Spence vs Crawford: How Did Terence Crawford Catch The Big Fish?

By Boxing News - 07/30/2023 - Comments

By John Tsoi: Flanked by legendary rapper Eminem, Terence Crawford entered the squared circle with one thing in mind – to become the undisputed welterweight champion of the world. Despite being the betting favorite, many wondered how Crawford would handle the trademark pressure brought by Errol Spence Jr, and therefore expected the contest to be a 50-50 fight. At the end, Crawford successfully neutralized the strengths of Spence to force a referee stoppage, and looked like he hardly dropped a sweat. In this article, we briefly dissect what went right for Omaha’s very own world champion.

Over the course of his career, Spence has always stuck with his style of boxing that led him to becoming a unified world champion – an aggressive fighter who pressures and breaks down his opponents whilst maintaining excellent fundamentals. Yet, his win over Shawn Porter was perhaps a precursor to Crawford exploiting one of his shortcomings, which is the lack of versatility in terms of fighting style. Spence relied completely on his existing style to slug it out with Porter instead of trying to box and counter his opponent who had a shorter reach. That match meant that Crawford only needed to prepare against one version of Spence, while one cannot say the same if you reverse the two names given Crawford’s versatility.

The mega-fight in Las Vegas started off with a “data-downloading” first round for both fighters, but it went downhill for Spence from the second round onwards. Spence always uses his jab to set up his punches, but in this fight he was unable to gain any advantage with his jab. Crawford divulged after the fight that he knew the flick jab would not work against Spence, which is why he and his team trained specifically for a strong stiff jab. Crawford clearly won the battle of the jabs, partially attributable to his well-known accuracy, plus his superior hand speed over Spence. One thing to note is that Crawford’s jab often looked like a straight left, so powerful that he was able to knock Spence down in the second round. Crawford is a switch-hitter who can deliver power punches with both his left and right hand, which explains why his jab was constantly able to do damage not only in this fight, but also in his previous fights. Without the jab to set up combinations, Spence could not get his rhythm going, which is a chink in his armor in the early rounds.

Spence is dangerous when he gets close to his opponents to unleash a barrage of punches, including his patented body punches. Unfortunately, Crawford completely nullified this aspect of Spence. The Omaha native was special because he was able to generate a large amount of power in his short punches. One may link it with his God-given talent, while others may explain it with his hard training behind the scenes. A third reason would be his ability to always maintain good balance for better leverage when throwing punches. Crawford used short punches to counter Spence when the latter was coming in. The body punches from Spence was sparingly used because they were often met swiftly with short hooks from Crawford over the top of his head. Crawford could find space in tight areas to land punches, showcasing his in-fighting abilities other than boxing from a distance. As the fight progressed, one can see Spence becoming more tentative in offense – a far cry from what he used to be.

In the whole contest, Spence attempted quite a lot of wide hooks that did not lead to much success. Crawford was able to block it with his glove or by simply taking a short step backwards. More importantly, while Spence attempted those wide hooks, he exposed his face to the short counter shots from Crawford. It might be a better idea for Spence to mix in some jab-straights or double jab-straights since these do not expose him as much as wide hooks, plus also helps in varying his punch output.

In the corner between rounds, Derrick James tried his best to offer advices, such as telling Spence to create angles to land punches. Hooks can work well with footwork and angles. However, Spence is not a fighter that is proficient at creating angles. Rather, he is better at cutting off the ring and going straight up and down. In addition, he was not able to land any punches that really hurt Crawford. Without mounting any effective offense throughout the fight, Spence was visibly frustrated and helpless, especially suffering knockdowns prior to the stoppage.

After the epic showdown, Errol Spence manufactured no excuses and gave full credit to Terence Crawford for being the better man, and expressed his desire for a rematch at 154 pounds. Yet, given the outcome of this fight, it is only fair to say that a rematch would end in a similar fashion. Spence did not lose this match due to being weight-drained, nor due to ring rust. He lost because Crawford was simply a generational talent. To have any chance of winning a rematch, Spence would have to be more versatile, but it is an arduous task, even for the Trainer of the Year in Derrick James, to implement a new style unto a fighter in this stage of his career.

Last but not least, Terence Crawford came with a fish net as part of his entrance costume, and left with a big fish caught in it. There should now be no doubt who the number one pound-for-pound boxer in the world is.

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