The welterweight megafight is finally done, so how do Spence and Crawford match up?

May 23, 2023, 11:53 p.m7 minute reading

Errol Spence Jr., above, holds the WBC, WBA and IBF world welterweight titles. Terence Crawford is the WBO champion in the division.Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Finally, Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford to face off for welterweight supremacy on July 29 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, sources told ESPN, and unlike Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, this matchup is happening while both are still in the prime of their careers.

Crawford and Spence will earn eight figures guaranteed, per source, and there is a bilateral rematch clause that the loser can trigger within 30 days of the fight (the rematch must take place before the end of the year. Crawford signed a two-fight deal with the PBC, says sources.

The undisputed welterweight championship will be on the line in the welterweight summit, a fight that has been going on for five years. Spence-Crawford is one of the most anticipated boxing matches in a long time, and for good reason.

Crawford is ESPN’s No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer and Spence is No. 4; none of them have been this close to losing. They’ve both shown mean streaks in the ring as well: Spence is coming off a TKO victory over Yordenis Ugas in April 2022, while Crawford scored a spectacular KO of David Avanesyan in his last appearance in December.

How do Spence and Crawford match up? Who holds the edge? ESPN takes an early look at this potential superfight.

Is this the right time for Spence-Crawford?

Absolutely. This is the rare time boxing has marinated a matchup to perfection. Sure, the fight has been very viable since 2018, but never has there been more on the line for Spence and Crawford.

With his win over Ugas in April 2022, Spence returned from surgery in August 2021 to repair a detached retina and captured a third welterweight title. The match with Crawford will crown an undisputed champion, something that previously seemed almost impossible.

Crawford holds the WBO world welterweight title while Spence has amassed the other three belts – WBC, IBF and WBA. The question, as always, came down to the divisive nature of boxing.

Spence, like the majority of the sport’s elite welterweights, is aligned with the PBC. The company rarely does business with Top Rank, Crawford’s longtime promoter, but Crawford and Top Rank parted ways following his victory over Shawn Porter in November 2021.

When Crawford became a promotional free agent, the biggest roadblock to the megafight for all four belts was removed.

Boxers have never been held in such high esteem as they are now. Crawford rose to No. 1 on ESPN’s pound-for-pound list following Canelo Alvarez’s upset loss to Dmitry Bivol last May. Spence is just three spots behind him at No. 4.

The winner will not only be recognized as the undisputed best boxer in the stacked welterweight division; he will probably become the undisputed pound-for-pound king. — Mike Coppinger

How do the two match up?

WBO champion Terence Crawford, top, will finally face Errol Spence Jr. for supremacy at welterweight.Steve Marcus/Getty Images

This is shaping up to be a genuine coin-flip battle in a sport that too often lends itself to mismatches in big games. Spence is bigger, maybe stronger, and owns the better jab. He is a natural 147 pounder who competed at 152 pounds in the Olympics.

Crawford, meanwhile, won his first title fight at 135 pounds but has filled out nicely at 147 and possesses incredible strength for the division. He is a switch puncher who can seamlessly adapt from orthodox to southpaw and deliver power shots from both stances.

“Bud” is the better finisher and possesses a more versatile offensive arsenal. But Spence is more defensively responsible. Mix it all together — along with the stakes — and it’s impossible to imagine anything other than an action-packed match at the highest level. This one will be worth the wait. — Coppinger

What does this mean for the rest of the rising welterweights?

Former welterweight champion Keith Thurman, above, may have to wait for another title shot while Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. taking care of their rivalry.Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images

That could mean the best of the rest at 147 pounds will have to be patient for a while. We’re talking specifically about five fighters here: Jaron “Boots” Ennis, Vergil Ortiz Jr., Eimantas Stanionis, Keith Thurman and Conor Benn – once Benn is cleared of his positive drug test by the British Anti-Doping Agency. The good news is that most of those fighters are still in their 20s — all but the 34-year-old Thurman — and Benn, Ortiz and Ennis are 26 or younger. Which means getting the Crawford-Spence situation sorted out shouldn’t eat too much into their future. The expected rematch must take place before the end of 2023, Coppinger reported. And even if there is a third fight, Crawford and Spence should be ready to fight each other next summer.

What could get really interesting is if some of these fighters decide they want to fight each other in the meantime. That would make for very exciting non-title fights and could help delineate what’s going on behind Crawford-Spence. Stanionis and Ortiz will already fight each other on July 8. The only person who might be stuck waiting is the former champion, Thurman, who turns 35 in November and expected to face Spence this summer.

This is one of boxing’s youngest, deepest, most exciting divisions. Of the main contenders, only Ugas is 36 – and he’s already lost to Spence. Crawford turns 36 on September 28, but he’s the best around right now. So this division is set to be one of the best in the sport both now and in the future. — Michael Rothstein

How Spence wins

Errol Spence Jr., left, has a powerful jab and better defense.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In recent matches, Spence has proven to be very versatile. Against Mikey Garcia, a technically sound fighter who moved up in weight, Spence was the better boxer and systematically picked him apart. Spence didn’t drop a single point in a unanimous decision victory. Most recently, in the unification match against Ugas, he increased his production, imposed his will on the inside and earned a TKO.

Against Crawford, Spence will have the size advantage. Spence is considered a great welterweight, while Crawford moved up the division after becoming the undisputed junior welterweight champion.

The way Spence picked apart Ugas over 10 rounds was his most impressive victory as a welterweight champion. If Spence can vary his offensive attack with the types of punches thrown to the head and body, it should make it difficult for Crawford to time and mount a counter.

Spence appears to have more paths to victory than Crawford in this highly anticipated matchup. That is why he is expected to be the favorite on fight night. — Bone Baby

How Crawford wins

In his last fight in November, Terence Crawford, right, scored a 10th-round TKO victory over Shawn Porter.Steve Marcus/Getty Images

The strategy will depend on how Spence plans to attack Crawford. Crawford’s win over Porter is a prime example of how methodical he can be in the ring. Throughout the fight, Crawford did an excellent job of countering the aggressive Porter, moving back to create the necessary distance to land those powerful counters.

Crawford will have a slight range advantage over Spence. Between that, Spence’s abilities as an inside fighter and the size difference between the two men, Crawford’s best strategy may be to control the action on the outside and try to look for angles and windows to throw power counters.

This is how Crawford has won his last two fights. The first knockdown in the 10th round against Porter came on a counter left uppercut after Porter jumped in with a combination of his own. That set the wheels in motion for a knockdown later in the round that forced a TKO win.

Against Avanesyan, Crawford’s flush was caught a little more than usual. But in the sixth, he ended the night on a strikeout. A straight left hand followed by a southpaw right hook floored Avanesyan and left him on his back, unable to even take a 10 count.

Finding similar success against Spence could be the key to Crawford beating his biggest rival. — Baby

Will the winner become the undisputed No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter?

Probably, although there are a few other fighters who could have a say, particularly Naoya Inoue if he pulls off one of his impressive wins over Stephen Fulton when they meet on July 25 in Tokyo. Inoue has a true point. So can Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, the top two heavyweights who have been circling each other for over a year now. Those are the other likely contenders here, but if there is a definitive winner of Spence-Crawford without any controversy (it’s boxing, so you never know), that fighter should be #1.

Crawford and Spence are Nos. 1 and 4 in ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings, so it would make sense that the winner would secure the top spot. But it’s not always that simple. There’s also one yet-to-be-mentioned man, former No. 1 Canelo Alvarez, who might be able to get back into the conversation with a decisive win over John Ryder in May, after an impressive win in his trilogy fight with Gennadiy Golovkin in September. For now, that sextet is the group of fighters to consider. It could lead to an exciting end to 2022 for the sport. — Rothstein

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