Spence Vs Crawford And The History Of Welterweight Superfights

Where will Saturday's big bout sit in the pantheon of history?
08:00, 29 Jul 2023

While the heavyweight division has long carried the fortunes of the sport of boxing, the welterweight class is the red right hand behind the base of power. Where the big men often lumber, the 147-pounders glide. Where the heavies thud, the welters slice. The division has played host to some of the most stunning fighters in fistic history. Sluggers, stylists, speedsters and steam-engines of pugilistic brilliance. 

Two men who fit the bill face off this Saturday, as WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford looks to land the undisputed crown against WBC, WBA and IBF counterpart Errol Spence Jr. The future of not only the welterweight division but the pound-for-pound throne will be at stake in Las Vegas as two PHDs of the square ring deliver a lecture in the academics of sockology.

Spence-Crawford sits in a decorated pantheon of defining welterweight collisions. Boxing history is replete with examples of the finest 147-pounders in history. The Sportsman compiles just a few of these generational welterweight clashes to whet your appetite for the latest chapter in the division’s deep history.


Barney Ross vs Jimmy McLarnin I, 28th May 1934

Wins over former champions Young Corbett III and the great Benny Leonard put McLarnin in the sights of welterweight champion Ross. In front of 60,000 at a bulging Madison Square Garden Bowl, Ross pounded out a 15-round split decision in a bracing battle. The bout would win Fight of the Year in The Ring magazine and spark a rivalry between the two.

McLarnin won a rematch four months later on another split decision. Ross would emerge victorious in the decider, taking the only unanimous nod of the trilogy at the New York Polo Grounds in 1935.

Sugar Ray Robinson vs Tommy Bell II, 20th December 1946

The two had clashed the year before in a 10-rounder, with Robinson taking the spoils. But after an arduous five-year wait, finally the ‘Sugar Man’ would fight for the welterweight championship of the world. Marty Servo had vacated the strap in September, clearing the way for this vacant championship collision.

Robinson had to climb off the canvas in the second round and was seen to have sacrificed the majority of the first five sessions to Bell. But a rally from the soon-to-be champion saw the crown placed on his head. Bell was clubbed to the canvas in the 11th round but survived to hear the final toll and a unanimous verdict in Sugar Ray’s favour.

Sugar Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns I, 16th September 1981

Picking up the baton from his namesake, Sugar Ray Leonard proved himself to be another of history’s great fighters. Fights like his 14th round TKO of ‘Hitman’ Hearns are much of the reason why.

Each man came into this battle in red-hot form. Leonard was on a run of three wins including annexing the light middleweight title of Ayub Kalule and avenging his defeat to Roberto Duran. Hearns was unbeaten and fresh from eight consecutive stoppage victories. These two streaks would end against Leonard’s fistic brilliance. A rematch in 1989 up at super middleweight would be scored a draw.

Pernell Whitaker vs Julio Cesar Chavez, 10th September 1993

A match so controversial it is easy to forget it was one of the biggest staged in the busy decade of the 1990s. Whitaker and Chavez’s meeting was seen as so definitive it was billed simply as ‘The Fight’. Unfortunately the muddied result had little of the build-up’s decisiveness.

Whitaker looked to have done more than enough with one of his typically-virtuoso stylistic performances. Two of the three scoring judges disagreed, rendering a draw as the official verdict. The press row and majority of fans had ‘Sweet Pea’ in the lead and official enquiries were launched. They came to little, leaving us with a superb 12 rounds of tainted superfight action.

Shane Mosley vs Oscar De La Hoya I, 17th June 2000

The biggest money draw in the sport outside the heavyweight division, De La Hoya sought redemption against Mosley. Having lost his WBC title to Felix Trinidad via a controversial decision the previous year, ‘Golden Boy’ was out for revenge against ‘Sugar’ Shane.

Trinidad vacated the belt to move up to middleweight and the unworn crown was claimed by De La Hoya. When ‘Tito’ wasn’t amenable to a rematch, unbeaten former lightweight king Mosley was tapped. A closely fought and engaging affair, Oscar once again felt he’d done enough to win. Once again the scorecards conflicted with his vision of the fight. Mosley was awarded the nod. Mosley would win another decision in 2003 with the light middleweight title on the line.

Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao, 2nd May 2015

Spence-Crawford is the first welterweight superfight since this hotly-anticipated bout in 2015. Truthfully, these two warriors should have met years before. When Mayweather and Pacquiao were carving up the welterweight divisions throughout the 2000s and early 2010s, they should have faced off. Ideally any 2015 fight between them should have been the capper to a trilogy.

But this is the fight we got and it was an incredible occasion. Fans later complained about Mayweather’s defensive tactics, but anyone doing so had obviously never seen ‘Money’ fight. It was up to ‘Pacman’ to find a way through and he failed to do so as Mayweather picked up a deserved unanimous decision.

spence vs crawford fight odds*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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