The Errol Spence vs Terence Crawford fight has some old guard fans and pundits comparing eras. Doing so in the realm of pro sports has become overly abundant over the last decade.
The forthcoming Errol Spence Jr vs Terence Crawford face-off has made me think of the Lebron James-Michael Jordan debate in basketball, and how it has dominated sports talk to the point that it's become a reason to change the channel or turn off your television.
However, in a sport like boxing, with over a century of history, the conversation can become more nuanced and compelling.
In just a few weeks, one of the year's most anticipated and significant fights will occur. After years of waiting, just before its sell-by date, Errol Spence Jr. (28-0, 22 KOs) and Terence Crawford (39-0, 30 KOs) will finally meet for the undisputed welterweight title.
Spence-Crawford will be the 13th welterweight unification match in boxing history, with Spence's IBF, WBA, and WBC titles on the line along with Crawford's WBO title.
It will also be the fourth welterweight unification between two undefeated fighters following Donald Curry's third-round knockout over Milton McCrory in 1985 and Felix Trinidad's majority decision over Oscar De La Hoya in 1999.
Since then, he has been a part of two unification bouts and made six defenses of his titles.
By the time July 29th arrives, he will have held his IBF title for over six years and two months, closing in on the record of the longest-reigning welterweight champion. The current holder of that distinction is Felix Trinidad, having held the IBF welterweight title for close to seven years, at about six and nine months.
So Much Change Since Felix Trinidad's Superb Run
Putting the two side by side, it's debatable who would have had their hands raised in victory had the two ever faced off in the squared circle. It would depend on who you ask.
Trinidad, unlike Errol Spence, operated in an era dominated by two promoters, Bob Arum and Don King. The Puerto Rican would go through more low points and promotional issues compared to Spence, who has been promoted well, most would agree, throughout his career.
Trinidad would sue King twice in an attempt to get out of contracts to get fights with Pernell Whitaker and Ike Quartey. From 1995-1998, Trinidad's career was stagnant and in a promotional pitstop.
It wasn't until 1999 that King saw any value in Trinidad and finally got him the matchups he needed to raise his stock to the next level. King, he's had quite the run, hasn't he?
Errol Spence, thankfully, has never run into promotional issues as part of the Al Haymon-led Premier Boxing Champions for the majority of his career. And even if he did, there are more options for him to explore if he wants to work with another promotion.
The competition between Spence and Trinidad is comparable. The three-title unified champion holds an advantage in the competition faced at welterweight. However, one could argue that Oba Carr, who Trinidad stopped in 8 rounds in 1994, was that eras' Shawn Porter. And facing an undefeated four-division champion in Oscar De La Hoya is akin to an undefeated three-division champion Terence Crawford.
Overall, their careers juxtaposed against one another spotlights, for better or worse, the many changes the sweet science has developed since the 1990s.
Getting some of the obvious out of the way, the world is different. The advent of social media and streaming platforms has changed the way fans watch, interact and perceive all forms of entertainment. That includes boxing.
Errol Spence Is Way Older In Getting His Signature Fight
Watch the latest seventh entry in the Mission: Impossible film series, and then go back to watch the original Brian De Palma Mission: Impossible from 1996 to see how much blockbuster movies have been adjusted. Regarding Errol Spence-Crawford, fights that would be considered mega bouts have also changed.
When Spence and Crawford go to battle on July 29th, they will be 33 and 35 years old.
In comparison to other historic welterweight bouts of the past, the two southpaws will be entering the ring, in some cases, at a much older age. Leonard and Hearns were 25 and 22 when they fought in September 1981. Trinidad and De La Hoya were both 26 for their ‘Fight of the Millenium' in 1999.
However, Errol Spence and Crawford are only part of an era in which an elite level has been generally older.
Trinidad won his first world title from Maurice Blocker in June 1993 at the age of 20, see video below:
15 title defenses, and almost seven years later, he moved up to junior middleweight in March 2000, vacating his welterweight titles. When Spence defeated Brook for the IBF title, he was 27.
At the same age, Trinidad's entire run at welterweight was over; Spence's would have just begun.
Ring Magazine's pound-for-pound list from 1999 included Roy Jones Jr., Floyd Mayweather Jr., Trinidad, De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Mark Johnson, Ricardo Lopez, Erik Morales, Bernard Hopkins, and Stevie Johnston. Seven of the 10 were under the age of 30 at the time, and those same seven fought more than two times in 1999.
Today's pound-for-pound list is almost the exact opposite. There are only three fighters under the age of 30, five of whom have fought just once in 2022. 2023 is still ongoing, and as of now, only Gervonta Davis has fought twice this year, with last year's Fighter of the Year, Dmitry Bivol, yet to have a fight in place.
Superstars Fight Infrequently Now, As Compared To Trinidad Era
Clearly, the level of activity for top fighters has gone down. Spence, should he come out victorious over Crawford, could end up breaking Trinidad's welterweight reign record with less than half the amount of title defenses.
Of course, Spence's 2019 car crash, eye injury, and COVID-19 contributed to this, but altogether, there was a difference in activity between the two.
The differences in the time they fought, their fighting style, and their personalities are prevalent. But Spence and Trinidad have something special about them that separates them from their contemporaries.
“You can call it the ‘It' factor,” Errol Spence said on an episode of Showtime's All Access. “If you got it, you got it. It's something that's gotta be in you. It's something that certain fighters got. And it shows in the ring.”
The 1990s wasn't a perfect era and shouldn't be romanticized as such. Errol Spence's story is still ongoing, while Trinidad's essentially ended in his 30s. He was 32 and 35 years old in his final two fights.
The biggest takeaway is that from a promotional standpoint, there are certainly more opportunities for fighters today. However, we need to see them in the ring more often.