Following last night’s win over Danny Garcia, Errol Spence Jr didn’t make any big challenges, no bold call-outs, not much at all when asked about what he wants to do next. That’s not that unusual, but it’s also not much of a conversation. We can speculate, though, because that’s what we do. One fight ends, what’s the next one?
Spence (27-0, 21 KO) looked good in the fight; everyone agrees he was basically the “old” Errol Spence Jr, no bad rust after the layoff, showed no troublesome ill effects of his horrific car crash. He went out, fought a good opponent, and won again.
That means he’s as ready as he’ll get to face anyone. Spence, 30, said he plans to return in the summer of 2021 after a solid break — it’s been a very long year for him, even longer in many ways than it has been for all of us — and then he’ll figure it out.
The fight that everyone who follows boxing wants to see at 147 pounds is Spence against Terence Crawford. It would unify three belts (Spence’s WBC and IBF, Crawford’s WBO), it would pit the No. 1 vs No. 2 fighter in the division, in whichever order you have, and it would be a meeting of two in-prime, top pound-for-pound sort of talents.
There is nothing not to like about Spence-Crawford (or Crawford-Spence, if you prefer). It is a must-make fight.
But as has been detailed a billion times in the last couple of years, and many times before with many other “must-make fights,” it ain’t that simple.
Spence is with PBC and FOX. Crawford is with Top Rank and ESPN. Crawford’s deal with Top Rank ends in October of next year, reportedly, and there have been more than whispers that the two sides haven’t been seeing fully eye-to-eye. As we’ve laid out before, Crawford could wait until next fall, not fight again, let the deal expire, and move on, sign with PBC and get his fight. But Bud probably doesn’t really want to sit out nearly a full year.
The contract situation might make it even harder for Top Rank/ESPN to make a deal with PBC/FOX for the matchup. The sides have worked together before, co-producing the Wilder-Fury 2 pay-per-view this past February, and it was a good event, sold pretty well (not quite the 328349 billion buys Top Rank’s Bob Arum suggested were coming, but pretty well), and everything seemed to run smoothly.
It really is doable, but it still, frustratingly, seems unlikely, and that’s even though Crawford was in attendance last night, and even acknowledged by PBC:
All I’ll say there is don’t let that get you too excited and thus gravely disappointed when it’s not next.
Crawford (37-0, 28 KO) is nearly flat out of intriguing opponents, not just in-house at Top Rank but with the promoters they regularly can work with. Golden Boy have Vergil Ortiz Jr, but with Canelo gone, Golden Boy may not want to rush a bright young star into a fight he’s not quite ready for, which could harm not just his record, but perhaps his confidence if the truly elite veteran dominates the young stud. Top Rank have no one of any great interest, Matchroom don’t really have anyone for Crawford, Golden Boy don’t, the lesser promoters don’t, really. Other than Mikey Garcia — who Top Rank split with not-so-amicably years ago — all the top names as well as the better mid-tier names are at PBC. Top Rank have already done their best to sell faded versions of Amir Khan and Kell Brook, as well as Egidijus Kavaliauskas, their best in-house welter who isn’t “Bud.”
On paper, it’s far more of a desperation situation for Crawford, as far as right now, than it would be for Spence. Spence has money options, pay-per-view level options. Not mega-blockbusters, not as big as Crawford would be, but good options with brand names. Crawford doesn’t.
And while all of that makes for good conversation, or frustrating conversation, here’s something we all should probably start admitting: neither of them seem all that interested in going out of their way to make this fight happen. There’s a point at which you can’t just keep blaming shadowy Al Haymon or that old crank Bob Arum. Spence and Crawford could push for the fight if they wanted it badly enough. They have not, and they continue to not, as of last night. I think it’s time we start clearly involving them in the blame for this fight seemingly being no closer to reality than it was two summers ago.
Some of you might not want to believe it, but the biggest active name in the division is still Manny Pacquiao. Soon to turn 42, the Filipino Senator hasn’t fought since his July 2019 win over Keith Thurman, and is sitting out all of 2020. He had plans, it seemed, to face Conor McGregor in a big novelty bout in 2021, but McGregor is fighting with UFC in January, and it seems like that idea has been shelved.
Pacquiao-McGregor could absolutely still be revisited after January, and even come together quickly and get a summer date, at least if McGregor wins in the Octagon™©®. If he loses, the idea takes a huge hit, and McGregor would likely announce a 12th retirement from fighting via another Great Tweet.
Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO) is still a terrific fighter, the third-best welterweight in the world by most all independent rankings, amazing for his age and fantastic period. His last fight was a legit win over a good opponent.
But does he still really compete with Spence, or Crawford for that matter? Crawford-Pacquiao was supposedly close to coming together this year, then negotiations fell through. That could be revisited; that could be Crawford’s Big Fight.
Pacquiao would drive big money against either man, but let me be clear: I think it’s a lesser fight in every way compared to Crawford-Spence, which I believe would do bigger business despite Pacquiao still having the most name value, because a Crawford-Pacquiao or Spence-Pacquiao matchup will have a lot of people thinking it just won’t be competitive anymore, some mad that it’s not what they really want.
Let’s say on the event scale, Spence-Pacquiao or Crawford-Pacquiao come in at an 8 for the public’s feeling and awareness, because of Pacquiao’s name. I think it plateaus there, right at the 8 out of 10. Spence-Crawford might be a 7 right off the bat, but it’s the sort of fight you can promote and sell up to a 9 or 10, because for once you don’t have to lie a lot.
Look, we know for a fact that Shawn Porter will fight anyone. He’s said he would like to fight Crawford next; one scenario could see Spence-Pacquiao and Crawford-Porter, then the winners meet. That’s an idea. And if Porter can’t make a fight with “Bud,” and he got offered a rematch with Spence, Shawn would absolutely take it. He does not turn down tough fights.
Keith Thurman wants Spence, but Spence has stated repeatedly he has no interest in fighting Thurman. That’s a way to sell a fight, too, but Thurman has also lost a lot of buzz in the last three years, with his only fights being a struggle win over Josesito Lopez and a loss to Pacquiao. And Spence seems to hold a grudge for some comments Keith made when Thurman was up near the top and Spence was a rising contender. His school of thought seems to be, if Thurman didn’t want to give Errol a shot back then, why should Errol give Thurman a shot now?
Yordenis Ugas has the secondary WBA “world” title, but he’s a good fighter with no fan base, and that makes for a classic tough sell. I don’t think Spence would “duck” Ugas, I just think it’s not a fight PBC would be itching to put together, and it’s not like Ugas is the best option in literally any way. Getting that secondary belt on Ugas seems to me largely like a way for PBC to placate the Cuban, in all honesty. “Hey, buddy, you’re the champ!” And then you just let him fight Sergey Lipinets or Josesito Lopez or Jamal James on FOX. You even get to sell “the welterweight championship” to the viewers at home! Brian Kenny will spend an evening telling you with a straight face that Ugas is the champ!
The aforementioned Lipinets, Lopez, James — those are all guys in theory who could fight Spence, but who wants to see it? Spence didn’t take a “tune-up” after nearly losing his life and a long layoff. Why would he want one next summer?
Bottom line: the fight to make is Terence Crawford, but being a boxing fan carries with it a frustration that sometimes the fight to make ain’t happening, and you can either accept that with a dull rage in your chest, because there’s fuck all you can do about it anyway, or you can keep screaming on social media if you want, that’s your call. Boxing does not listen to its fan base very often, so the idea that “putting pressure on” will make any difference is quaint at best.
But Spence-Crawford is The Fight. Period. Pacquiao would drive interest, but not like Spence-Crawford. And nobody else, with due respect to good fighters, comes anywhere close.
It’s time. It’s been time. Even if it doesn’t happen.