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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Terence Crawford knocks out Errol Spence in one-sided bout

Terence Crawford dominated in his victory over Errol Spence Jr.

By Morgan Campbell

Terence Crawford turned the most significant boxing match of the year into a bruising lesson in the sweet science, dropping Errol Spence Jr. three times en route to a ninth-round knockout Saturday night in Las Vegas to become the undisputed champion at 147 pounds.

Crawford, now 40-0 with 31 knockouts, entered the bout as the World Boxing Organization champion. In dismantling Spence, Crawford added titles from the World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council. The win makes Crawford, 35, of Omaha, Nebraska, the first undisputed welterweight champion since 2007, and the first in the welterweight division to hold all four titles simultaneously.

After the final bell, Crawford draped the three new belts over his shoulders and raised one fist in triumph while he sipped from a blue water bottle.

“I’m an overachiever,” Crawford said. “Nobody believed in me when I was coming up, but I kept achieving.”

Over the past half-decade, Spence and Crawford have established themselves as the top performers in a talented division. From a competitive standpoint, matching them up against one another seemed natural. But boxing is also a business, and promotional contracts helped keep Spence and Crawford apart until Saturday.

Spence is signed to the Premier Boxing Champions managerial outfit, and won his world titles by defeating other PBC aligned fighters — Kell Brook in 2017, Mikey Garcia in 2019, and Yordenis Ugás in 2022. Crawford spent the bulk of his career signed to the promoter Top Rank, winning and defending his belt in Top Rank events.

When Crawford became a promotional free agent in November 2021, a showdown with Spence seemed the logical next step. Spence called for a Crawford fight after defeating Ugás, but an agreement to face Crawford in late 2022 fell apart. Crawford instead faced a challenger named David Avanesyan, dispatching him in six rounds in December 2022.

Then came more negotiations.

In the absence of an actual fight, fans and observers of the sport were forced to imagine how Spence’s and Crawford’s styles might mesh. How would Crawford deal with Spence’s rock-solid fundamentals and steady pressure? Could Spence handle Crawford’s switch-hitting and power punching?

Saturday’s bout finally provided some answers.

Spence pressed forward at the start behind a stiff right jab, forcing Crawford to circle the perimeter of the ring, with 22-foot by 22-foot dimensions that figured to favor the shiftier Crawford.

But in round two, a quick exchange of punches ended with a short right jab from Crawford that put an off-balance Spence on the canvas. The knockdown marked the first time either fighter had been dropped in his professional career but in the moment it seemed brief and inconsequential. Spence opened the next round on offense, as if to prove the punch had not damaged him.

As the fight wore on, however, Crawford’s superior timing and one-punch power had become apparent.

In round seven, Spence gathered himself to throw a looping left. As the punch traveled toward Crawford’s head, Crawford fired a short, sharp right hook that dropped Spence a second time. Just before the bell, a double right hook knocked Spence off his feet again.

A flurry of hard punches in round nine prompted the referee, Harvey Dock, to stop the fight.

For Crawford, the result was a lesson on the value of turning defense into offense.

“Our main focus was the jab,” he said. “Take away his best attribute and the rest is history.”

From here, another Spence-Crawford fight is possible, even after the one-sided result. A clause in the contract allows the loser to call for an immediate rematch. One or both fighters might also move up to the 154-pound junior middleweight class. Spence had hinted that the Crawford bout would be his last in the 147-pound welterweight division.

“We gotta do it again,” Spence, now 28-1, said in the ring after the fight. “I’ll be a lot better.”

If Crawford changes weight classes, the welterweight belts would likely become vacant, setting off a scramble for championships among contenders like Ugás, Cody Crowley, and Jaron Ennis, the standout contender from Philadelphia.

Saturday’s bout attracted attention from a broad spectrum of sports fans. T-Mobile Arena, which seats 20,000 people for boxing events, filled by the time Spence entered the ring.

And the list of celebrities in attendance included boxing legends Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather Jr., billionaire sports owners Jerry Jones and Mark Davis, as well as Cardi B and Offset, the hip-hop power couple. Rapper Eminem walked Crawford to the ring.

And the event drew especially deep interest in each fighter’s hometown, prompting the mayor of Dallas, Eric Johnson, and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert to make a friendly side bet. If Crawford won, Johnson promised to send Stothert a Texas-style belt buckle, and if Spence won, Stothert pledged to send Johnson a package of Omaha steaks.

Among serious gamblers, the betting odds thinly favored Crawford, showing that the matchup between previously undefeated boxers was, functionally, a tossup.

Until they got into the ring.

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