Terence Crawford put on a boxing masterclass to defeat Errol Spence by referee stoppage after two minutes, 32 seconds of round nine and make history as the first male two-weight undisputed champion in the four-belt era.
This welterweight contest was billed as a battle between two evenly-matched opponents but Crawford completely schooled Spence to add the WBC, WBA and IBF titles to his WBO belt and put himself firmly in contention to be called the best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet.
Crawford put Spence down for the first time in his career when catching him off balance in round two, and then increased the hurt as the one-sided contest went on. Crawford battered Spence to the canvas twice in round seven and then referee Harvey Dock waved off the fight in round nine with Spence looking on the brink of another collapse.
Spence was previously undefeated in 28 fights, while Crawford extends his record to 40 wins from 40 fights, with 11 early stoppages in a row.
After the bout Crawford, who became the undisputed light-welterweight champion in 2017, let his feelings pour out. “I’ve got so many emotions I could cry now,” he said. “Nobody believed in me when I was coming up, I made them believers.”
Crawford has been searching for this fight with Spence for several years but the politics of boxing kept him on ice. It took a direct call between the fighters to get it on.
“It means everything, that’s why I took a risk,” Crawford added. “They tried to blackball me, they kept me out, they talked bad about me, they said I wasn’t good enough. Tonight I showed how great I am.
“It was a good stoppage, I was on the verge of coming back with some hard shots.”
Crawford can now look to cement his legacy as one of the greatest boxers in history by moving on to other mega fights, but there is an automatic rematch clause for Spence, and despite the way this one went, a sequel could be in the cards.
“Of course the public would buy it,” Crawford said. “Look how many people came out and gave Errol Spence support. I think everyone would come out again.”
Spence, eyes swollen, said: “My timing was a little bit off, he was catching me in between shots. He was the best man, I make no excuses. I was surprised by the speed of his actions. Hell yeah, we’ve got to do it again. I’m gonna be a lot better.”
Crawford had begun the night by winning the battle of the ring walks, bringing out Eminem to accompany his march from the dressing room. As “Lose Yourself” blasted out over the speakers and a hooded Eminem was revealed, the crowd at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas erupted. Crawford wore a large fish net around his black robes, in reference to his pre-fight claim over “gutting” Spence, who calls himself the “Big Shark.”
Spence, the naturally bigger man, won the first round by keeping Crawford at range with his jab, and was doing the same in the second but the fight turned when Spence overreached while dipping low and Crawford struck a quick-fire, left-right combination. It was more of a flash knockdown with Spence off balance, but being on the floor for the first time in his career seemed to unsettle the 33-year-old. He began chasing Crawford around the ring to reassert his presence but Crawford, two years older, was too sharp on counters.
The third was a classic, with both fighters opening up like was hoped in the build-up, each one responding to the other’s aggression. But Crawford began to pull away and looked the stronger athlete despite having risen through the divisions, at one stage firmly pushing Spence off him.
In the fourth, Crawford landed a vicious left hook on Spence’s temple and the crowd rose in anticipation of another knock-down.
The fight doctor checked to ensure Spence was alright to continue before round five, to groans from fans wanting to see more. Spence was given the all-clear but it was obvious the fight was going in one direction.
In round five, Crawford landed a snapping short hook to Spence’s head to winces from the audience. Spence was game, and kept moving forward, but Crawford was cleaner and more powerful.
Crawford, growing in confidence, began winging bigger shots and connected with another straight left to the head off his back foot.
In round seven, Spence was sent tumbling twice. Crawford, against ropes, met Spence’s dip with a precision uppercut to the jaw, then a clip round the temple as Spence’s legs crumpled beneath him. It was the same double-right combination later in the round, Crawford slapping Spence like he was delivering an admonishment for daring to challenge him.
In round eight, Crawford rocked Spence back with a sequence of jabs. Spence somehow stayed on his feet.
His face reddening rapidly, Spence refused to quit. But, quite correctly, the referee took that decision out of his hands and brought those in attendance to their feet in acknowledgment of a truly special performance and generational talent in Crawford, who celebrated joyously by dancing with his mother Debbie in the center of the ring.
(Photo: Al Bello / Getty Images)