Errol Spence was never going to be short of relevant alternatives even in the collapse of his targeted superfight with Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford.
The hardest part will be to choose between what is now three mandatory title contenders.
A mandate has been handed down by the WBC for Spence to next face former unified titlist Keith Thurman, the sanctioning body’s number-one contender. The ruling was made Wednesday afternoon during the mandatories portion of the 60th annual WBC Convention in Acapulco, Mexico.
The order was unanimously approved by the WBC Board of Governors, though the ruling itself could be a formality.
Thurman (30-1, 22KOs; 2ND) has emerged as a leading candidate to next face Spence (28-0, 22KOs), who eyes the next defense of his unified WBA/WBC/IBF welterweight crown. Thurman and Spence both fight under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner.
The development came on the heels of Spence-Crawford talks suddenly falling apart after it appeared that a deal was nearing for their pursued undisputed championship clash. It does present an interesting scenario for Spence, who has three relevant opponents from which to choose.
The unbeaten southpaw from Desoto, Texas—who holds the WBC/WBA ‘Super’/IBF titles—remains on the hook to face secondary WBA welterweight titlist Eimantas Stanionis in a title consolidation bout. The pairing was placed on hold since Spence-Crawford was in talks, with the WBA on board to allow the undisputed championship to next take place. Stanionis was likely to appear on the Spence-Crawford undercard in exchange for stepping aside, though an opponent was never named.
Stanionis has fought on PBC cards but is officially promoted by Richard Schaefer’s Probellum company. Their side has previously stated the intention to have the WBA enforce his mandatory status. Spence could theoretically vacate the ‘Super’ title, which would leave the WBA with one titlist at welterweight.
As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis (29-0, 27KOs) has petitioned the IBF to enforce his mandatory contender status. It is more likely that Ennis could land a spot on the Spence-Thurman undercard—should PBC in fact finalize that fight—with the promise of next challenging for the IBF title, whether against the winner or in a vacant title fight.
Spence has held at least one welterweight belt since an eleventh-round knockout of England’s Kell Brook in their May 2017 IBF title fight. Six title defenses have followed, two of which came in unification bouts. Spence claimed the WBC title in a split decision win over then-titlist Shawn Porter in their terrific September 2019 meeting, and stopped Yordenis Ugas in the tenth round to win the WBA title on April 16 in Arlington, Texas.
Thurman previously held the WBA/WBC titles before injuries slowed his career to a crawl. The former champ from Clearwater, Florida brought his WBA belt into a March 2017 unification bout with then-WBC claimant Danny Garcia in what was a matchup of unbeaten welterweight titlists. Thurman won via split decision but was forced to relinquish the WBC belt as injuries kept him on the shelf for nearly two years.
A return to the ring in January 2019 saw Thurman defend the WBA title in a majority decision win over Josesito Lopez, before losing the title to Manny Pacquiao in their July 2019 title consolidation clash at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The combination of the pandemic and additional injuries kept Thurman out of the ring until returning earlier this year, outpointing Mario Barrios in a WBC semifinal eliminator on February 5 at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas.
Should the Spence-Thurman fight move forward, TGB Promotions—the lead promoter for nearly all PBC-branded events—has holds on the MGM Grand for six dates in 2023 including January 7 and February 4.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox