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Atlas: Spence too young, too strong for Crawford

Errol Spence Jr Shawn Porter Terence Crawford Spence vs. Porter Teddy Atlas

By Mark Eisner: Trainer extraordinaire Teddy Atlas rates welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. above Terence Crawford in a head to head comparison of the two.

Atlas feels that IBF champion Spence Jr. (25-0, 21 KOs) has too much size going for him compared to the 5’8″ Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs), who just moved up to the 147 lb weight class in 2018 after competing at light welterweight from 2015 to 2017.

Crawford, 31, has had two fights at welterweight against Jeff Horn and Jose Benavdez Jr. since moving up to the weight class. Crawford’s promoters at Top Rank Boxing are being very careful with him in slowly moving him up in tiny increments against steadily better opposition at welterweight.

Ideally, WBO 147 lb champion Crawford should be fighting the best right now, given that he’s a belt holder at welterweight, but his promoters are taking the go slow approach by matching him against Amir Khan (33-4 20 KOs) in his next fight on April 20 rather than one of the talented younger, more relevant welterweights in the division.

“If you put a gun to my head, I’d say that maybe, maybe Spence is too young, too big, too strong,” Atlas said to Fighthub. “I got to be careful saying that about Crawford, because Crawford’s a special guy. He’s a special guy. With his science, with his instincts, with his power that he’s carried up, even though he looks a little light in the backside, as they might say in football. He makes up for it it a lot of ways. You can’t count him out,” Atlas said.

Crawford appears to be bulking up some in his training camp for his title defense against Khan on the 20th of April. Crawford looks to be at least 10 pounds heavier than he was for his last two fights at welterweight against Benavidez and Horn. Whether the added muscle that Crawford has packed on will help him when/if he gets inside the ring with a natural welterweight like Spence is unknown.

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Spence is more of a small junior middleweight than a welterweight, so Crawford is going to need to put on even more weight if he wants to get to that level. Spence is accustomed to sparring with former World Boxing Council 154 lb champion Jermell Charlo. For Spence to fight a guy that is “light in the backside,” as Atlas calls him, it would put him at a distinct distance just like it did Spence’s last opponent Mikey Garcia.

Crawford bulking up for Khan

Crawford has put on some size and moved up from 140 to 147, but he still looks like he’s carrying around the frame of a lightweight, and not someone that is a true welterweight or should I say, junior middleweight. Crawford packing on muscle to try and be a true welterweight might not do the trick. Crawford is fine for the moment with his promotes matching him against beatable opposition in Khan, Benavidez and Horn, but that all changes when Crawford is forced to fight the talented welterweights like Spence, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia.

Crawford lacks experience against quality fighters

The Nebraska native Crawford might be able to beat Garcia, because he looks like he’s more of a B-list opponent now that he’s moved up to 147, but it’s going to be really hard for him when he gets in there with the cream of the 147 lb weight class in Spence, Thurman and Porter. Yordenis Ugas might be on par with Crawford in terms of talent, and he came up short against Porter. Crawford doesn’t look any better than Ugas, and the Cuban fighter isn’t being hyped the way he is. The difference is Crawford’s promoters at Top Rank have been skillful in the way they’ve matched him at lightweight, light welterweight and now welterweight.

If you look closely at all the fighters that Top Rank has matched Crawford against in each step of the way, they’ve put him in with guys that would lose to a lot of the fighters in those weight classes. Crawford hasn’t been put in with the lions in the divisions he’s fought in. For example, Top Rank never matched Crawford against Regis Prograis, Josh Taylor, Jose Ramirez, Kiryl Relikh or Maurice Hooker at 140. That’s just one example. Crawford hasn’t been matched against the best at 147 either. So at this point, you have to say that Crawford is more hype than reality. He looks good beating guys that fighters like Ugas would beat easily as well.

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“I’m just going to say that you’re looking at Spence, he’s a really big welterweight, with a guy [Crawford] who did move up. He’s relentless, always on top of you,” Atlas said. “He [Crawford] would control the real estate…He’d charge you for your real estate. There’s a price on every foot of real estate in that ring, except his price is punches. It might be four punches for every square foot you’re trying to eat up in that real estate. That’s obviously the way Crawford would go about it,” Atlas said.

Spence, 5’9 1/2″, would have the height, reach, weight and the power advantage over Crawford. Any way you want to look at this match-up, Crawford has problems. Crawford didn’t look good in his last fight against Jose Benavidez Jr., who is a fringe contender at best in the 147 lb weight class, and he would need to raise his game well above what he showed in that fight for him to be able to compete with Spence. Spence would look to take the slender-framed, weaker-punching Crawford out of there quickly. The biggest problem that Crawford has against Spence is he’s a counter puncher with a low work rate. In other words, Crawford is a lightly bigger version of Mikey Garcia, but without his power. Crawford doesn’t throw a lot of punches, and there’s no way he would be able to match Spence punch for punch if he throws 1,000 punches in a fight against him like he did in the fight with Mikey last March. The only thing Crawford could do is get on his bike, and pedal away round after round, hoping that he can limit Spence’s work rate to a trickle by staying on the move. It would be ugly to watch, but that might be the game plan Crawford would use against Spence. It would work possibly if Spence didn’t have the reach advantage, and have such a great jab. If Crawford stays in motion for 12 rounds, he’s going to get jabbed a lot, and trapped against the ropes in every round by Spence. It would be better for Crawford to show the judges that he wants to win the fight by standing and fighting Spence, but he probably won’t do that, because he doesn’t hit hard enough and can’t match Spence’s work rate.

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“Crawford would use his range. He would stay on the outside,” Atlas said. “He would look to, again, charge for real estate, make him pay a price to come forward, make it very difficult to come forward, take advantage of that aggression, make him pay for that aggression.”

Atlas is correct about Crawford staying on the outside against Spence, but he would be a huge disadvantage in fighting like that. Crawford is too short-armed to fight Spence from the outside, and he would be jabbed to pieces if he fights that way. This could be a disappointing fight to watch for boxing fans that like to see action. Crawford is more of a boxer, mover, and counter puncher. He’s not someone that is going to throw 1000 punches or even 500 punches. He’s someone that reacts to shots, and throws a lot of single shots. That’s not going to work against Spence.

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