Paulie Malignaggi's picks: Victory over Spence showed Crawford belongs in the same category as Mayweather

I’d picked Errol Spence to beat Terence Crawford, so Crawford’s performance against him at the weekend was even more surprising and impressive to watch. I’d expected Spence to be too physically big and strong – and for that to surpass Crawford’s skills.

Crawford’s skills have always impressed – he was No 1 on my pound-for-pound list already – but I didn’t think they’d be enough, at 35 years old, against Spence’s natural physicality, pressure and pace, so I was shocked by him not only living up to the skills that we knew he had, but doing so against a bigger opponent. By the end of the fight, he even looked stronger. We’ll never know if Crawford would have won as convincingly as he did if they’d fought when they first should have, but it’s partly Spence’s fault that they didn’t. 

The last time I was as impressed by a fighter, in a fight at that level, was Tyson Fury in his first fight with Deontay Wilder in December 2018. I’ve since seen suggestions that Crawford could have competed in any era – against the Four Kings; against Floyd Mayweather – and he was good enough, skilful enough and strong enough to deserve to be in that conversation. But Mayweather was an incredible fighter who had also earned the right to be in the conversation of the greatest of all time – and his résumé, for now at least, is better.

Spence showed a lot of heart, and he’s been an amazing welterweight, but he looked completely out of his depth. At welterweight he, too, had a better résumé than Crawford. We weren’t guilty of overhyping him – the hype surrounding him going into their fight had been earned, which is largely why Crawford deserves all of the credit he’s been getting. 

Paulie Malignaggi's picks: Victory over Spence showed Crawford belongs in the same category as Mayweather
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I don’t see why a rematch would interest anyone – and I hope we don’t see one. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez fighting Jermell Charlo denied us seeing not only Canelo-David Benavidez, but Charlo-Tim Tszyu. We could also have had Crawford-Charlo, but until that can happen I’d like to see Crawford-Tszyu at 154lbs. 

Tszyu’s very good, and while unproven at world level, he has real momentum and is coming into his prime. I also expect Crawford to move to 154lbs, and for Jaron “Boots” Ennis to stay at 147lbs, so Tszyu would be the next best fight.

I expect Spence to return against what I would call a mid-range “soft touch” – also at 154lbs. Even if he wins, how he looks when winning is just as important before he starts to be given more difficult challenges again. If he hadn’t already beaten Carlos Ocampo, Ocampo would have seemed a good opponent for him to return against. 

He may even have been struggling to make 147lbs – how he returns at 154lbs might show us. Sometimes a fighter can take a beating like that and is never the same again – Davey Moore, after he lost to Roberto Duran in 1983, springs to mind. Spence, after all, is 33.

His trainer, Derrick James, is just about to lead Anthony Joshua into a rematch with Dillian Whyte, and is also preparing Charlo for his fight with Canelo. This won’t be the last time James gets criticised, given the level his fighters compete at, but he’s one of the best trainers in the world. 

The trainers I most admire are those who bring fighters from being total novices to championship level, and that’s what he’s done with not only Spence, but Frank Martin as well.