No matter what was said publicly, Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford always seemed destined to face each other. In recent years, both men have held a claim to being the best welterweight in the world and have been in the discussion as the best men's pound-for-pound boxer. But despite the many victories, titles and accolades on each of their resumes, there was always something lacking -- a matchup against each other. Boxing fans weren't the only ones clamoring for a Spence-Crawford showdown. Both of the fighters wanted it, too.
Ahead of their fight on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, one of the rarest between two top fighters in the same division in several years, Spence outlined why the fight is so important for each of their legacies.
"I wanted to fight him because I feel like he was the guy that's my dancing partner," Spence said on July 12 during a virtual news conference. "He is the guy I need, and the other way around. I'm the guy that he needs, especially [as] we talk about legacy-wise and boxing-wise."
Whenever Spence and Crawford hang up their gloves, only a bout against each other could determine if one of them was truly the best 147-pound fighter of their generation.
The winner will remain undefeated, be crowned as the undisputed welterweight champion and own a victory over a fighter who can truly be considered an equal.
The latter is what makes this weekend's bout so compelling. The winner will be able to claim superiority over his biggest rival. And like Spence said, the outcome will define the legacies of two of the best boxers of their era.
"I feel like if I didn't fight him," Spence said, "his name would always leave a stain on just my name, and if he didn't fight me, my name would always leave a stain on his name, no matter if he wanted to say it or not."
That isn't something Crawford has acknowledged. When negotiations for a bout with Spence failed to materialize or simply fell apart in previous attempts, Crawford insisted that he had moved on from thinking about facing Spence.
"I'm not even worried about Errol Spence no more," Crawford told DAZN in 2021 when he was in the Dallas area for the Vergil Ortiz-Maurice Hooker bout. "I already told everybody that fight is history for me. I'm not thinking or worried about Errol Spence anymore."
However, later that year, the inability to book a fight against Spence was a sticking point in his decision to leave his promoter, Top Rank, and eventually sue the company for damages.
In the postfight interview following his November 2021 victory over Shawn Porter, Crawford announced his intentions to leave. He did so by answering a question about matchmaking for a potential Spence fight.
"Bob [Arum, Top Rank promoter,] couldn't secure me the Spence fight when I was with him," Crawford said at the time. "So how are you going to secure me the Spence fight when I was not with him? I'm moving forward with my career right now and I wish everybody the best."
But the fight needed to happen. Neither man could escape the questions about facing each other. No matter where Crawford turned, Spence was always involved in the conversation.
"I got to figure out a way to fight this dude because when you have your kids asking you when you're going to fight this dude, then you know you got to fight them," Crawford said at the same news conference on July 12.
In that meeting with reporters, Crawford initially said that Spence didn't have an impact on his legacy, calling it the "cherry on top of my ice cream." But when pressed, he acknowledged it would be hard to call himself the best welterweight of his time without defeating Spence.
"It's always about beating the top guys in the division," Crawford said. "I can't say I'm the best guy in my era if there's still one guy [on] Mount Rushmore sitting beside me. I gotta be up there by myself."
A phone call between the two men earlier this year ultimately sealed the fight. After details in the contract derailed the bout from happening in 2022, Spence and Crawford worked through the kinks this year. Specifically, Spence agreed to concede some of the purse split for the contract to be signed.
The winner of Saturday's fight will have a strong claim to increased leveraging power in future negotiations, a bonus on top of the prizes that will be on the line in a possible rematch. If Spence (28-0, 22 KOs) wins, he will become the undisputed welterweight champion and have a strong case to be the world's No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter. Should Crawford (39-0, 30 KOs) win, he will become the first man to be an undisputed champion in two weight classes and will seal his status as one of the best in the sport's history.
It's not just about what this fight will say about each man. Both want to give boxing and its fans a fight to be cherished and discussed for generations.
"We gotta make sure that people are going to remember this fight," Spence said to Boxing Scene, "and people are gonna talk about it how they talk about Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns and all the great fights 40 years ago."