Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford looking to forge legacy in Errol Spence Jr. superfight.

Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford looking to forge legacy in Errol Spence Jr. superfight.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 19: Undefeated WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford shadowboxes during a media workout at UFC APEX on July 19, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Crawford is scheduled to fight WBC/WBA and IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr.  at T-Mobile Arena on July 29, 2023, in Las Vegas.  (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford is fighting for No. 1 pound-for-pound ranking when facing Errol Spence Jr. on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – Timothy Bradley was preparing for his second fight against Manny Pacquiao. He had just come off a masterful victory over Juan Manuel Marquez and would face Pacquiao for the second time on April 14, 2014, in Las Vegas. Bradley “won” the first fight against Pacquiao in 2012, but sometimes it didn’t feel like a victory for him.

The overwhelming majority of fans, media and boxing experts who watched the fight sided with Pacquiao, believing he had done enough to win. But Bradley also received threats from rabid Pacquiao fans, who were only too willing to cross the line to support their man.

Sometimes it was difficult for Bradley to talk about his first fight with Pacquiao without choking. Bradley was not his usual gregarious and jovial self when talking about his Pacquiao rematch. To lighten the mood, a reporter asked him about his friend, a little-known undefeated lightweight named Terence “Bud” Crawford, and Crawford’s upcoming fight.

Crawford had just left the US to fly to Scotland, where on March 1, 2014 he was due to meet Ricky Burns in Glasgow. Burns was a gritty, tough guy with a 36-2-1 who held the WBO lightweight title. He was never considered a superstar, but he was popular in the UK because he was local and seemed willing to go to the depths of hell to win.

Bradley laughed when asked about Crawford fighting on the road with just about every person in the arena and across the country, vehemently rooting against him.

“Oh man, Terence, he doesn’t care about any of that,” Bradley said. “He’s a winner and all that matters is winning. And believe me, he’ll come back here a winner. And soon, you’ll be writing about everything he does.”

At the time, Crawford was 26 years old with a 22-0 record that included 16 knockouts.

As Bradley predicted, Crawford was in complete control during the fight and won a unanimous wide decision to bring home the championship. Never using two words when one would, Crawford returned to the United States a champion, but he wasn’t giddy. It was what he expected of himself and for him, there was no point in getting dizzy by doing what was expected.

“I have a lot of things I want to do in this sport,” Crawford said upon his return to the United States. “I will leave a legacy.”

On Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, Crawford will have the opportunity to cement his legacy as the greatest welterweight and perhaps the greatest boxer of his generation. He will face unified champion Errol Spence Jr. in the main event of a Showtime PPV card for the undisputed title and the privilege of considering himself the best welterweight of his era.

Sugar Ray Robinson is best known as a welterweight and is widely considered the greatest fighter of all time. Other luminaries of the division were Henry Armstrong, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Barney Ross, Kid Gavilán, Pernell Whitaker, Jose Napoles, Thomas Hearns, Emile Griffith, Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya.


Terence “Bud” Crawford was the undisputed champion at 140 pounds and will be undisputed at 147 on Saturday if he defeats Errol Spence Jr. at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in their welterweight title match. (Nati Harnik/The Associated Press)

A victory over Spence, a former US Olympian who is also undefeated, will serve to place Crawford alongside the names above as the best welterweight of all time.

“It feels great and I feel really motivated,” Crawford told Yahoo Sports. “I’ve said this before, but I feel this is my time. This is my age, and then [Saturday]everyone will see something special in Terence Crawford.”

A left-hander, Spence came out of the Olympics and was lauded as the next Sugar Ray Leonard in terms of overall skills and abilities. He was welterweight from day one and goes into the fight with Crawford with a 28-0 record and 22 KOs.

Crawford was a lightweight early in his career, but won the lightweight belt and rose to become the undisputed super lightweight champion. After unifying the belts at 140 pounds, he moved up to welterweight, where he went 7-0 with seven knockouts. But he hasn’t been able to put a superstar welterweight in the ring with him until now. Guys like Pacquiao, Keith Thurman, Miguel Cotto and Danny Garcia went in another direction.

So Crawford did what he could with whoever was in front of him. And while he was doing what elite fighters should be – beating the guys he was supposed to beat – he wasn’t gaining much momentum. He was top rank and there was never much momentum to do a match with Spence. A vocal contingent of fans accused him of dodging Spence, which was always ridiculous, but it was a narrative that nonetheless gained traction.

“A lot of people look at who I fought in the welterweight division and try to throw salt in their names,” said Crawford. “They tried to make it sound like those guys weren’t great fighters, or good fighters, or however you want to characterize it. They made it like I’d fought nothing but cans of tomatoes in my entire career. But I just let them talk and let them say what they wanted. But in [Saturday]I will prove that it wasn’t just these fighters [who weren’t good enough to beat me]but so will Spence.”

Talk of a fight between the two undefeated superstars intensified with each successive win for one or the other. But because, as Crawford pointed out, he wasn’t getting fighters with the standout value he was calling them, a perception built in that he was taking the easy way out.

Those in boxing knew that wasn’t true. And while Spence received a lot of prominence at the Olympics, it took a long time for Crawford to gain recognition as not just a good champion, but one of the all-time greats.

Those in boxing, however, have known for some time.

“Crawford doesn’t have many holes in his armor,” said esteemed trainer Stephen “Breadman” Edwards. “…He’s one of the best fighters I’ve ever seen.”

Coach Virgil Hunter, who was in the corner as Andre Ward put together a perfect record and Hall of Fame career, echoed Edwards. Spence is the naturally larger fighter and has a knockout percentage of 78.6. Crawford’s KO percentage is 76.9 and of course 100% at welterweight.

He’s not a frail runner Spence can physically impose his will on, as Hunter once saw firsthand in the gym.

“I was lucky enough to spend a day at the gym with Terence, [and] his physical strength is underrated,” Hunter said. “The way he’s genetically built, the way he stayed in the gym his entire career and never got out of shape, brings a snap to his punch. He has a real buggy whip snap to his punches. You may feel a snap. He was a fighter from the start, and I’ve seen him wrestle big guys and knock them to the ground. He is built from the ground up with his physical strength. He can generate a lot of power.”

Crawford has always had a weight on his shoulder, and he sees skeptics and critics at times, even where they don’t exist.

But he’s ready.

“I want the best version of Errol Spence that ever walked the planet Earth and I’m going to show you,” Crawford said. He’ll adjust, but one thing he believes in is his soul. Spence just isn’t going to come in and overpower him.

“He thinks he’s going to knock me down and break me, but he’s going to have to show me,” Crawford said. “All this talk is fuel for the fire that’s already burning. He’s going to have to prove everything he’s saying on fight night.”

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