Welterweight world titlist and ESPN No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter Terence Crawford defends his belt against former titleholder Kell Brook in the main event of a Top Rank Card at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas on Saturday. And while the welterweight division is packed with talent, including titleholders Errol Spence Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, the lightweights have been making waves lately, with Gervonta Davis and Teofimo Lopez making statement wins against Leo Santa Cruz and Vasiliy Lomachenko, respectively.
Is the lightweight division the best in boxing today? Can Crawford win in impressive fashion against Brook to make a case for the 147-pound division?
ESPN’s boxing experts share their thoughts on these topics and more.
Real or not: Terence Crawford will KO Kell Brook
Eric Woodyard: Real. If I were a betting man, I would obviously put my money on pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford to get the victory. However, none of his fights have ended in a decision since 2016 (against Viktor Postol). With that being said, Crawford will be looking to make a statement against ex-titleholder Kell Brook, and this is a pivotal time in his career, when he needs the big-name bouts to cement his legacy.
Brook’s two losses ended in a TKO and KO to Gennadiy Golovkin and Errol Spence Jr., respectively, so Crawford will likely be patient in his attack, while also looking to showcase a strong performance to put pressure on the opposition to make the big fights happen right now. That’s a dangerous position for Brook to overcome. It’s now or never during this exciting time of boxing with a lot of young stars on the rise. Expect Crawford to prove why he holds the top spot in ESPN’s pound-for-pound ranks.
Real or not: Crawford will fight one of the other 147-pound world titlists by the end of 2021
Cameron Wolfe: Real. This is more like an “I hope so.” But I’ll choose to be optimistic in a desperate plea for Crawford to face Spence or Manny Pacquiao, the two other elite world welterweight titlists.
Crawford-Spence is overdue and quite honestly a fight that boxing, Crawford and Spence all need. This seems to be all about the promoters and money, which is unfortunate. But both guys are running out of viable respected options and time to make this bout. Once fans return in full force, the money to make these fights should, too. Crawford’s deal with Top Rank is expiring soon, and there’s speculation that in 2021 he could leave for Premier Boxing Champions, which has a larger stable of top welterweights, including Pacquiao and Spence. Whether Crawford stays at Top Rank or not, we’ll say he finally gets his superfight against Spence or Pacquiao in the second half of 2021.
Real or not: The lightweight division is the best in boxing
Ben Baby: This is a tough one. The 135-pound division might be the most exciting division when you look at the names, such as Teofimo Lopez, Devin Haney, Gervonta Davis, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Luke Campbell, Jorge Linares and Ryan Garcia. That mix includes a lot of young fighters who could be permanent staples on the pound-for-pound lists. But I still think welterweight is the top division in the sport.
At welterweight there are several established names in Spence, Crawford, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Pacquiao. There’s a former champion in Maurice Hooker joining the division because 147 pounds is a friendlier weight for him. And the sleeper in the division is Vergil Ortiz, who is arguably the top prospect promoted by Golden Boy (yes, even better than Ryan Garcia). The lightweight division is on pace to surpass its welterweight counterparts as fighters. But for now, 147 is still king.
Real or not: Devin Haney can compete with the top lightweights, Teofimo Lopez, Gervonta Davis and Vasiliy Lomachenko
Woodyard: Real. No, his fight against Yuriorkis Gamboa on Saturday didn’t produce the knockout performance he wanted, but Haney’s unanimous decision victory was a whitewash. His jab was crisp, his defense was sharp and he completely dominated the aging ex-titleholder. Haney’s still in search of that true test as a professional to push him over the hump in the eyes of the public, but his boxing skills are elite. He can definitely compete with the top lightweight stars in the division, but at 21 years old, he still has time to sharpen his craft. Although his camp may see it differently, there isn’t a real rush to jump right out there immediately. He’s still the youngest champion in boxing, and there’s no reason to put him in a dangerous spot right away.
Real or not: Real or not: Terri Harper and Mikaela Mayer will unify their world titles in 2021
Nick Parkinson: Real-ish. While a unification fight with Harper is the direction Mayer wants to go in 2021, Harper may prefer to initially take a different route. Harper (10-0-1, 5 KOs), 24, defends her WBC junior lightweight title against Katharina Thanderz on Nov. 14, and may then prefer to face English rival Natasha Jonas in a rematch rather than attempt to unify against Mayer (14-0, 5 KOs), 30, the Colorado native who won her title last weekend.
Jonas, 36, who boxed at the 2012 Olympics, held Harper to a draw and wants a rematch. So does Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn, who said after the entertaining August encounter: “We have to see that fight again.”
Harper-Jonas II would go down well with a U.K. audience, and that means Mayer may have to be patient until the second half of 2021 for one of the standout fights in women’s boxing. But if Harper wins on Saturday, then again against Jonas, expect to see Mayer-Harper.
Real or not: Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman Gonzalez 2 is a better fight than Estrada-Srisaket Sor Rungvisai 3
Salvador Rodriguez: Real. I would love to see a third fight between Juan Francisco Estrada and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai after 24 very competitive rounds. However, there is nothing that makes me think that this matchup is better than a rematch between “El Gallo” Estrada and four-time champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez in a junior bantamweight unification showdown.
Eight years have passed since their first confrontation, which Gonzalez won by unanimous decision. Boxing fans have been asking for a rematch since. Entertainment is guaranteed when these two get into a ring, and with Gonzalez getting older, there’s no better time than now. Hopefully they get paid what they deserve for this mega-fight.