Many people seem to believe that a boxer must have multiple fights to be considered for Fighter of the Year.
Not us. Sometimes a single victory is so monumental that it carries more weight than even two or three important wins by rivals. That was the case when we selected our award winner for 2023.
Naoya Inoue had a hell of year, knocking out Stephen Fulton and Marlon Tapales to become undisputed champion in a second division. Devin Haney outpointed Vasiliy Lomachenko and Regis Prograis. David Benavidez dominated two excellent boxers, Caleb Plant and Demetrius Andrade. And Gervonta Davis KO’d two unbeaten Garcias, Hector Luis and Ryan.
Those stars all had solid credentials for Fighter of the Year. However, their accomplishments didn’t add up to what Terence Crawford did on July 29 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Crawford fought Errol Spence Jr. in the most significant matchup of the year, a meeting of two unbeaten pound-for-pounders – Crawford No. 1 and Spence No. 4 on Boxing Junkie’s list – for the undisputed welterweight championship.
It brought back memories of great 147-pound matchups of the past, including Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns and Felix Trinidad vs. Oscar De La Hoya. It was historic.
In the end, however, it wasn’t competitive as Crawford turned a 50-50 matchup on paper into a stunning mismatch in the ring.
Crawford was nothing short of spectacular, putting Spence down three times, breaking him down and taking him out in the ninth round of what was arguably his coronation as the best fighter in the post-Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao era.
He also became the first undisputed welterweight champion in the four-belt era and the first man to win all four major belts in a second division, adding to the weight of his achievement.
See why Crawford was an obvious choice for 2023 Fighter of the Year?
“Man, I’m so blessed,” Crawford said in the ring after his victory. “I swear, I swear, like I said before, I always dreamed of being a world champion. I’m an overachiever. Nobody believed in me when I was coming up.
“I made everybody a believer.”
Indeed, he did. And it started in the second round.
That’s when, with about 20 seconds to go, Crawford (40-0, 31 KOs) put Spence (28-1, 22 KOs) down with a right jab that resembled a power punch. Spence got to his feet and wasn’t hurt badly, but Crawford was just getting started.
From then on, the winner was in complete control, coldly, methodically destroying an opponent many believed was his equal going into the highly anticipated showdown.
The fight was already slipping away from Spence in Round 7, during which Crawford put him down twice, first by a counter right about a minute into the round and then by a right hook in the final seconds. The end, it seemed, was near.
Crawford stung Spence midway through Round 9 and then unloaded as vicious an assault as you’ll ever see in the ring. Spence somehow remained on his feet but he took terrible punishment, enough to convince referee Harvey Dock to end the slaughter.
It was a performance for the ages given the perception of Spence at the time, the stakes and Crawford’s complete dominance. No one else could match his accomplishment.