LAS VEGAS: The person once known as the “baddest man on the planet” stood between Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford at Thursday’s news conference, and just the mere presence of Mike Tyson further cemented the magnitude of their showdown.
Both undefeated fighters meet Saturday night, the winner unifying all four welterweight championships for the first time in boxing’s four-belt era that began in 2004.
Spence (28-0, 22 knockouts) already owns the WBC, WBA and IBF titles, and Crawford (39-0, 30 KOs) holds the WBO belt. Crawford is a minus-146 favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“I haven’t seen things like this in over 30 years — two of the best fighters in the world to decide who is truly the best,” Tyson said.
This fight has been compared in many corners to so many other classic welterweight matchups such as two between Robert Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980, Leonard and Thomas Hearns the following year, Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez in 1993 and Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya in 2000.
The boxers understand the buildup to the fight, each saying a victory would be his career highlight.
“This is going to be legendary,” Spence said. “This is going to be iconic. People are going to talk about this fight 30, 40 years from now when they talk about legendary fights. When they talk about Leonard and Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler ... they’re going to talk about this fight the same way.”
The fight sold out quickly, and on the secondary market, the cheapest tickets are well more than $300, especially if someone is interested in actually having a seat and not standing for three hours.
Much of the excitement leading into the fight was because of how long it took to come together, the appetite for this meeting building up with boxing fans for several years.
They always seemed destined to meet, though Spence twice survived serious car crashes. He was nearly killed in 2019 when he was ejected after losing control, and last year a 14-year-old hit him head on.
Somehow, Spence not only escaped serious injuries both times and successfully underwent surgery in 2021 for a detached retina, he was able to focus on his career. The 33-year-old who lives in DeSoto, Texas, won the IBF title in 2017, claimed the WBC championship in 2019 and took the WBA championship last year.
“I’ve been fighting the best for a long time,” Spence said. “When you see all the legends of the sport, they fought each other and made historic fights. That’s what I want to do. Terence is one of the best fighters in the world and I’m one of the best fighters in the world, so we had to make this happen.”
Spence faces an opponent in Crawford who is a knockout machine, having ended 10 fights in a row by KO, boxing’s second-longest active streak.
Crawford, 35, has won titles in super lightweight and lightweight in addition to welterweight, capturing the latter after moving up in 2018. Should he beat Spence, the Omaha, Nebraska, native will become the first male boxer to unify two titles.
“This fight means everything,” Crawford said. “This puts the cherry on top of my career. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, and I can’t wait to get it on.”
Maybe both fighters will put on another memorable championship fight in Las Vegas. The hype has certainly been there for this bout.
No matter how it looks, one boxer will emerge as not only the king of the welterweight division, but will have a strong case as the best pound-for-pound fighter.
Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, who is working the corner for Giovanni Cabrera in the co-main event, said he slightly favors Crawford.
“I have wanted to see this fight for a long time,” Roach said. “I can tell Spence and Crawford have wanted it, too, which is another reason I have wanted to see this fight. They want to know, and prove, which one is the best. It will be a close fight. While on paper, it has the look of Leonard-Hearns, I think it could end up being better.”
In the co-main event, Cabrera (21-0, seven KOs) goes against Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz (24-2-1, 17 KOs) in a WBC and WBA lightweight match that will have future championship ramifications.