Forget The Negotiating Table, How Will Spence vs Crawford Go Down In The Ring

Assessing the welterweight match-up of the decade
13:00, 24 May 2023

The time for talking is over. WBO welterweight Terence Crawford has reportedly finally agreed terms to face WBC, WBA and IBF counterpart Errol Spence Jr. It is quite simply the best fight that can be made in boxing right now. The prolonged negotiations and back-and-forth blame game came close to derailing the careers of the two best 147-pounders on the planet. But now it looks like fans will finally get a definitive answer over which of these two remarkable fighters is better.

So which is it? Now that the laborious negotiations are over and the thorny issue of purse splits and A-sides seems to have been taken care of, we can finally debate the fun bit. Boxing has always allowed for those sort of debates. More than any other sport it provides an adult successor to those Superman vs Goku playground debates. Part of the fun of following this often frustrating sport is playing out the fights in your own head before seeing how close you were to picking a winner.


So in that spirit, The Sportsman is going to try and do just that for this close-on-paper clash. Picking a winner between two unbeaten fighters isn’t easy, but let’s dig into how this superbly-matched fight could play out.

Mutual opponents is always a good place to start when summarising a potential fight between well-matched boxers. Crawford and Spence share two common foes in former world champions Shawn Porter and Kell Brook. On first glance, Crawford did a more impressive job on both fighters, knocking Porter out in ten rounds and taking just four to dismantle Brook. Spence meanwhile needed eleven rounds to shift ‘Special K’ and went the full distance with Porter, winning a decision. 

But it should be noted that Porter fought Crawford two years after he fought Spence and retired immediately afterwards. He also fought Brook three years after Spence did and the Sheffield fighter only fought once more before retiring. Considering the fact Spence actually beat Brook when he was the reigning IBF champion and Porter when he was the WBC boss, his wins are actually more impressive. Crawford may have stopped both men and done so quicker than Spence, but ‘The Truth’ beat each man for world titles in their prime.


The issue of age likely won’t affect the outcome. Spence is 33 while Crawford is 35. Both are in the latter stages of their career, a possible reflection on how long it has taken to get this fight into the ring. Spence might have the edge in freshness, having fought 28 times to Crawford’s 39 bouts. This equates to 142 rounds against 224. 

How fresh Crawford might be on fight night also boils down to the issue of weight. Spence has fought at welterweight for his entire career. However, ‘Bud’ is a former lightweight and super lightweight champion. As a fighter ages, sometimes the strain of a career moving through the weights can take its toll. We are yet to see any evidence of this yet impacting Crawford’s game, but such debilitating decline is often sudden.

Crawford has been marginally the more active fighter. While Spence has not stepped through the ropes since an April 2022 win over Yordenis Ugas, the WBO champion was last out in December. Crawford successfully defended his WBO title against David Avanesyan, knocking out the European champion in six rounds. It was a superb display, even if it flew under the radar in part due to Avanesyan not being Spence. Crawford being more ring-ready could come into it if this fight goes into the championship rounds.

But will it reach those late rounds? Crawford has 30 knockouts from 39 wins while Spence boasts 22 from 28. While both men are considered master boxers above all else, each can whack. The aforementioned Shawn Porter was asked on an episode of his ‘The Porter Way’ podcast which of the two punched harder and he opted for Spence. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the unified champion carries enough of a whack to do what no one else has managed and stop Crawford. If you were betting on this bout you’d likely pick a decision win for either fighter.

So enough hedging, which fighter are The Sportsman going to predict will gain that decision win? Currently we’re leaning towards Crawford. There is something just more dominant about ‘Bud’. He has an idiosyncratic style that is tough to work out. He has seen fighters that fight like Spence before, albeit none quite as good. But Spence has never encountered anyone that mixes power, boxing acumen, understanding of range, awkwardness and pure grit when needed like Crawford. We’re opting for the Nebraska southpaw to nick this one by a close, possibly controversial decision.

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