A couple of excellent performances over the weekend in the welterweight (10st,7lbs) division cleared the fog towards unification and continued the upward trajectory of a young prospect.
In Arlington, Texas Errol Spence Jr. turned in an impressive ten rounds in stopping Cuban Yordenis Ugas to unify four of the belts available amongst the 147 pounders. The one outlier is the WBO championship held by Omaha’s Terence Crawford. A contest between the two Americans remains the biggest fight to be made in boxing outside of the heavyweights and been three years in the waiting.
Saturday’s events moved that ‘superfight’ a step closer and although both would have been in their ultimate prime pre-COVID it’s a contest that remains mouthwatering.
Spence (28-0, 22 KO’s) at 32 is two years Crawford’s junior and although involved in a serious car accident a couple of years ago has turned in two impressive performances on the comeback trail and would likely enter as the favorite. Crawford (38-0, 29 KO’s) is a three weight ‘world’ champion and exceptional fighter ranked #3 pound-for-pound by The Ring magazine. In some fans and pundits eyes he should be the #1.
Now that previous promotional/network ties have been severed on Crawford’s side and both fighters have nowhere else to go it finally looks like green for go. Potentially, this could be the Sugar Ray Leonard v Thomas Hearns of the 2020’s.
Spence systematically bashed up the Cuban Ugas over ten hard rounds forcing the stoppage after 1:44 mins. He came through some difficult moments in the sixth when his gumshield was knocked out and was under extreme pressure before the referee controversially temporarily halted the attack, but after weathering the storm was well ahead at the time of the stoppage.
In Manchester, England Conor ‘Destroyer’ Benn further enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a second round bombing out of experienced South African Chris Van Heerden.
With every fight Benn (21-0, 14 KO’s) makes a bigger statement and name for himself in the division. The quality of his opposition is supposedly improving in each fight but he’s making a mockery of pre-fight predictions by simply blowing away his opponents. His power is reminiscent of father, Nigel (the former two weight ‘world’ champion), and he shows the same fitness and intensity. The 25 year old Londoner is now ranked #5 by most sanctioning bodies and heads the next generation of challengers to whoever prevails when Spence and Crawford finally meet.
Heerden drops to 28-3-1 (12 KO’s).
Also on the card European cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith (15-1, 10 KO’s) repeated his previous career victory over Tommy McCarthy in the eighth round. Smith is ranked the #10 best cruiserweight by The Ring and his sole defeat is to domestic rival Richard Riakporhe at #8. The 200 pound division in the UK is one of the hottest around.
In Telford, England the European junior-featherweight champion Jason Cunningham stopped Frenchman Terry LeCouviour in the sixth round to successfully defend his title for a second time. At 32 years old Cunningham (31-6, 7KO’s) will have to move fast to seal a world title shot.
The weekend was topped with some excellent contests in the latest edition of the BOXXER elimination tournament from Coventry, England. This time it was held in the lightweight (9st,9lb/135lb) category and was won by local man Dylan Cheema. Despite having a very tight semi-final contest the 25 year old went home with the first prize and has an easy on the eye box-puncher style. The future looks bright for him and the continuation of this fan-friendly format.
Boxing will likely dominate the back pages for the remainder of the week as we build towards Saturday’s big WBC world heavyweight title fight between Brit’s Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte. Look for further updates here over the week.