I was at ringside in Las Vegas for those legendary fights in the 1980’s and got a boxing lesson. It also helped that Bert Sugar, my late mentor, historian, and author was by my side. We witnessed mega fights involving Hall of Famers, the late Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Roberto Duran.
Then, legacy fights and part of boxing history at Caesars Palace, an outdoor arena built specifically to determine which fighter would be the supreme welterweight or middleweight. Boxing, then was a sport that received back page headlines and those names are synonymous with the legacies they captured.
Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford are on that path. They will finally fight for welterweight title supremacy, July 29th at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, a Showtime-Pay-Per-View event with a costly price of $84.99.
Yes, this is boxing now. It took two years to finalize a contract with Crawford and Spence Jr. initiating the talks, though so much logistics prevented this fight from happening a year ago. Not like that previous era, when pay-per-view did not exist and Hall of Fame promoters, (Don King and Bob Arum) had control. Two of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the ring had much logistics of give and take before contracts were signed.
So, we have the mega fight. A generational fight, and I don’t say that often because the sport is not structured as it once was. It’s huge and a long time coming. But for the next six weeks all the attention will center on every move of Spence Jr. and Crawford. Added is the significance of a title unification and that doesn’t occur much in this four-belt era of alphabet soup boxing titles.
Crawford, the WBO champion and undefeated (39-0, 30 KO’s) and Spence Jr, the undefeated (28-0, 22 KO’s) WBC, WBA, IBF title holder, seeking to be the first undisputed world champion in the four-belt era.
Hagler, Hearns, Leonard, and Duran had personalities that captured boxing and mainstream fans, easy sells for the promoters and closed circuit television outlets. They lived up to their billing and memorable fights were held during their epic battles of back-and forth, one against the other.
This fight in late July should live up to expectations, though times are different and boxing is not a mainstream headline. There is an exception though, for the cluster that consume social media with blogs, and a few of the reputed web sites providing daily features and updates.
Spence Jr. and Crawford, similar to the recent Gervonta Davis-Ryan Garcia PPV spectacle in late April, a fight that generated over 1 million pay-per-view buys, will draw similar numbers. Though the fight, as I say, needs no hype, The fighters concluded a two-city press tour Wednesday in New York at the Palladium in Times Square and a bit different from their Tuesday event in Los Angeles.
And much like Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran, Spence Jr. and Crawford have no animosity, there is mutual respect. Though in New York they babbled on about who beat a previous opponent.
Kell Brook and Shawn Porter, two former welterweight champions, are common opponents. Spence broke Brook’s jaw in 2017 and Crawford TKO’d Brook in the fourth round in 2000. It was Spence Jr. who said he was the better welterweight.
Spence Jr. also opposed Porter and won a split unanimous decision in 2019. Crawford stopped Porter in the 10th round two years ago.
Respect, though that also got some laughs when Spence Jr. said, “I’m the biggest fish. He (Crawford) is not catching me with no damm fishing pole. He better come with a submarine. I’m the biggest shark. You ain’t catching Moby Dick with a fishing pole.”
“Fish filet,” Crawford said. “I like to go fishing. Everyone knows that’s my hobby.”
Regardless of the talk, this is a fight boxing needs. It’s been a dormant stage for the sport when it comes to the mega fight, much different than those days in the 1980’s when it was more than Hagler, Hearns, Leonard, and Duran. Styles make fights and it has been difficult to choose one over the other.
“All the titles I took, I took them from the champions,” Spence Jr. said. “You line ‘em up. I’m gonna knock ‘em down. It doesn’t matter what happens. I get the job done. This is the biggest fight in boxing. When you look at your styles, and throw out our mentalities, you know neither of us are gonna want to break. I feel like someone is gonna break on fight night.”
It doesn’t matter who breaks first. Boxing has waited a long time for Spence Jr, and Crawford to determine supremacy. And it will be more than big.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso