IN many ways it was fitting that Errol Spence and Terence Crawford made their public wait for their so-called “Grand Arrival” at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas this afternoon. It many ways, too, as the afternoon dragged on and on, the delayed nature of it all started to become a perfect microcosm of the fight itself.
After all, with neither fighter a stickler for punctuality, nor seemingly aware of the unstoppable passing of time, it has taken a few years longer than it should have done for the two of them to finally agree to meet in the ring, which they will on Saturday (July 29). Some, of course, will say this extended foreplay has only enhanced the intrigue and anticipation surrounding it, whereas others, those still wounded by Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao deciding to prolong their superfight unnecessarily, will argue that if you stretch out anything long enough, especially in this day and age, people will quickly get bored and find something else to do.
This proved true this afternoon as well. For despite the best efforts of Showtime’s on-stage announcer, Ray Flores, who refused to stop talking for the best part of two hours, and despite the best efforts of the smattering of fans who congregated in the lobby and did their best to summon some enthusiasm for it all, there can be no denying that this Grand Arrivals spectacle paled in comparison to ones in years gone by. Not only that, while at the beginning there was at least an attempt to drum up some sort of atmosphere and pretend this wonderful fight has become something other than just a purist’s wet dream, by the time the two welterweight champions eventually took to the stage, long after advertised, any initial interest appeared to have waned to the point of total indifference. By then, it was with desperation that the announcer tried to rally the crowd and generate from them some noise. By then, the event, much like the fight itself, was in danger of becoming so prolonged people had started to forget all about it.
Still, when they did at last show, and when the people left in the MGM Grand lobby had a chance to hear from both fighters, we were reminded of why (a) this is such a compelling and brilliant fight and (b) why neither fighter, despite their inordinate talent, will ever become a superstar in the vein of recent Las Vegas favourites Floyd Mayweather and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
“It’s going to be a great night of boxing on Saturday night,” went Terence Crawford’s opening gambit. He then loosened up somewhat, and to the visible relief of the announcer, when next asked about the prospect of becoming undisputed champion for a second time, at which point “Bud” told the crowd, “It’s going to be even sweeter second time around. That’s why we take the chances and fight the fight that we fight. This is the fight the world wanted and what better way to win a fight than to go on and become undisputed. Expect the best Terence Crawford you have ever seen. There’s going to be fireworks.”
If that sounds at all dull when written down, imagine waiting two hours to hear it. And yet, despite Crawford’s truculence and complete inability to see the sense in promoting himself or even the biggest fight of his career, it’s hard to hate him for it. He is, no matter how he carries himself, a true fighter; perhaps the truest the sport has seen for many a year. Which is why, when the announcer mentioned this fight as potentially being his launchpad to join the pantheon of other great fighters in and around the welterweight division, it came as no surprise when Crawford, so apathetic about it all, finally bit.
“My name is already up there,” he said, after hearing the names Mayweather, Leonard, Duran, Hagler and Hearns mentioned. “It’s just a matter of going out there this weekend and putting the cherry on top and furthering that legacy.”
As for Spence, whose legacy is also at stake on Saturday, he was positively loquacious in comparison to his 147-pound rival. Spence, in fact, spoke not only in full sentences but also cursed, mentioned being a “big fish” who lives in “deep waters”, and emphasised the importance of this fight in deciding the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
“I feel great,” he said, “and coming out here has made me even more hyped. I guarantee on Saturday night that there is going to be a lot of blood and guts.
“It’s a way of life for me (boxing). It’s like you would think of taking a piss and a shit. This is what I do.”
Indeed, it is, and both fighters, although not gifted in front of a microphone, show no signs of being ill at ease on the biggest stage and, more importantly, in a fight like this. Rather, there is an argument to be made that in both being such natural fighters, this is a stage and habitat made for them; the only place in which they truly feel both comfortable and themselves.
“It would mean a lot,” said Spence, when asked how it would feel to win a headline fight in Las Vegas against his biggest rival. “It would be a dream come true. We watched the fights of all these great fighters, like (Oscar) De La Hoya versus (Felix) Trinidad, and now I get to have my moment. This is my moment now and I want to be under the bright lights and beat a worthy opponent; a guy who has been undisputed and is undefeated. That makes it even better when I defeat him on Saturday night.”
Spence added: “It’s definitely happening at the right time. Look at all the people that came out. It has a lot of hype around it on social media and there are a lot of people talking about it. I would walk in stores before the fight was made and the first thing people would ask me was, ‘When are you and Terence going to fight?’ It’s happening at the right time. I’m in my prime. He’s in my prime. We are the two best fighters in the welterweight division and two of the best fighters in the world. Whoever wins on Saturday night will be the best fighter in boxing, period.”
Then, just like that, after so much waiting and so much unnecessary pomp, it was over.