Larry Merchant, who had a distinguished run as newspaper man, before embarking on an illustrious run at HBO Sports, still follows the fight game avidly. During our lunches the past few years he would state that there was one fight he wanted to see more than any other -- Errol Spence-Terence Crawford.
For a few years it seemed as though this fight would never come to fruition. Yet, this Saturday night from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, they finally clash for the undisputed welterweight title.
The old man has gotten his wish.
And it's his belief that it's not your garden variety 'big fight' involving welterweight belt-holders.
"Not just welterweight, but to see two American fighters in a fight that is so big, an event. Anybody who ever saw a fight wants to see this one," said Merchant last Friday, as he was enjoying an afternoon lunch at the Water Grill off the Santa Monica Beach.
It would be hyperbole to say it's the modern day Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns, as Merchant pointed out, "It's different in a sense that those fighters were 10 years younger than these fighters. They were well known, it was a huge event, a terrific fight. I'm just hoping in this fight that it's so good we want to see it again.
Back in 1981 as Leonard and Hearns engaged in the classic battle which was won by Leonard in 14 rounds, they were right around 25 and 23 years old, respectively. Spence is 33, Crawford 35, some will argue this bout should've taken place a few years ago. But that isn't to say that this bout has lost it's historical value.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
With both boxers being in the Ring Magazine's top four in their pound-for-pound ratings (Crawford at three, with Spence right behind him at four), and Spence is Ring's number one rated welterweight, followed by 'Bud'. The winner of this contest will become the undisputed champion at 147. This is still very much a legacy fight for both participants.
Merchant points out, "The fighter who is in his prime in this era, is generally older than the fighters who were in their primes in previous eras. Maybe they've still got it."
How rare is a fight of this magnitude? A Showtime Sports press release pointed out these tidbits:
- Spence vs. Crawford is the first undisputed welterweight championship fight in the four-belt era, which began in 1988.
- Spence vs. Crawford is only the fourth welterweight unification fight in boxing history between unbeaten champions. The other three:
- Donald Curry (WBA, IBF) vs. Milton McCrory (WBA) in 1985
- Felix Trinidad (IBF) vs. Oscar De La Hoya (WBC) in 1999
- Keith Thurman (WBA) vs. Danny Garcia (WBC) in 2017
- Spence vs. Crawford has the most combined wins between them (67-0).
- Should Crawford win, he’ll become the first male fighter in the four-belt era to become an undisputed champion in two different weight divisions (140 and 147-pounds).
- There have been only 12 other welterweight unification fights in boxing history.
So yeah, a lot is on the line this weekend. While many other followers of the sport lost hope that this would ever take place, Merchant -- who can be described as a cynical optimist -- never did. "No, because to me it seemed like even the fighter who had to settle for less, it would still be more money than he can make more money then he could anywhere else,'' he reasoned.
As for whom Merchant is tabbing, well, since he's not working this event, he has no problems stating his opinion.
"Well, I'm one of the crazies who likes Spence,'' said Merchant, who favors the betting underdog. "In these big showdowns it's been my recollection that way more often than not, the boxer wins. That would favor Crawford, but I don't think that Crawford has ever fought anybody on the level of Spence. The level of toughness, the level of skill, the level of anger.
"I think that I'm picking him. But if Crawford goes out and stops him, it wouldn't be the shock of my life."
I'm sure by now you've heard about Naoya Inoue's 8th round destruction of Stephen Fulton, to win the WBC and WBO junior featherweight titles.
In short, it was a sterling effort by one of the most special fighters of this generation. It prompted this email from an old friend of mine (entitled, 'Clear as Day') from 'Battleship' Pittman....
"Ok, we won’t know who the best welterweight on Earth is until Saturday, but we know who the PFP best is on the 3rd rock from the sun and that fighters name is Naoya Inoue. I have been blessed to see a lot of truly fantastic and talented fighters in my time watching boxing. But it’s hard to say that any of them stand too much higher than the boxer from Japan. He is so tremendously skilled in all the varied aspects of the Sweet Science. If you are a fight fan who values skills, married to power, he is awe inspiring to watch. What a talent!
Also looking forward to Saturday. We FINALY have an honest-to-god PPV! I haven’t bought a PPV in a long time, but they have my $85 for this one. It’s worth it! Despite my moaning and complaining about how boxing has lost it’s way from early in the year. This week makes be very glad I am a fight fan.
Take care Steve!
I don't think much more needs to be said.
This week on 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' Mario Lopez and I review Inoue-Fulton, and give a full preview of Spence-Crawford. Click on the Linktree to subscribe on your preferred podcast platform:
And here's the YouTube version of the show:
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