Before they entered the ring at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night, Terence Crawford was the narrowest of favorites over Errol Spence, and while there were those who were convinced that “Bud” had the beating of “The Truth,” there was no shortage of prognosticators who felt Spence’s size and strength would prove overwhelming, and a sizeable plurality who struggled to make a pick with any degree of confidence.
After nine rounds of utterly dazzling brilliance, Crawford made such uncertainty seem, in hindsight, myopic. So utterly superior was he in every aspect that debate shifted to whether Crawford could already be classed as an all-time great and where his performance stood among the best that the sport had seen.
While Crawford’s demolition of Spence must rank highly on the second measure, Saturday’s fight was far from the first occasion on which a seemingly even matchup turned into a one-sided beatdown. Here, in chronological order, is a quick look at a dozen of its more notable predecessors.
Jack Dempsey TKO 3 Jess Willard July 4, 1919
Defending heavyweight champion Willard towered above challenger Dempsey and was favored to retain his crown; but, 30 seconds into the opening round, Dempsey floored the giant with a left hook that broke his jaw. Six more knockdowns followed before the first round had ended, Dempsey’s blows knocking out Willard’s teeth and breaking his face in multiple places, and Willard retired on his stool after the third.
Max Schmeling KO 12 Joe Louis June 19, 1936
Schmeling had briefly held the heavyweight championship but was not considered too onerous a challenge for the undefeated young American. However, Schmeling had noticed that Louis held his left hand low after throwing it and used that to pulverize Louis with right hand after right hand, dropping him for the first time in his career and ultimately stopping him in 12. (Louis would, of course, famously have his revenge.)
George Foreman KO 2 Joe Frazier January 22, 1973
Frazier was less than two years removed from besting Muhammad Ali in The Fight of the Century and had won 10 consecutive heavyweight title fights when he signed to face fellow undefeated American Foreman. But the challenger brutalized him over one and a half rounds, sending him to the canvas six times en route to becoming the new heavyweight champion of the world.
Larry Holmes TKO 13 Muhammad Ali October 2, 1980
Ali had been retired two years and had had seen better days before he hung up his gloves; but while those around him knew full well that he was in no shape to fight, the public was duped by his charisma and greatness into thinking he would at least be competitive against his former sparring partner. Instead, the contest, such as it was, was a sad and brutal beating that surely accelerated Ali’s demise.
Roy Jones W12 James Toney November 18, 1994
Middleweight champion Jones and super middleweight kingpin Toney were ranked three and two pound-for-pound respectively by Ring Magazine when they met to contest Toney’s crown. But Toney, who struggled to make the 168-pound weight limit, was no match for the speedy Jones, who won a wide unanimous decision to begin his reign as one of the true greats.
Floyd Mayweather TKO 10 Diego Corrales January 20, 2001
In some quarters, Corrales was favored in this matchup of undefeated 130 pounders. But Mayweather put on what remains the greatest performance of his Hall of Fame career, consistently beating Corrales to the punch and dropping him five times before Corrales’ trainer and stepfather stopped the fight.
Marco Antonio Barrera W 12 Naseem Hamed April 7, 2001
The brash, undefeated Hamed was the lineal featherweight champ, while the thrice-beaten Barrera was moving up from 122 pounds. Widely regarded as a come-forward, albeit technical, slugger, Barrera fought off the back foot against Hamed, countering him repeatedly, swelling his visage, and even losing a point for driving him face first into a corner post in the final round. Hamed would fight just once more and retire.
Bernard Hopkins TKO 12 Felix Trinidad September 29, 2001
Trinidad was such a favorite to become unified middleweight champion that it is said Don King had already engraved his name on the special trophy he planned to preset to the winner. Hopkins, however, dominated, outboxing and befuddling the Puerto Rican and dropping him in the twelfth, prompting Trinidad’s father to save his son from further punishment.
Joe Calzaghe W 12 Jeff Lacy March 4, 2006
Virtually no American journalists gave Calzaghe a chance against the fearsome puncher from Florida; but the Welshman bloodied Lacy’s nose in the first round, dropped him in the twelfth, and won every minute of every round on between.
Manny Pacquiao TKO 8 Oscar De La Hoya December 6, 2008
Pacquiao had rampaged through the lower weight divisions but had to jump from lightweight to welterweight to face De La Hoya, who had recently been campaigning at 154 pounds. It seemed a step too far for the Filipino, but De La Hoya had nothing left and had no answer for Pacquiao’s speed and combinations. The result was a sad beatdown that ended when De La Hoya stayed on his stool after the eighth round; he would not fight again.
Miguel Cotto TKO 10 Sergio Martinez June 7, 2014
Cotto had fought just once since suffering back-to-back losses to Floyd Mayweather and, more problematically, Austin Trout; Martinez had racked up five defenses of his middleweight title since poleaxing Paul Williams in 2010. In the end, the only mystery was how Martinez made it to the second round, as Cotto dropped him three times in the first and beat him to the punch every step of the way until Martinez retired after round nine.
Naoya Inoue TKO 8 Stephen Fulton July 25, 2023
After winning titles at 112, 115, and 118 pounds, Inoue stepped up to 122 to take on the best in the division, Philadelphia’s Fulton. He won every round in a dominant display prior to dropping and stopping the American in the eighth. His performance was hailed as the best of the year, and Inoue was crowned pound-for-pound number one, and both proclamations went unchallenged for four whole days until Crawford stepped into the ring.