LAS VEGAS — The hype machine was dialed up to “11.” The trash talking was also at a high level. The trainers were woofing at each other and the audience hurled catcalls at both of the principals.
I guess that boxing will never change. Though watching Mike Tyson spin a basketball on his finger before the press conference was something I wasn’t expecting.
So it was at T-Mobile Arena Thursday as Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. commanded the microphones to give their thoughts on their undisputed welterweight unification title fight Saturday. Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia may have thought they had the “Fight of the Year” when they met in April. But with all due respect to those two excellent fighters, it doesn’t rise to the level of Spence-Crawford, who are a combined 67-0 with 52 knockouts.
This has been a fight that fans have been demanding for the past few years and it took the two combatants to get on the phone and make it happen while still in their prime. So kudos to them. Both Crawford and Spence understand their place in the sport’s history and Saturday has a chance to be on the right side of that history should they deliver the fight they claim they will.
Of course, the good folks at Showtime, which is the TV muscle behind the fight and will air it on Pay Per View (cost is $84.99 if you’re so inclined to purchase it), are trumpeting it as the biggest fight in a long time.
How big? Think Tyson Fury’s rubber match with Deontay Wilder. Think Floyd Mayweather Jr. against Manny Pacquiao. Think Tommy Hearns vs. Sugar Ray Leonard. The hype for this fight is certainly in the neighborhood with those legendary meetings.
But that’s the business. Boxing is built on hyperbole and if Stephen Espinoza, the president of Showtime Sports, can convince you to spend your money and watch Saturday’s fight card from the home of the Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, then he’s doing his job.
Obviously, both fighters say they’re going to win. Crawford, who once held all the belts as the super lightweight champion, is looking to do it a second time, this time as a welterweight, and cement an already brilliant legacy. The 35-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska usually doesn’t engage in all the promotional yammering. He’s normally a man of few words, letting his longtime trainer Brian McIntyre handle the verbal assaults.
B-Mac usually gets off a few good zingers, like his shot across the bow to Derrick James when he said: “We’ve been there before; You’re trying to get there,” Crawford had a couple of verbal shots of his own for Spence, including: “We’re gonna have a fish fry come Saturday.”
There’s reasons to like both fighters’ chances. Spence, who lives in DeSoto, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, is younger (28), bigger and has three of the four belts (WBC, WBA, IBF). His 28-0 record has 22 knockouts alongside it. Among those he has conquered are Kell Brook, Lamont Peterson, Shawn Porter, Mikey Garcia, Danny Garcia and, most recently, Yordenis Ugas. No one can accuse him of ducking anyone.
Likewise, Crawford, the WBO belt-holder, has handled his business in going 39-0 with 30 KOs, including eight straight stoppages in his last eight fights. He has developed into an adaptable fighter and once he has his opponent figured out, he takes them out. For someone who has been fighting professionally since 2008, Crawford has learned his craft exceptionally well and even at age 35, he remains one of the sport’s most dangerous competitors.
His legacy as one of the best of his generation is established. A win Saturday over Spence, a former U.S. Olympian and handing him his first professional loss would cement that legacy as an all-time great.
Conversely, Spence is trying to add to his own legacy. You hear it in his voice when he speaks about what this means to him, the respect he has for Crawford and the lack to throw any false bravado into the conversation. Guys who usually run their mouths don’t normally back it up in the ring and I think Crawford is respecting Spence and what he has done so far.
Which is why it has the makings of a special night. How special? Well, that depends if the two fighters deliver as they promised they would. Garcia said he was going to demolish Davis only to find himself on the wrong side of the demolition as he got run over by the Tank.
Of course, we remember that Pacquiao came into the ring a one-armed fighter against Mayweather and we all know how that turned out. As they say, you pay your money, you take your chances.
We’ve got two guys who like to hit people and are pretty good at avoiding getting hit. So chances are we could see a decent fight. As of Friday morning, Crawford was a minus-150 favorite at Station Casinos. I would expect the Spence money to come in as first bell approaches Saturday as bettors no doubt see him as a live underdog.
Will it rise to the level of Hagler-Hearns in 1985? Probably not. But it might be worth shelling out the $84.99 to find out.