The best week of boxing in years didn’t go quite as expected. 

Two highly anticipated matches perceived as nearly even going in turned into something else entirely. From two superfights we got a pair of singular performances for the ages. In the last thirty years, there are a relative handful of performances like the pair we got just four days apart: Roy Jones-James Toney, Floyd Mayweather-Diego Corrales, Bernard Hopkins-Felix Trinidad, Vernon Forrest-Shane Mosley; there are a few more, but not many. (photo by Ryan Hafey)

To see them virtually back-to-back will always be memorable

Naoya Inoue’s masterful win over Stephen Fulton seemed unlikely to be topped. Terence Crawford-Errol Spence simply couldn’t turn into a one-man show…right?

For nine rounds, what we got Saturday was simply breathtaking. Terence Crawford took an undefeated, proud, skilled opponent and made him a canvas to paint on. It was artful, precise, and so damn violent. In picking Crawford to win the fight, it was the intangibles of the now three-division lineal king that separated him from Spence.

There’s something different about “Bud” Crawford. There are always plenty of good fighters, and a selection of great ones, but occasionally there are men who old timers might have termed as killers. They carry an air of danger and appear to take being in the hurt business literally, as a source of pride if not enjoyment. They seek not just to win but to punish opponents for even daring to tempt fate.

We’ve seen it with Crawford for years. We saw it Saturday with the most brutality he’s ever produced. 

What Crawford did was set up by incredible skill. On this card, Crawford didn’t lose a round. Spence’s offense is predicated on punishing, high volume application of the jab. Crawford took away Spence’s key weapon right away, picking off the Spence lead with his gloves almost casually and establishing his own range in the fight. Crawford’s harder, more effective jab was already beginning to land and a big overhand bomb near the end of the round warned of what was to come. 

Spence, never down in his pro career, was dropped by a pulverizing jab in the second. The game Texan rallied a bit in the third, looking for shots upstairs and down to get something going but Crawford was still landing harder, cleaner, and with the baddest intentions. By the end of the fourth, it was enough to wonder how long it would be before Spence’s corner or the referee would have to save him from further punishment.

In round seven, Crawford dropped Spence two more times. The first knockdown came on a deft inside counter, the second on a double right hook that punctuated the night. Spence being allowed to continue into the ninth made those next two rounds almost unsettling. It was a beating, and one where Spence was enduring more than the customer was owed. 

For all intents and purposes, the fight was in checkmate just minutes in. The movement of pieces to surrender the king produced a performance for the ages.

Futures: The rematch clause for the fight means they could be doing this again before the year is out. Spence clearly struggled badly to make the welterweight limit. Returning to the division again is inadvisable. Nothing about the tactical side of Saturday indicated a junior middleweight rematch would produce a different result. Crawford was quicker, more fluid, and his longer arms allowed him to beat Spence to the punch all night. A few more pounds isn’t likely to change any of that.

For Crawford, the problem is a welterweight division full of some interesting new faces but short on stars to drive their end of the marquee. Jarron Ennis is a formidable rising challenger but still making his name. Keith Thurman is out there still as a big name who might sell tickets but he’s all but semi-retired over the last half decade. No one would be favored over Crawford in the division right now.

With the Spence win, it’s worth wondering how Crawford measures against some other notable names from the past at welterweight. He’s now 8-0 in the division with eight knockouts, five wins coming against fighters ranked in the welterweight top ten of The Ring Magazine and TBRB rankings. Those five ranked wins are Jeff Horn, Egidijus Kavaliauskas, Shawn Porter, David Avanesyan, and now Spence.

A tweet from reminded Crawford’s win made him the first fighter since Barney Ross to win the lineal lightweight, junior welterweight, and welterweight crowns, the latter two accomplished from Crawford by winning all the major belts in class. 

Crawford is now 14-0 with 11 knockouts in his career against fighters ranked in the top ten of their division in the TBRB and/or Ring rankings and 18-0 with 15 knockouts in title fights. Crawford was already the first undisputed champion at junior welterweight since Kostya Tszyu. Saturday, he became the first widely recognized undisputed welterweight champion since Zab Judah lost to Carlos Baldomir (the need for a WBO belt for the honor was still fluid then). He is the only fighter since the birth of the WBO in 1988 to unify the four most recognized alphabet straps in two weight classes. 

How does Crawford compare to the other fighters in the last thirty years who won at least a share of the welterweight title after also holding pieces of the lightweight and junior welterweight crown? 

Across their first eight welterweight fights:

  • Pernell Whitaker was 7-0-1 with two knockouts. “Sweet Pea” had three wins against Ring-ranked welterweights including a number one ranked Buddy McGirt, one Ring-ranked junior welterweight, and an infamous draw that should have been a win over number one ranked junior welterweight Julio Cesar Chavez. Whitaker also had a win outside those eight welterweight bouts at junior middleweight over number one ranked Julio Cesar Vazquez.
  • Oscar De La Hoya was 8-0 with five knockouts. Six of those wins came against Ring-ranked welterweights, including his debatable division entry win over the number one ranked Pernell Whitaker and an off the canvas decision over undefeated Ike Quartey. De La Hoya also had a welterweight defense against Ring-ranked junior middleweight Hector Camacho.  
  • Floyd Mayweather was 8-0 with three knockouts. “Money” posted five wins against Ring and TBRB ranked welterweights, including winning the lineal throne from Baldomir. Mayweather made a case for resuming his lineal reign, following a brief retirement, with a drubbing of Shane Mosley one fight off of Mosley’s knockout of Antonio Margarito. Mayweather also scored welterweight wins over the reigning lineal kings at lightweight and junior welterweight, Juan Manuel Marquez and Ricky Hatton. Mayweather added two wins outside the division at junior middleweight over ranked Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto.
  • Manny Pacquiao was 6-2 with two knockouts. Pacquiao entered the division with a win over Ring-ranked junior middleweight Oscar De La Hoya, dropped down to junior welterweight to win the lineal throne with a knockout of Hatton, and then moved back up for good. Seven of Pacquiao’s next eight fights were at welterweight with three wins against Ring and/or TBRB welterweights, including Miguel Cotto, and wins over lineal lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez and ranked junior welterweight Brandon Rios. Pacquiao also had a junior middleweight win during the run over unranked Antonio Margarito and the losses to Bradley and Marquez. 

Crawford’s accomplishments in just winning belts in each of his three weight classes places him in impressive company. How his welterweight run stacks up against theirs with the Spence win added can be debated. It doesn't appear as deep as some others through eight welterweight fights and the Spence win is historically unlikely to be valued as highly as something like Whitaker’s draw over Chavez. In Crawford’s favor, the sheer physical dominance of the number one welterweight of his time stands out from the crowd as does his perfect stoppage mark to date. He is also the only one of the five to be undisputed at junior welterweight or welterweight. 

No matter how anyone feels about whose work is best, Crawford’s name is now perfectly at home with this crop of Hall of Fame bad asses.

The Spence win will also strengthen a long running belief by many that what Crawford lacks at welterweight is as much a case of business obstacles as competition. The reality was more complicated but it won’t be a problem going forward. At 35, Crawford may not have forever but he has time to deepen his place in the annals of welterweight lore.

Nine years after winning his first major professional title, Terence Crawford has made his defining statement for a seat at the table with the great ones. 

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at