrick James. Crawford’s speed negated any offensive effort by Spence Jr., and he was fast running out of ideas. Spence Jr. did his best to land punches, and to try and smother Crawford’s offense. But he couldn’t do it.
Crawford managed to buckle Spence Jr.’s knees again in the sixth round, leading to a pair of knockdowns in the seventh round. Spence Jr. got up on wobbly legs with a rueful look on his face. With referee Dock circling, Crawford tried to end things early but Spence Jr. survived to the bell. The eighth round passed as a breather for both fighters and the fans.
In the ninth, Crawford stalked Spence Jr., looking for the right opportunity. It came with a straight right, another right hook, and a right uppercut to the body. Spence Jr. tried to answer, but had nothing left. With another right hook, left hook, and straight right, Harvey Dock had seen enough. The fight the world had anticipated for so long was over.
At the time of the stoppage, Crawford was ahead 79 – 70 on all judges cards, and also on the NYFights.com card.
Crawford landed 185 punches, against just 96 for Spence Jr. He landed 50% of his total punches, and 60% of his power punches, a nearly unreal statistic.
Rematch? Stay Tuned
After the fight and later during a post-fight news conference, Crawford said the main focus in training was to take away Spence Jr.’s best weapon, his jab. “You take away his best attribute and the rest is history. We practiced that.”
“You all said I was too small. I was too strong,” said Crawford. Asked if he considers himself the top pound-for-pound fighter, Crawford replied “Without a doubt.”
Spence Jr. spoke after the fight about a rematch. He confirmed he wants it to take place at the super welterweight limit of 154 pounds.
“We gotta do it again,” said Spence Jr. “I’m going to be a lot better. It’ll be a lot closer. It’ll probably be in December and the end of the year. I say we gotta do it again.” Trainer Derrick James said it would take time for him to get over the loss.
Crawford thanked his team, and thanked Spence Jr. and his team as well, stating his accomplishment on Saturday wouldn’t have been possible without him as the opponent. Crawford said if a rematch takes place, no matter the weight division, he expects the same outcome.
He will still be stronger than Spence Jr., and still be faster. But he said he believes the public will buy it “and they’ll come out for both of us.”
There aren’t too many other options for Crawford, but he could consider taking on one of the hottest stars in boxing, Australian Tim Tszyu. The biggest money would be in Australia. Crawford also hinted he may see the end of his career, noting he's 36 years old and had little left to prove.
Hours after the fight, the boxing community was still trying to process what they’d seen. Showtime Sports Spanish language commentator Raul Marquez struggled to describe his thoughts; Big Fight Weekend’s Dan Rafael tried to come up with another title fight in which the outcome was so one sided.
Perhaps Manny Pacquiao’s defeat of Oscar De La Hoya? Or Winky Wright’s dominating unanimous decision over Felix Trinidad in 2005?
Perhaps Crawford’s fight will simply stand on its own as a seminal moment in boxing history, one fans never imagined they’d be lucky enough to witness in 2023.
Observers will discuss whether Spence Jr.'s 15 months of inactivity out of the ring, his weight drain to make the 147 pound limits, or the damage done to his face from a near fatal car accident had any effect on the outcome of Saturday's fight.
It's possible, but even without these factors in play, it's hard to see the eventual outcome being any difference. Crawford's performance wouldn't have changed at all.
Showtime Boxing announced it will air the Spence vs. Crawford fight on its regular subscription channel on Saturday, August 5, at 9 p.m., followed by the final episode of “All Access: Spence vs Crawford Epilogue.”