Philippines, 29 Feb 2024
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Downers of the Decade: Crawford vs Spence and Inoue vs Fulton

I hate to be a killjoy or a party popper but being one who was old and discriminating enough of a boxing follower to have seen the best, most competitive and consequential title fights of the 80s and 90s, for me the recent Inoue-Fulton and especially Crawford- Spence so called superfights could qualify as downers or disappointments of the decade.

Not bragging, I was fortunate to have witnessed the world championship careers in the welterweights of Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar de la Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao, in my, and I guess many others, book, four of the finest 147 pounders of the last forty years, including their epic battles against the likes of Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran and Tommy Hearns for Sugar Ray, Tito Trinidad and Ike Quartey for Oscar and against each other for Floyd and Manny, among other memorable title bouts.

I dare say, those were competitive, hotly contested bouts that were mostly decided by more superior fighting spirit and ring smarts; the hatred to lose as shown by more determination and self pride and well timed adjustments by the fighters and their corners. These were in full display in Leonard's two sanguine unifcation bouts with Duran and his come from behind late round kayo of Hearns. He likewise had to solve the defensive puzzle of Benitez before winning.

Oscar's struggles against Trinidad and Quartey were a battle of wills and adjustments in which he came up short or wanting in the eyes of two judges against Tito but proved himself as more than adequate against the big hitting Ike Quartey.

Though Floyd officially won by close but unanimous decision over Manny in 2015, many fans worldwide still are debating who between them really should have been given more credit by the judges. Was it Floyd's smart boxing or Manny's aggressive fighting?

I was very fortunate, though still unwitting spectator at the time to have witnessed perhaps the most competitive, closely fought world unification title bout between WBO titlist Marco Antonio Barrera and WBC champion Erik Morales in February of 2000.

That fight which would herald the fierce legendary rivalry between the two Mexican warriors that would be carried to the next two weight divisions in the succeeding years (notwithstanding their losses to Pacquiao) was so closely fought that no one in the arena or watching on their telly had a clear idea of who actually won the contest until the final verdict was officially announced.

To this day, Barrera and Morales and their hordes of fans still dispute and debate who really deserved to get the verdict.

Why am I saying these?

To drive home the point that the Inoue-Fulton and Crawford-Spence so called super fights, celebrated and undoubtedly much awaited and anticipated as they had been, were far off to their precedents in the previous decades in terms of ring drama and display of pugilistic skills and gray matters.

Fulton was highly expected to battle Inoue not merely utilizing but improving and improvising with his trademark style of mobile defense-oriented boxing. Faced with the deadliest puncher in the most important fight of his career, many had expected Fulton to unabashedly ride his bicycle and use the whole length and breadth of the ring to keep away from the Japanese's field of fire especially kill zone.

As he had done against a non-stop volume punching demon in Brandon Figueroa and the heavy handed trio of Angelo Leo, Danny Roman and Arnold Khegai, Fulton was expected to execute a boxing master class against the murderous punching Japanese Monster. He was expected to fight on his back foot and counter on the fly while constantly moving from side to side and from one corner to another, engaging on spots only when he had the advantage.

Many had expected Fulton to essay another boxing chess match against Inoue whose knockout winning tear since moving up to the bantamweights has elevated him as a top pound for pound fighter in the world for the past two years at least.

But the Fulton that came out of his corner that night at the Ariake Arena in his foe's home country was a far different fighter from the previous one that had posed stylistic problems to the likes of Figueroa, Roman and other bombers at 122 lbs.

Perhaps believing that being naturally bigger and having fought most of his career at 122, he (Fulton) has the advantage and could handle someone like Inoue who despite his deadly record had yet to prove himself in a division he just moved up to.

Heading to the fight, indeed there had been questions about Inoue's ability to carry his power up to 122 and how he would he fare against not only a legitimate but a well established super bantamweight, a reigning champion at that.

It took Inoue less that two quarters of the fight to provide the answer and Fulton's camp virtually throwing out of the window strategy by having Stephen fight him not just straight up but moving in at times, the way I saw it, helped in Inoue securing the knockout win, not really surprising or monumental.

For staying within the Japanese striking and killing zone by fighting him that way, it was really just a matter of time before Inoue could lower the boom to put Fulton's lights out.

Indeed, there's nothing much to discuss as to strategizing and strategies in this fight compared to the Barrera-Morales classic of a war 23 years ago wherein almost every round of the 12 rounds were battle of strategies and strategic adjustments.

The Crawford-Spence fight in my eyes also paled in comparison to the superfights of the 80s and 90s especially the Leonard-Duran and Leonard-Hearns epics where Sugar Ray tried to macho up with Roberto but failed but got his revenge by going back to his original style of fighting in the rematch and where Sugar Ray and Tommy alternated with the role of smart boxer and KO seeking puncher.

There was none of that in the Crawford-Spence bout as Errol, as one noted trainer concluded, proved to be no more than a celebrated "basic" fighter with a one-tracked style of fighting, that of going forward, backing up and grinding down the opponent with power and persistence. Which did not work against a versatile, talented and powerful opponent as Terrence Crawford.

Nothing really special or extra ordinary in that fight and win by Crawford.

The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at and by phone 09215309477.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Teodoro Medina Reynoso.

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