You can learn too soon that the most useful thing about a principle is that it can always be sacrificed to expediencyWilliams Maugham, The Circle (1921)
Terence Crawford didn’t prove he is the best Welterweight in the world by adding Kell Brook’s scalp to his record. True, the ruthlessness of his victory emboldened his claim but to capture the throne in the classic division he needs to meet, and beat, Errol Spence. And while Errol Spence needs Terence Crawford too, the need in play is merely the increasingly prosaic premise of proving to be the greatest of their era.
It requires both parties to care enough about this type of ‘old testament’ sentimentality for the fight to be made. The question is, do they?
Neither Crawford or Spence’s name has transcended beyond the margins to which boxing has been cast in the way their predecessors did. Coverage is different, platforms are different, audience attention is fleeting and fractured, to ignore such realities is foolish, and if you choose to, you will be called worse than a fool. Modern boxing fans argue more about purses, platforms and percentages than ever they do about the technical merits of ‘their’ fighter.
Whatever the new landscape, the truths of a new media age, boxing has developed an unfortunate knack of failing to deliver the most meaningful match ups, in a way it could two generations ago. If that notion is not merely our mind rose-tinting the past to suit that age old narrative that ‘it was better in the old days’.
At 33, despite the time it took for the unbeaten WBO Champion to mature into the historic weight class, it cannot be ignored that Crawford should have had matches, plural, with Errol Spence by now. Certainly, if the competitive idyll we nostalgics cling to remained the surest path to the biggest rewards. Those matches are now designed only as singular crescendos, see Mayweather v Pacquiao as the ultimate example, or neglected entirely, Kell Brook versus Amir Khan surely now evidence of the latter.
Crawford lives the life, as the old cliche demands, but suggesting his prime is elastic, in the way so many modern champions do – a narrative that deludes – threatens to leave those defining nights uncompleted, even in a belated form.
However destructive Crawford proves to be against second and third tier opponents like Brook, his limits, the extent of his potential cannot be measured for comparison with those who preceded him without that Spence fight.
For the record, on Saturday night, Crawford adjusted, adapted and then blew away the British veteran inside four rounds. A credible, if unsurprising, victory against a distinguished but entirely jaded former belt holder. Extending further his unbeaten record. Crawford pumped another four million dollars in to his account too.
And in that huge purse, there remains an old-fashioned reason why more troublesome fights don’t get made.