After Terence "Bud" Crawford scored a ninth-round knockout of Jeff Horn on Saturday night in Las Vegas, he stuck his tongue out and smiled at the crowd.
Then, the new WBO welterweight champion flexed and stood on the ropes at the MGM Grand Arena. As Michael Buffer yelled, "Terrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrence Crawford!" rapper Rick Ross stood behind him in the ring. Boxing's prince had arrived.
Errol Spence Jr., the IBF's undefeated 147-pound champ who will fight undefeated Carlos Ocampo on Saturday on Showtime, acknowledged his adversary's achievement with a simple tweet and emoji.
🧐— Errol Spence (@ErrolSpenceJr) June 10, 2018
A 2012 Olympian, Spence is often more subdued than his colleagues in the welterweight division. The mellow Texan tries to avoid vain prefight antics and trash talk.
Yet, he told ESPN.com he respects Keith Thurman, the undefeated WBA welterweight champion, but doubts Thurman can match his grit and hunger. And Crawford? Well...
"He's crafty, he's a switch-hitter, he can box, he can move," said Spence, who will fight Ocampo in the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, the training facility for the Dallas Cowboys. "For me, I just feel like I'm bigger. I'm stronger. I'm just as sharp. I have a better chin. I hit harder. I'd just basically beat him up."
If Bob Arum, Crawford's promoter, and Al Haymon, Spence's manager, can negotiate a deal, then Crawford-Spence -- assuming the latter gets a win on Saturday and avoids major damage -- could end 2018 with one of the biggest fights of the year. The winner could become the face of boxing, a post vacated when Floyd Mayweather retired.
This is the most exciting and competitive chapter for the 147-pound division since Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Tito Trinidad and Pernell Whitaker all tussled for the crown in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Crawford's move to welterweight boosted a division anchored by Spence, Thurman and Shawn Porter before his arrival. Plus, Amir Khan returned to the division after a knockout loss to Canelo Alvarez. Danny Garcia remains a formidable opponent. And lightweight star Mikey Garcia, who won a 140-pound belt earlier this year, could make the jump in the future. And don't forget about Manny Pacquiao, who's fighting for the WBA "regular" welterweight title against Lucas Matthysse on July 14 and could be a future opponent for Crawford if he wins.
But Spence expects to emerge from the heap with all of the titles and the glory attached to them.
"I'm from the old school where I want to fight the best," he said. "I want to reign supreme over all of them. I'm willing to fight all of them to prove all of that."
Is he too nice to represent the polarizing sport, though?
Spence reserves all of his flash for the ring.
His Instagram account is filled with boxing photos, pictures of his dogs, and more boxing photos.
No supermodels. No Rolexes. No images of him wearing Rolexes while standing next to supermodels like so many of boxing's icons, who have always thrived on charisma and flair.
Jack Johnson wore expensive suits and bowties. Muhammad Ali convinced an entire country to hate George Foreman. Sugar Ray Leonard boxed, talked and smiled his way onto Wheaties boxes. Mike Tyson scared his rivals and partied like a rock star, while Mayweather combined components of them all to build a nine-figure empire.
But Spence has no plans to change in hopes of elevating his profile.
"It's no strategy," he said about his relaxed demeanor. "It's just my character naturally. I don't really talk that much. It's just who I am. I just back it up in the ring. There is no need to talk. ... I'm not the guy who rambles."
Kell Brook promised to feed Spence "chocolate brownies" -- the nickname for his hands -- when they met in England last year for Brook's IBF welterweight title.
After a rough start, Spence's body shots began to soften Brook, who could not continue after suffering a broken eye socket.
"Talking only works for so many guys," Spence said. "That worked for Floyd but Floyd has been in the game for 20-plus years."
It's how it has always been for Spence, who grew up dreaming of an NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys.
He was born in Long Island, New York, but moved to Dallas when he was 2 years old.
His first fight unfolded on a routine walk home. A simple scrap with another kid who'd challenged him.
He didn't like to fight then. In middle school, however, he successfully tested himself against older fighters at a boxing gym. Then, he realized he had a brighter future in the squared circle than on the gridiron with Jerry Jones' franchise.
Amateur titles followed. Then a trip to the 2012 Olympics in London.
It did not take long for Spence to make his mark once he turned pro.
Nathan Butcher still remembers the thump of Spence's left hook.
Five years ago, a promoter called the West Virginia boxer a few days before Spence's third professional bout and asked him to fill in for the original opponent who'd dropped out.
Butcher, who knew of Spence's Olympic pedigree, lasted 53 seconds after a left hook nearly knocked his floppy red hair off his scalp in the 2013 fight that aired on Showtime.
"It was," Butcher told ESPN.com about the punch Spence set up with a brutal body shot, "a different kinda hit."
Spence's power never relented. He's KO'd 20 of his first 23 opponents.
Phil Lo Greco suffered a third-round, TKO loss to Spence in 2015. He said Spence's patience and power surprised him. He's a strategic fighter, Lo Greco said, but he'll brawl if he has to.
"He don't mind getting hit because he knows he can give it," said Lo Greco, who has also faced contenders Amir Khan and Shawn Porter. "He's a special talent. He has a lot of endurance. And he'll beat the s--- out of everybody."
Spence's win over Brook last year proved as much and solidified his standing in the division.
He was in England, Brook's turf. And he was down 3-2 after five rounds on two judges' scorecards. A third judge, Alejandro Lopez, scored four of the first five rounds in Brook's favor.
But then, his deep body punches interrupted Brook's rhythm in the late rounds. And Spence, a southpaw, continued to throw decapitating right hooks. The flurry persisted until Brook kneeled in submission due to an eye injury Spence had caused.
"I always thought Errol was one of the better prospects in boxing," said Paulie Malignaggi, a former two-division world titleholder and Showtime commentator. "Obviously, we all knew he was a heavy-handed puncher. What the Kell Brook fight showed is he had ice in his veins. He showed the poise of a veteran."
Ocampo seems both hungry and humbled by his opportunity against Spence this weekend.
"My goal is to fight a smart fight," he said, per Showtime's press release on the fight. "Spence is a great fighter so I know it will take the best performance of my career. I think it's going to be a war and I plan to come out with my hand raised and the belt around my waist."
Not long ago, Spence had the same attitude and drive.
But a win over Ocampo could lead to a superfight with Crawford or another 147-pound contender.
Spence anticipates more accolades and honors. To get there, he plans to punch -- not talk -- his way into the next chapter of his career, the way it has always been -- the way he likes it.
"I can be a soft-spoken guy, talk nice to a guy, and then two seconds later I can talk to a guy in the ring and then as soon as the bell rings, I'm on you," he said. "It's not really a transformation. I don't gotta be angry or hate the person to get my win or get my 'W' or stop my opponent."