ARLINGTON, Texas – A misinformed member of the media asked Errol Spence Jr. and Yordenis Ugas at their final press conference Thursday how their fight will unfold because they’re both southpaws.
Only Spence fights from a left-handed stance, which caused confusion on stage. Spence, the unbeaten IBF/WBC welterweight champion, suggested that maybe the man who asked the question had them confused for Terence Crawford, an orthodox boxer who usually fights as a southpaw.
When Crawford came up a few minutes earlier, Spence’s response wasn’t anything resembling confusing.
It seems Spence (27-0, 21 KOs), after almost four years of often frustrating talk about the welterweight fight fans want most, is ready to face Crawford for full supremacy in the welterweight division. The obvious obstacle is Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs), who no one sane would dare underestimate based on his life-changing run through the welterweight division over the past 5½ years.
Still, Spence should win their title unification fight Saturday night at AT&T Stadium, even after surgery eight months ago to repair a torn left retina.
Nothing Spence or his trainer, Derrick James, have said or done have given any indication that they’re expecting anything other than a highly competitive fight from the Cuban-born Ugas. The nature of the boxing beast nevertheless led to questions about Crawford, the unbeaten WBO 147-pound champion, on Thursday.
“I feel like that’s the only fight that’s supposed to happen,” Spence said. “I mean, he’s the only one that has the belt. Unless, you know, you’re gonna fight a title eliminator against somebody. So, I mean, that’s the only person to fight to become undisputed champion of the world.”
Ugas echoed Spence’s sentiments during the press conference at AT&T Stadium. He, too, made it perfectly clear that he doesn’t look at Spence any different after surgery to repair his damaged retina or the injuries he sustained during that horrific car accident in October 2019.
“I agree with Errol, that the winner of this fight should go for the undisputed championship,” Ugas said. “It just makes too much sense. Having said that, I’m focused on this fight on Saturday. There is no skipping steps. In order to get to where you wanna go, you have to first take care of Saturday night. And then, whatever happens next, it’s not up to me, really.”
In many ways, whether Spence or Ugas wins Saturday night, it is up to Crawford and Al Haymon.
Crawford’s contract with longtime promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. expired following his 10th-round stoppage of former IBF and WBC champ Shawn Porter on November 20 in Las Vegas. The three-division champion is therefore free to cross that previously obstructive street and align himself with Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions to make a long-awaited showdown with Spence – again, assuming the 6-1 favorite defeats Ugas.
Quite literally, nothing else makes sense for an increasingly legacy-conscious Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs), especially after undisputed 140-pound champion Josh Taylor’s subpar performance against Jack Catterall on February 26 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Barring an injury Saturday night, there is no real reason Spence and Crawford couldn’t fight later this year. Their financial demands might need adjustments based on experts’ pay-per-view projections, but Spence and Crawford could bet on themselves by negotiating a higher percentage of upside if they truly believe their showdown will do the type of buy rate they expect.
Crawford shouldn’t need what would amount to a tune-up fight, either. The Omaha, Nebraska, native has produced like the elite-level, pound-for-pound performer that he has long been coming off 11-month and 12-month layoffs in each of his past two fights, respectively.
James acknowledged to BoxingScene.com after the press conference Thursday that after a victory Saturday night, the timing finally would be perfect for Spence and Crawford to box because their fight would determine the welterweight division’s first fully unified champion of the four-belt era. Had they already boxed, James pointed out that the winner would’ve been only a partially unified champion.
“If you think about this three, four, five years later, [Spence] said, ‘I’m gonna clean off everybody on my side. Then we’ll go do the other thing,’ ” James said. “So, he’s just going through whatever he said, whatever destiny set for us to go get these titles four years ago, five years ago, whenever the idea of Crawford came up. He said, ‘I’m gonna clean off this side of the street and I’m gonna go do this.’ So, he’s only [fulfilling] what was prophesied that he was gonna do.”
The 32-year-old Spence speaks as though his car accident and eye surgery have made him realize he cannot continue to wait to fight Crawford. The DeSoto, Texas, native even used the words “borrowed time” recently, though in more general terms.
Crawford will turn 35 in September, thus there’s no better time than the present for him, either.
All Spence has to do is win Saturday night. That’s no easy task, as Manny Pacquiao and Porter can attest.
But Spence is a 6-1 favorite for a reason. He apparently understands that more than everyone else.
Though he clearly respects the Cuban-born Ugas, that’s why Spence spoke with conviction Thursday about boxing Crawford next.
With boxing being boxing, all we can do is hope Spence was telling “The Truth.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.