The anticipation is building for one of boxing’s easiest things to get excited about: a generational welterweight title clash.
They don’t happen often and they’re almost always memorable (and sometimes debated). Ray Leonard-Tommy Hearns, Pernell Whitaker-Julio Cesar Chavez, Felix Trinidad-Oscar De La Hoya, and Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao all captivated the world in their time and captured a hell of a lot of coin to go with it.
On July 29, five years of ‘what happens when’ chatter culminates in a showdown between Errol Spence and Terence Crawford for the undisputed throne.
This Saturday, on two different networks, we get our best look yet at what comes next.
When they enter the ring, Spence will be 33. Crawford will be just a couple months from turning 36. Next is particularly significant at welterweight because it’s likely to go from next to now much sooner than later.
Fans should be in for a treat.
On DAZN (8 PM EST), 25-year old Vergil Ortiz (19-0, 19 KO) will face 28-year old Eimantas Stanionis (14-0, 9 KO). On Showtime, 26-year old Jarron Ennis (30-0, 27 KO) will square off with 30-year old Roiman Villa (26-1, 24 KO).
Considering the age and skill level some of the fighters on display this weekend will have, it’s not outlandish to think one of them might already be the best welterweight in the world. None of them have had the chance to prove it just yet. Two of them will take a step backwards in the pursuit.
All four will enter the weekend rated in the top ten at welterweight by both TBRB and Ring Magazine:
- Ennis is rated number four by TBRB and number three by Ring;
- Ortiz is rated number four and three;
- Stanionis is rated fifth by both; and,
- Villa is rated seventh and tenth.
Considering the consistent quality of the division over the years, that concentration of welterweight best in a single day, much less in a month where the two best welters in the world will lock horns, is cause to celebrate. The broader context makes it all even better.
The winner of Spence-Crawford may not stick around and defend the undisputed crown. With the announcement of Saul Alvarez-Jermell Charlo, a clash of undisputed champions, could change the landscape above welterweight in a big way.
If Charlo loses, he could always come back to face mandatory Tim Tszyu and the winner of that clash would be big money for Spence or Crawford. If Charlo moves to super middleweight and wins, the chance that all the belts at Jr. middleweight could shortly be up for grabs is high. Spence going up for a second divisional title, or Crawford for a fourth, would make a lot of sense.
If the victor opts to stick around, they may not stay ‘undisputed’ long. There won’t be any legitimate dispute but for those who insist on a set number of belts being unified or else, the rematch clause for Spence-Crawford could force some belts loose. If it doesn’t, someone this weekend is going to be there waiting for the winner.
Someone young, hungry, and ready to go seize the reins of the division for themself.
Who knows, we might even see the seeds of the next generational clash at welterweight firmly planted this weekend. Spence-Crawford is a lot to look forward to but on Saturday we get a better idea of what lies ahead.
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.