On Saturday night, in his home town, Errol Spence Jnr. defended the WBC belt and in the process confirmed his status as one of the best two Welterweights in the world. His rehabilitation from the injuries accrued in a car crash in 2019 appears complete and in beating leading contender Danny Garcia, he returned in tougher company than he could have been excused after a long lay off.
Despite the obvious need for Spence to engage with Terence Crawford, the other Welterweight in that top two, the distance between last night and that mouthwatering clash still appears lengthy. Shameless boos of Spence’s obvious rival reflected the partisan crowd gathered, cameras picked out Crawford among the socially distanced audience.
The broadcaster fought hard, too hard, to marginalise Crawford’s place alongside Spence at the top of the Welterweight rankings. A peculiar platform xenophobia that achieves little and diminishes the respect for Spence, rather than builds it.
Increasingly, the belts are baubles, diluted by their own multiplicity. Soon, Television Network unifications may be the 21st century replacement for the WBC, WBA and WBwhoever face offs we, the fans, too infrequently witness. True, story lines are created by the multiple bodies and in part by rival promoters and networks. Builds anticipation. But without the crescendo, the pay off, it just a box set with no finale.
For now, we must remain positive. Celebrate what we have rather than a utopia we cannot reach.
Spence’s victory offers much to embrace. A top belt holder beating a leading contender. His busier work rate and aggression winning him rounds against Garcia’s craft and accuracy. Rounds were tight, particularly in the middle of the contest even though the American commentary feed were entirely consumed by Spence’s work. If Garcia scored with power shots it merely reflected “how relaxed Spence was.” one example of the phenomenon.
Garcia was accurate, countered well, and had modest success with the wide right hand. Neither fighter was ever in any distress, both held stronger shots when they pierced the guard but in the end, Garcia did what Garcia tends to do in the biggest fights; remain competitive, technically sound, wily and ‘in the fight’ without risking enough to get over the line. For the record, I had Spence winning 7-5, but couldn’t argue with the reward for aggression he received from the judges that led to slightly more definitive margins on the scorecards.
Garcia will box on I’m sure, but while Crawford and Spence co-exist in the division, a title belt will prove beyond him, for whatever historic value they retain in an era of abundant titles and too few unified champions. He operates on the ‘right side of the street’ as far as management and broadcast partners go and will inevitably reappear against another of the network’s many 147 pounders.
In modern boxing, too few divisions have that one champion. Too few champions fight the best contenders. The fact Spence fought one of the top 5, after a year and half on the sideline, is creditable. His closing line, when asked about who he would like to fight next, “that he planned to return to his ranch and buy some chickens, some cows” entirely less so.