Stephen A. Smith to Errol Spence Jr.: 'I don't want you to become Meldrick Taylor'

The boxing world as a whole is still buzzing over Saturday night’s dominant performance from Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford (40-0, 31 KOs) over Errol Spence Jr. (28-1, 22 KOs). From the Eminem walkout to the pound-for-pound performance, the night was dominated by Crawford. There were plenty of “Monday Morning Quarterback” type of conversations after the fight, and one of those came from ESPN’s own Stephen A. Smith during an episode of The Stephen A. Smith Show.

Smith is more of a media personality than anything else these days. He takes on sports topics and can sometimes be extreme with his opinions to get a reaction from those consuming his material. During his podcast episode, he opened it up with longtime boxing trainer and analyst Teddy Atlas as they spoke about the fight on Saturday night and what should happen next. They both suggested an extended period of time off for Spence Jr. to recover from Saturday’s fight, but Atlas went further to say that he shouldn’t do any boxing activities during that year and allow himself to heal. Atlas also mentioned that a big part of Spence Jr. was left in the ring that night, and he needs that time off to get himself together.

After Atlas signed off, Smith went on his known rants, practically begging Crawford not to fight Spence Jr. in December. Smith said, “Please, please, do not fight Errol Spence Jr. Errol Spence Jr., I’m going to say it. I’m begging Terence Crawford not to give you a fight for a year. I’m begging you to not fight for a year. I don’t want you to become Meldrick Taylor. We saw what happened to him after that Julio Cesar Chavez loss, which he should’ve won but got robbed when he got dropped with two seconds left in the fight, and it got stopped. Ridiculous decision. He was never the same since. You ain’t going to be the same either. The best chance you have is to at least wait a year. Terence don’t fight him. He is in no condition to fight you by December.”  

Usually, I don’t take anything that Smith says seriously, as he doesn’t cover the sport closely. This isn’t a diss on him. Smith has publicly admitted that many times while doing First Take with Max Kellerman. He would defer to Kellerman for his opinion on topics dealing with boxing, and he didn’t see himself as the “boxing guy.”

Interestingly, he brought up former two-division welterweight champion junior Meldrick Taylor, as he was one of the best fighters in the late 80s going into the ’90s until he met Julio Cesar Chavez on March 17, 1990. One of the most legendary nights in boxing, Taylor was dominating but ended up being knocked down in the last round with seconds left, and referee Richard Steele stopped the fight. After that fight, Taylor was never the same. Yes, he beat Aaron ‘Superman’ Davis right after, but he wasn’t the physical marvel we saw before the Chavez fight. His speech started to slur, and he stayed as an active fighter longer than he should’ve. Nowadays, you can barely make out what he is saying, and it’s sad to see it.

Smith’s comments to Spence Jr. may sound dramatic, but there is room to agree with him even if you aren’t a fan of his loud opinions. Spence Jr. looked like a shell of himself on Saturday night, but that was mainly because a great fighter like Crawford made him look like that. The great ones typically make it look easy, but after the fight, Spence Jr. looked completely out of it. Maybe he had a concussion, but Spence Jr. didn’t look right, and that post-fight interview in the ring was even more telling that he received more significant damage than what was seen during the fight.

Should Spence Jr. take a rematch with Crawford, even if it’s at junior middleweight? We will probably see the same result, and Crawford may stop Spence Jr. even sooner now that he knows he can take his power. It may end worse for Spence Jr. in the rematch, and the extended time away may help him figure things out. Spence Jr. has had a traumatic few years. The average human being would have given up by now, but he keeps going, which is why so many people support him with his career.

Smith can often sound like a boxing casual. Still, this part of the episode where he asks for Spence Jr. not to become Taylor is something people haven’t considered. Spence Jr’s team has plenty to think about in the next 30 days when looking at what is next for the former unified welterweight champion. Although Spence Jr. called for the rematch almost immediately, it’ll be interesting to see if he activates it, leading to the rematch with Crawford within the next six months.