A rivalry to match the 1980s?
By Gav Duthie: Not many would argue that one of the greatest eras in boxing took place in the 1980s between welterweight-middleweight involving American trio Sugar Ray Leonard 36-3-1 (25), Marvin Hagler 62-3-2 (52) and Tommy Hearns 61-5-1 (48). As well as these three standout stars there was Roberto Duran, Wilfried Benitez, John Mugabi and many more in the mix.
The nostalgia surrounding these fighters is still strong and it was a time where the best still fought each other. Could a rivalry surrounding a new breed of undefeated Americans Keith Thurman 28-0 (22), Errol Spence Jnr 23-0 (20) and Terrence Crawford 32-0 (23) formulate over the next few years. Will boxing politics get in the way? How is the supporting cast today? Who is the best talent of the three fighters?
A true superstar can only be made by fighting the best to cement their place in history. Hagler, Leonard, Duran and Hearns are all generally considered top 20 fighters of all time. Between those four there were many great skirmishes
Duran W15 Leonard
Leonard WTKO 8 Duran
Leonard TKO 14 Hearns
Hearns KO2 Duran
Hagler KO 3 Hearns (One of greatest ever fights)
Leonard W12 Hagler
Leonard W12 Duran
Hearns D12 Leonard
Up to now Keith Thurman, Errol Spence and Terence Crawford look like real potential superstars. Thurman is a unified WBC, WBA champion at welterweight with solid wins over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, Spence has a great win over Kell Brook and Terence Crawford was the first fully undisputed champion in any weight class since 2005. Surely there is an exciting series of fights between these men ready to rival the 1980s but are we likely to see them happen?
Since the 1980s it has been harder to unify world titles because of the introduction of the WBO and a myriad of tv networks, promoters and mandatory obligations. Crawford is promoted by Bob Arum, Thurman by Al Haymon and Spence doesn’t have one although Haymon does advise him. Up to now Crawford is the new kid on the block so he hasn’t been linked to these fights. Spence is calling out ‘Some time’ Thurman, his words, not mine but Thurman says this is not on the agenda until at least 2019.
Politics 1 – Top Rank and Promotional relationships
Arum has Crawford fighting Jeff Horn for the WBO title which assuming he wins will put all three fighters in as world welterweight champions. Top Rank Supremo Bob Arum historically just puts fighters in against others from his own stable. This just leaves Manny Pacquiao and Konstantin Ponomarev and one can be assured Crawford will fight these guys before he unifies. Unifying at 140lbs was a lot easier when the other champions were Viktor Postol and Julius Indongo who had zero bargaining power. Arum is fine lording it over smaller promoters but when it comes to Al Haymon or Oscar De La Hoya it becomes more difficult. Arum will exhaust all his Top Rank options before he goes near these big fights.
Politics 2 – Mandatory obligations
Keith Thurman has Shawn Porter as his WBC mandatory, so they will need to fight soon. Spence has just been mandated to fight Carlos Ocampo 22-0 (13) who as per usual with the IBF has fought nobody. Spence was mandatory for Kell Brook which was great, but they also made the Sheffield man face Kevin Bizier and Jo Jo Dan before that. In 2017 there were a lot of unification bouts so hopefully the governing bodies will continue to work together.
Politics 3 – TV Networks
With PBC from Al Haymon, Showtime showing Spence fight against Peterson, Top Ranks involvement with HBO historically and now ESPN it can be difficult to do deals for fighters to crossover.
The Supporting Cast
In the 80s the supporting cast contributed also to the careers of the main 3. Wilfried Benitez especially is still the youngest ever world champion, aged 17 and was a three-weight world champion by 22. There was also Roberto Duran another living legend but was at his best at lightweight. Today there are a considerable number of good contenders lead by Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, Amir Khan, Jeff Horn, Lucas Matthysse, Jessie Vargas and maybe even Manny Pacquiao might still have a say.
The Best Talent?
Watching Spence at the weekend it was reminiscent of a Lomachenko type of dominance. This over Lamont Peterson, a two-weight world champion and a warrior. Peterson could have probably gone 12 but what was the point. Everyone had seen enough. If you are being hyper critical you could point to Peterson demolition defeat against Matthysse and his one-sided defeat to Tim Bradley, but he is a top fighter and his recent performances against Danny Garcia and David Avanesyan showed he was still a top competitor. Thurman has half the titles in the division and is a big, strong, natural welterweight. He can slug it out or box to victory. For me Terence Crawford is the most talented of the three. Crawford has hardly broken a sweat yet in winning 32 fights straight. Saying that he started his career at lightweight so is not naturally as big as the other two. He also doesn’t really have any wins as big as Thurman or Spence. His title victories have come against Ricky Burns, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Ray Beltran, Thomas Dulorme, Dierry Jean, Hank Lundy, Victor Postol, John Molina Jnr, Felix Diaz and Julius Indongo.
Welterweight division and other players
In the 80s these fighters were not always in the same divisions. I see Thurman and Spence possibly fighting the Charlo brothers in the future. Crawford if he beats Horn is a 3-weight world champion. He could easily try to match Mayweather by going onto Super Welterweight and Middleweight. If Crawford wins against Horn it could be the start of something very exciting, but then again maybe not.