Terence Crawford needed only one fight to secure his place as The Sporting News’ Men’s Boxer of the Year.
While David Benavidez, Naoya Inoue and Devin Haney competed multiple times and had incredible performances in 2023, Crawford’s single outing against Errol Spence Jr. was all he needed to prove that he is undoubtedly the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
It only took five years to get there.
Since 2018, Terence Crawford had to listen to everyone explain themselves as to why they froze him out of the conversation for the best 147-pound fighters in the world.
He was too small. He hadn’t fought anybody. He wasn’t good enough.
As the welterweight division resided heavily on the shoulders of the fighters from Al Haymon’s Premiere Boxing Champions, Crawford was stuck on the proverbial “other side of the street” due to his allegiance with Top Rank.
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He had to watch as Keith Thurman, Manny Pacquiao, Shawn Porter, Yordenis Ugas and Errol Spence Jr. jockeyed for position as 147-pound titleholders as he held onto the WBO title that he knew someone would eventually have to come and get if they wanted to be called undisputed.
He kept beating people up as Spence began belt collecting. From 2017 to 2023, Spence picked up the IBF, WBC and WBA titles. In that same window of time, Crawford grabbed the WBO title in his welterweight debut against Jeff Horn and proceeded to pummel seven consecutive opponents into submission.
Eventually, the world wanted a Spence-Crawford fight. But we weren’t sure we’d ever get it due to the two stars being with different promoters. It felt like boxing was going to fail us again until Crawford stopped former champion Shawn Porter in 2021 and announced that he would test the water as a free agent.
It appeared we were closing in on a deal being made for a megafight between the two undefeated champions in 2022 but the deal fell apart at the last minute and fight fans collectively let loose a disappointing sigh as it felt as if the dream fight had gone up in smoke.
But in May, the conversation between the two parties started up again with Spence making it a point to reach out to Crawford to get the fight made. And on May 25 the announcement that Spence-Crawford was happening for all the marbles on July 29 rocked the boxing world.
And when the fight finally took place, Crawford proved beyond a shadow of a doubt who the best fighter in the world was.
The product from Omaha, Nebraska put together one of the most extraordinarily one-sided performances between top-five pound-for-pound fighters in the history of the sport when he obliterated Spence Jr. with a ninth-round stoppage to become the undisputed welterweight champion.
What was supposed to be a 50-50 fight between two undefeated champions who hadn’t been so much as challenged during their respective careers became a demolition derby of the highest degree, as Crawford ran roughshod over Spence and became the first male boxer in the four-belt era to claim undisputed status in two different weight classes.
“It means everything because of who I took the belts from,” Crawford said afterward. “They tried to blackball me. They kept me out. They talked bad about me. They said I wasn’t good enough and I couldn’t beat these welterweights. I believe I showed how great I am.”
He only needed one shot to prove himself and he did just that in a superstar-making performance that cemented his place among the elite of the sport and secured his spot as The Sporting News’ Men’s Boxer of the Year.
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