On 29th July 2023, one of the most highly anticipated contests in the history of professional boxing took place between Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. and Terence “Bud” Crawford at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas. On the line was Crawford’s WBO belt and Spence’s WBC, WBA and IBF titles, as well as the reputations of two elite, undefeated fighters. After years of waiting and months of anticipation following the fight announcement, Terence Crawford had his hand raised with a masterclass of a performance, culminating in a 9th round TKO of Errol Spence.
Much like many boxing pundits, social media appeared to be split on who would be the victor. Crawford had more tools his toolbox, said supporters of the Omaha native, while Spence supporters felt his unrelenting pressure and size would be too much. Both were undefeated and ranked within the top 5 of many fans’ pound-for-pound rankings. Simply put, they were 2 of the best fighters in the world, going head to head in a once-in-a-generation mega fight. In the world of social media, where many topics are minimized to an all or nothing result, this match-up was also unique in that fans struggled to pick a definitive winner.
Now the fight is over and Terence Crawford has been crowned the victor, along with other accolades such as future Hall of Famer, best boxer in the world, and the deliverer of one of the best performances of all time, social media seems to be showing another, albeit predictable, side. Fans knew all along that Crawford would dismantle Spence. Spence’s car crash and detached retina meant he never had a shot. Spence was drained in the pre-fight build-up and didn’t seem his usual self.
In hindsight, people have 20/20 vision. As with the Gervonta Davis vs Ryan Garcia fight in which many people picked Garcia to win, many fans are now maintaining that they knew all along Crawford would come out on top. “I feel bad for anyone who thought this was a 50-50.” “Only the uneducated saw this as a contest.” Social media has a tendency to bring these comments out in force after an event is over and a result has been confirmed.
Within the online boxing community the word ‘casual’ is often thrown around as an insult, often at times when one’s prediction differs from another’s, but it appears even the self-professed hardcore fans didn’t know what to expect. For those who picked Crawford to win, the surprise came in how Crawford won. Few people expected him to win in such a dominant fashion.
The way in which social media turns on a fighter after a loss may help explain why there’s hesitancy within boxing to risk a loss and take difficult fights. Tough fights, of course, are ones in which there’s a greater chance of a loss and losing one’s O in particular comes with considerable negative press. Now that Errol Spence is no longer an undefeated fighter, people are questioning if he is as elite as people once thought.
Reviewing Spence’s track record of defeating other elite fighters, it seems reasonable to say Spence is still elite but was beaten by a better fighter on the night. We can make a comparison to Saul Canelo Alvarez when he lost to Dimitry Bivol in May 2022. Immediately following Canelo’s loss, fans turned against him, calling him overhyped, lacking skills and one dimensional. Few comments praising him for taking a risk in the Light Heavyweight division were overshadowed by those questioning his talent.
When looking at Errol Spence’s accomplishments prior to his first loss, it can be difficult to understand the re-adjustment of people’s perceptions about his talent. This is a former unified champion in the Welterweight division. In what world is he not elite and how can people say he just isn’t good?
To add fuel to the fire some have gone as far as to call Errol Spence weak; a questionable comment since he was still on his feet and ready to go out on his shield by round 9. Spence continued getting up after each knockdown and in the post-fight press conference, he was asked what was going through his mind during the second knockdown. In what can be regarded as a testament to his never give up attitude, Spence replied stoically that he was thinking about how to get back into the fight. While he couldn’t turn things around, even some of the harshest Spence detractors agree that he fought valiantly.
In the world of social media when a prize fighter takes a loss, it’s not only the fighter’s reputation that suffers. In this instance Errol Spence’s trainer, Derrick James, is in the firing line. A good comparison can be made with Anthony Joshua and his former trainers, Rob McCracken and Robert Garcia. Following AJ’s losses to Oleksandr Usyk, social media was flooded with comments about how AJ needed to ditch his trainers. And now, Derrick James, the 2022 Boxing Trainer of the Year, is facing similar criticism.
If it isn’t enough to trivialize Errol Spence’s previous accomplishments, to call him weak and to label his trainers as incompetent, a contingent of social media is calling for Spence to retire. Some say that a fight like that changes people and they’re never the same afterwards. This could be true. The hardest battle for Spence will likely be a mental one. How does a person go from being an undefeated, pound-for-pound great to someone who is no longer invincible? Deontay Wilder struggled with this very dynamic following his first loss to Tyson Fury. UFC fighter Ronda Rousey similarly struggled mentally after her defeat to Holly Holm. Some deal with it better than others, and while Spence says he won’t dwell on the loss, it inevitably will be a hard few weeks ahead of him. Time will tell if he can use this loss to come back stronger or decide it’s time to hang up the gloves.
Fortunately the voices calling Errol Spence weak are overshadowed by those praising his heart and determination, along with praising Crawford as an absolute beast and one of the best ever boxers to lace up gloves. Spence is making no excuses. He fought valiantly, lost to the better fighter on the night and it’s up to him now to determine how this loss will affect the rest of his career.
Frequently seen on social media are comments about how people never expected to see Errol Spence suffer a defeat like this. For the first time in his professional boxing career, Spence looked weak, outgunned and outmatched. Someone who was seemingly invincible and had come back from a car crash and detached retina to defeat Danny Garcia and Yordenis Ugas, was vulnerable and susceptible to punishment. It’s often forgotten that the best boxers in the world, while tough and resilient, are only human after all. Terence Crawford may retire undefeated, he may not. Social media is flooded with assertions about how he is unbeatable. But no one is unbeatable. Crawford, just like Spence, has vulnerabilities. It can be hard to associate Crawford with weakness after such a dominant performance at the highest levels of professional boxing, but the prospect of defeat hovers over everyone.
Until that time comes, if it comes at all, Terence Crawford is the man of the hour. He is widely regarded as the best pound for pound boxer in the world with an incredible record of 40 wins and 0 losses. In other divisions where the best fights aren’t being made, we can thank Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr for coming together to make boxing history.