The rumors have been reverberating the last couple of weeks that Errol Spence Jr. vs. Terence Crawford, a mouth-watering meeting of stars (by modern boxing standards) but not quite superstars (even by modern boxing standards), is going to be announced soon, for June 17 in Las Vegas.
This is for all the welterweight marbles, and the battle of unbeatens most likely determines who will be ranked atop boxing media pound-for-pound lists. It is, from a skill and ability perspective, the absolute best fight that can be made in the sport. And after a year or so of dithering and disappointment, it seems Spence vs. Crawford is probably on.
A fight doesn’t need to be signed and announced for a sportsbook to offer odds on it, so while Spence-Crawford remains an uncertainty for at least a few days longer, bettors can already place a wager on it at a handful of mobile books. And the odds very much back up that “absolute best fight that can be made” declaration from the previous paragraph.
Here’s what FanDuel thinks of this matchup:
For those unfamiliar with how boxing betting works, what you’re seeing above are both the “two-way” and the “three-way” markets. In the former, betting on the fight to end in a draw is not an option, and if it does end in a draw, bettors on both sides get a refund. In the latter, you can bet on a draw (at fairly standard 18/1 odds) or you can get a slightly better price to bet on either boxer while taking on the risk of losing your wager if the fight is a draw.
Either way, Spence-Crawford is dead freakin’ even, according to FanDuel. Either -112/-112 or -110/-110. There is no favorite.
Or, more accurately, there are two equal, teeny-weeny favorites and no underdog.
At the one other major online sportsbook to have posted its odds on the as-yet-unannounced Spence-Crawford fight, Caesars has only the two-way market available, with Crawford a -120 favorite and Spence +100. The fight is not quite dead even at Caesars. But there still isn’t a true underdog, as neither side would return more than the amount wagered.
No -1600s here
How rare is it to find a boxing match that is this close, both on paper and at the sportsbooks? One glance at the list of other upcoming bouts available for betting tells you how unusual this is.
The two biggest fights this weekend — a relatively quiet one in what has thus far been an outstanding year for boxing — have heavyweight Joe Joyce as a -1250 favorite at FanDuel over Zhang Zhilei, and Mikaela Mayer as a -1000 favorite against Christina Linardatou.
The following weekend offers two much more competitive fights — but still short of Spence-Crawford in that regard. FanDuel has Joe Cordina a -280 fave over Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (+210) and, in the biggest fight in the sport so far this year, Gervonta “Tank” Davis a -280 favorite over “King” Ryan Garcia (+210) atop a major pay-per-view card from T-Mobile Arena in Vegas. (It’s rumored that Spence-Crawford will be announced during Davis-Garcia fight week, as the promoters behind the two events attempt to combine their marketing power.)
Keep scrolling the boxing markets and you’ll see North American boxing’s biggest star, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, a -1600 favorite at FanDuel in a Mexican homecoming fight on Cinco de Mayo weekend against John Ryder (+830).
There’s one other fight on the calendar priced like Spence-Crawford: An intriguing featherweight clash between Luis Alberto Lopez and Michael Conlan on May 27 is -112 both ways. But from a significance and ability perspective, Spence-Crawford is the World Cup finals and Lopez-Conlan is a ragtag group of middle-aged stoners kicking a ball around in a park.
Spence-Crawford is the closest we’re going to come in the modern age to the first meeting between Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns. Spence and Crawford have far lower profiles due to boxing sliding down the scale from mainstream to niche over the last 42 years, and they’re roughly a decade older than Hearns and Leonard were, due in part to the way the boxing business has evolved. But this is a welterweight championship fight of a similar level: two special talents, an equal number of compelling arguments to be made for either man prevailing.
As the odds indicate, it’s boxing at its finest — provided that the business of boxing can get out of the sport of boxing’s way long enough for Spence-Crawford to be officially added to the fight schedule.
Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images