After months of speculation and premature reports, it now looks as though the highly anticipated welterweight showdown between Errol Spence and Terence Crawford will not take place on November 19 as hoped.
ESPN's Mike Coppinger reported this on Friday:
Spence-Crawford could possibly take place down the line, perhaps in the first quarter of 2023. But this much is clear: with Crawford just having celebrated his 35th birthday, and Spence now 32, the argument can be made that this bout is now past its 'best-by' date.
To keep this in perspective, when Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns engaged in their historic duel in 1981, Leonard was 25, while 'the Hit Man' was a month shy of 23. It was one of the greatest fights in boxing history with 'Sugar Ray' rallying in the late rounds to score a dramatic 14th round stoppage.
By the time they did their rematch in 1989, I vividly recall many media members and pundits deriding this match-up as being years too late in the making, especially with Hearns struggling mightily with James Kinchen in his previous bout. This was thought off as a match-up of two old guys.
Yet, they were still younger at that juncture than Spence and Crawford, currently.
To use another example, when Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad clashed in their welterweight unification bout in 1999, they were both 26.
This isn't to say that Spence-Crawford still isn't a premiere bout. In the Ring Magazine pound-for-pound rankings, Crawford is third, with Spence right behind him at four. Meanwhile in their welterweight ratings, Spence (who has the WBC, WBA and IBF belts) is rated number one, with Crawford (the WBO titlist) second. Both boxers remain undefeated.
Some have called this the modern day version of Leonard-Hearns, but really, that's hyperbole. The reality is that today's game is watered down and fighters aren't nearly as seasoned or as proven at the world-class level. Although, it has to be said that both Spence and Crawford are among the more accomplished fighters in the sport.
But I do vividly recall Leonard-Hearns truly being a national event that transcended sports. All of the networks -- both locally in Los Angeles and nationally -- covered this event. As a young kid who was then living in Valencia, California, I still recall a scroll coming down on the bottom of the screen giving the result of the fight on a Wednesday(yes, Wednesday) night on CBS.
It was that big, because these two were well-known figures. They were kept active and got nationwide exposure on a regular basis. Yes, the game of boxing was bigger and better back then. Now, it's largely a niche sport, which is oftentimes bogged down by promotional rivalries and network alliances.
In that era, boxers like Leonard and Hearns were well-known brands.
Case in point, from the beginning of 1978 -- when both Leonard and Hearns became full-fledged 10 round fighters -- till the night of September 16, 1981, Leonard performed 25 times. Hearns had 27 bouts in that same stretch. Mind you, this was an era when networks like ABC, NBC and CBS were televising the sport on a regular basis.
I recall during one of my summertime visits to South Korea in the summer of 1981 watching a card on the Armed Forces Network (which was all I watched during my visits there) that was co-headlined by this dynamic duo. Leonard faced Ayib Kalule for a 154 pound title, scoring a ninth round TKO. While Hearns got rid of Pablo Baez in four. This event was held at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, as a prelude to their showdown at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
On the flip side, going back to 2018, Crawford and Spence have each had six appearances in the ring.
And if this bout doesn't take place in '22, that means that Crawford will have gone a full year since his last outing, as he stopped Shawn Porter last November. Since then he has been sidelined after leaving Top Rank. Spence last fought in April, scoring a 10th round stoppage of Yordenis Ugas, after sitting out all of 2021.
To be fair, Crawford began his career as a lightweight (where he captured his first world title) and then became unified champion at 140 before moving up to the welterweight division in 2018. So in reality, they have been in the same weight class for five years.
Regardless, there is a very valid argument to be made that this bout should've happened at least a year or two ago. You can no longer just blame Bob Arum.
But there is this harsh reality, while they are respected among the hard-core fans, they are relatively unknown to the masses. They may simply not be worth the money that they are demanding, or expecting, for this bout. I'm assuming this has been one of the difficulties in consummating this deal.
Time waits for no man, and Father Time is nearly undefeated in the sport. Interest is beginning to wane in this fight.
The clock is ticking on Spence-Crawford.