The only ruling necessary after Terence Crawford’s TKO of Errol Spence Jr. was whether Saturday’s fight at the T Mobile Center in Las Vegas met the hype. It was one-sided throughout, as Crawford (40-0, 31 KOs) put Spence (28-1, 22 KOS) on the canvas in the second round for the first time in Spence’s career, and then two more times after that in the seventh before ref Harvey Dock stopped the bout in the ninth.
Crawford, a native of Omaha, Neb., is now the undisputed welterweight champion, adding the IBF, WBA, and WBC 147-titles, in addition to his WBO belt.
This was supposed to be as even as they come, and usually with those kinds of prize fights, it’s a lot of boxers feeling each other out before someone gains a lead and clenches their way to a victory. This was not that. Crawford sensed blood from the second round on and repeatedly hit Spence with counters, power punches, and a sobering jab that halted any pretense Spence had about being the aggressor.
If it wasn’t for Showtime’s announcers losing their shit over Crawford’s flawless performance, you would’ve never known this was years in the making, and that’s where we should start.
It was memorable in that people were calling it Crawford’s signature performance, but the contests that linger the most are all-out wars, featuring two boxers at the peak of their powers exchanging punches. There were very few back-and-forths.
When Spence looked to have finally landed a punch to change the momentum, Crawford would tag him with a vicious counter, like this in the seventh for the second knockdown.
Further examination of replays showed most of Spence’s best offerings glanced a little off target, or were minutely deflected by Crawford.
Obviously, knockdowns and knockouts are fun, and really spike the testosterone. However, seeing a guy beaten to a bloody pulp for nine rounds (Spence was visibly messed up from round 3 on) certainly wasn’t Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder III, nor was it an upset like Andy Ruiz Jr. stunning Anthony Joshua.
I feel like I keep telling you what it wasn’t instead of what it was: An athlete showing up in the most spectacular way on the biggest stage.
If I were to play devil’s advocate, the casual boxing fan could say, Spence is past his prime, or wasn’t prepared for his ambidextrous opponent, or there’s some correlation between how easily his face caved in and the detached retina he had repaired a few years back.
There are no casual fans in boxing anymore though.
It’s an even more niche sport than UFC, and the lunatics who planned their weekend around Saturday’s fight know that Crawford’s performance was certifiably ridiculous. (As do his peers.) He landed 50 percent of his punches, 42 percent of his jabs, and a jaw-dropping (rattling?) 60 percent of his power punches (98 of 263).
The first knockdown wasn’t even that Crawford caught Spence, but rather two well-timed, accurate, and powerful jabs that knocked him off balance and then on his ass.
Here’s one of those 98 landed power punches, a right hook in the seventh that sent Spence sprawling for the third time.
By the ninth round, Spence was reduced to target practice, and seeing as how this wasn’t a sparring session with proper safety equipment, that’s when the ref called it.
The fight’s contract has a rematch clause in it at the loser’s discretion, and after the bout, Spence said, “Hell yeah we gotta do it again.”
Perhaps a rematch would give added context to the greatness displayed Saturday, but a performance like that doesn’t need to be juxtaposed with anything to stand out. No, all it needs is a rewatch, because Terence Crawford was, in a word, perfect.