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Teddy Atlas on today’s welterweights: It’s close to the 80s, if they’d fight each other

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Teddy Atlas loves the talent at welterweight, but doesn’t think we’ll see the matchups we want.

Trainer and analyst Teddy Atlas spoke with Marcos Villegas of Fight Hub TV about the current state of the talented but fractured welterweight division.

Asked about the one big fight it seems everyone wants to see, Terence Crawford against Errol Spence Jr, Atlas broke down the matchup while praising the abilities of both.

“I love Crawford. I love Spence. Two of my favorite guys, I love them both,” he said. “They behave well in the ring and outside the ring. They’re champions inside the ring and they’re champions outside the ring. I like them. I really care a lot about both of them.”

As for a prediction, Atlas seems to lean toward IBF titleholder Spence (25-0, 21 KO), but is quick to say no one should count out WBO titleholder Crawford (34-0, 25 KO).

“If you put a gun to my head, I’d say that maybe, maybe Spence is too young, too big, too strong,” he said. “I don’t say that recklessly, I gotta be careful saying that about Crawford, because Crawford’s a special guy. He’s a special guy. With his science, with his instincts, with his power that he’s carried up, even though he looks a little light in the backside, as they might say in football. He makes up for it it a lot of ways. You can’t count him out.

“But again, put a gun to my head, I’m just gonna say that you’re looking at Spence, he’s a really big welterweight, with a guy who did move up. He’s relentless, always on top of you.”

Atlas does think Crawford has his own advantages in the matchup that could counter the size advantage of Spence.

“He would control the real estate. Like I liked to say on ESPN when I was doing the fights, he’d charge you for your real estate,” he said. “There’s a price on every foot of real estate in that ring, except his price is punches. It might be four punches for every square foot you’re trying to eat up in that real estate. That’s obviously the way Crawford would go about it.

He added, “Crawford would use his range. He would stay on the outside. He would look to, again, charge for real estate, make him pay a price to come forward, make it very difficult to come forward, take advantage of that aggression, make him pay for that aggression.”

As for the rest of the welterweights, Atlas doesn’t want anyone to forget about WBA titleholder Keith Thurman (29-0, 22 KO), though he says Thurman’s tougher to scout right now.

“Thurman, it’s hard to get a handle on him, because he’s not active,” he said. “But to me, he’s still — the way he was, was one of the most athletic guys in the business. Maybe the most athletic guy in the business. Loved him! Good intellect, good mix of everything. But he hasn’t been around. But that welterweight division is very interesting. It’s loaded with a lot of talent.”

That talent, Atlas says, is nearly on par with the golden period from the 1980s, but he notes the obvious key difference, and why he thinks this crop won’t live up to that one.

“The big difference from that and the 80s, I almost compare it to the 80s — the 80s was better, let’s face it. Where you gonna get too many eras that have Sugary Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, Pryor, Wilfred Benitez. Where you gonna get those guys at welterweight?

“And there’s one other thing: they fought each other! That’s the problem right now with the promotion differences, how are we gonna get those guys in the ring? Then you’re almost talking 80s! You’re not quite with Leonard, Hearns, Benitez, Aaron Pryor, the guys we just mentioned, all those guys. Not quite there, but you’re close — if they fight each other. That’d be good.

“But it’s not gonna happen. It’s not gonna happen because of the way the sport is.”