Sugar Ray Leonard wants Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. to show us who’s best

Despite being one of the most desired matchups among boxing fans around the world, a title unification showdown between WBC/IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. and WBO titlist Terence Crawford has not yet become a reality.

When it does, a welterweight legend of the past, Sugar Ray Leonard, promises, “I’ll be ringside.”

There’s just one problem: Will they actually fight within due time? At this moment, putting aside the current state of affairs of the world, which are far more pressing, Spence and Crawford aren’t on the verge of a deal. In fact, Spence’s and Crawford’s promoters, Premier Boxing Champions and Top Rank, respectively, rarely work together.

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The consensus is that they are the two best welterweights in the world, and their names are prominently listed on almost every major pound-for-pound list. It’s a fight that should be made, sooner rather than later. But as boxing sorts itself out during the coronavirus pandemic and fights return, a bout like Spence-Crawford may be put off for another couple of years — or worse, never take place at all — given the absence of crowds at arenas for at least the near future.

For his money, though, Sugar Ray believes the fight will happen.

“I’m an optimist,” Leonard says.

“These guys, I mean, this era, I should say, is more business-minded,” Leonard says. “But then again, that’s what it’s all about: making money. I truly believe this thing should come to fruition, not just for the fans — but for themselves. Because you say you’re the best, you’re supposed to fight the best.”

Leonard brings up an interesting point, that Spence and Crawford would be enhancing their reputations and earning power by making such a big fight a reality. And beyond those two making that bout a reality, it could raise up the rest of the welterweight division — already among the most talent-rich groups in boxing.

“Errol, Crawford, [Shawn] Porter and [Keith] Thurman are in an amazing position because there is a plethora of incredible, naturally talented and gifted fighters,” Leonard says. “Time is of essence with this type of combo and talent.”

Porter, who lost a split decision to Spence in September, and Thurman are in a much better position to get a fight against Spence, as they are under the PBC banner. But with those three fighters and Manny Pacquiao — who is also in the same position with PBC — rounding out the top five in the division with Crawford, hammering out a deal between any of them and Crawford gets complicated in a hurry. Unfortunately, the business of boxing often supersedes the actual sport.


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2:08

Max Kellerman says Terence Crawford’s Twitter exchange with Errol Spence Jr. is giving the potential clash more public interest, which can generate a larger fight purse.

Leonard took on the biggest challengers of his era without hesitation or delay, but he and adviser Mike Trainer drove a hard bargain at the negotiating table.

Leonard insists it never got in the way of making the fight happen.

“I never said how much I’m making — I never said that,” Leonard says. “Just line them up. The only time that came into play was when I retired and I came back for the [Marvin] Hagler fight, or the second Tommy Hearns fight. Those were the only times I spoke of the business, how much I’m making, or, ‘Am I making just as much as him, or more than him?'”

Nowadays, what each boxer is grossing is viewed to be almost as important as the win-loss record — and it’s a source of pride to a fighter (and their fans, for that matter). If Spence-Crawford is seriously discussed, it’s inevitable that both fighters’ financial and market values will come into play. Someone will have to make compromises to make this fight happen.

“Based on how I came up through my era, I personally feel that I wouldn’t have had the same mindset and experience to propel me forward, had it not been for all of the incredible names [I faced],” Leonard says.

Leonard, always diplomatic, makes it clear that he’s not taking sides in this dispute.

“I love both these guys, and what happens thus far is, if I say something good about Errol, then I’ve got to say something about Terence,” Leonard says. “These kids get more personal whenever they’re fighting. If I say the other guy has a chance of winning, they get a little bit too sensitive. I said something about Errol fighting [Mikey] Garcia, and I said that Garcia stands a good chance, and [Spence] took it personal.

“I understand that because, say for example, if they asked Muhammad Ali who would win the fight between Tommy [Hearns] and Ray, and he said, ‘Tommy’, it would’ve hurt my feelings. So I get it, though, I get it.”


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Backstage at the Hooker-Saucedo fight, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. get into an argument that ends with Crawford saying he could knock out Spence.

At the time of their first meeting — a matchup Leonard says was “inevitable” — Leonard was 25 years old and Hearns was a month shy of his 23rd birthday. For comparison, Spence is now 30, and Crawford 32. The fighters and their camps may not want to acknowledge it, but time is ticking on Spence-Crawford.

To be fair, while the sport of boxing has always had divisions, it’s far more fractured now. When Leonard and Hearns tangled, they were only two major belts to capture to become an undisputed champion.

One thing has not changed throughout: For a fight to happen, you need two boxers who make it clear that they want to face one another.

Both Spence and Crawford have avid supporters who claim their man is the best at 147. It was a constant discussion prior to Spence’s one-car accident in October and is among boxing’s current great debates.

There’s only one way to finally get that answer, according to Leonard: “They can show it.”

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