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Gordon: Terence Crawford proves he’s an all-time boxing great

It’s not the unbridled battering Terence Crawford administered to Errol Spence Jr. that underscored his ruthlessness.

It’s that he bloodied, dropped and battered Spence while taunting his stablemate — undisputed 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo — whose ringside seat Saturday night made him a target for Crawford’s trash talk.

And perhaps the next test for his generational greatness.

“For all you guys that doubted me, for all you guys that said I was too small, I was actually too strong,” Crawford said after his ninth-round technical knockout at T-Mobile Arena. “Now everybody gets to witness greatness, and, like I said before, and it’s the Terence Crawford era.”

Any pound-for-pound list begins now with Crawford, who turned a fellow pound-for-pound performer into his personal punching bag en route to the undisputed welterweight championship. He isn’t just the best fighter in the world — but one of the best fighters in the history of professional boxing, whose advanced array of skills only embolden the brutality he summons when he steps inside the squared circle.

Gather the all-time pound-for-pound greats: Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roy Jones Jr., Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, etc., etc.

Crawford (40-0, 31 knockouts) now exists eternally among them.

A complete fighter

“I’m up there,” said Crawford, 35, a three-division champion who first held the undisputed 140-pound crown. “I always want to pay homage to the fighters that came before me because without them, there’d be no me.

“Wherever they want to put me, I’m up there. It ain’t my job to put me where I want to be. It’s ya’ll job to put me where I belong.”

Such a subject is subjective, but Crawford checks all the boxes. He’s the only two-weight undisputed champion in boxing’s four-belt era. His best work has been at welterweight, a glamorous weight class rich in tradition in which he’s stopped every fighter he’s faced.

But no one had felt the brunt of his brutality like Spence (28-1, 22 KOs), whom he solved within a matter of minutes. Said Spence after the fight, his face still swollen from Crawford’s fists: “He was sharp. He was on point. He made sure he was 100 percent ready for this fight.”

Like 39 others before him, Spence found out firsthand there isn’t anything in the ring Crawford can’t do. He’s proficient in both stances, fighting Spence exclusively as a southpaw and punishing his mistakes with superior speed, strength and smarts.

Schooled by head coach Brian McIntyre and his tight-knit team of assistants, Crawford can score with his jab or use it as a range finder. He’s deft on the outside and rugged on the inside, controlling the tempo of his fights like a concert conductor.

He can catch and counter, slip and counter, roll and counter or parry and counter. He can also take a punch: Spence’s best shots bounced harmlessly off his face.

“The first round, I felt like I had the speed and the power,” Crawford said. “I felt his power and felt like I was the stronger fighter. That was pretty much it.”

The next challenge?

Spence said he wants to exercise his contractual right to a rematch at 154 pounds, but another matchup is not necessary.

Though his heart and bravery were on display — he attended the postfight news conference instead of going to the hospital — Spence does not have the skill to keep pace with Crawford. That leaves Charlo and burgeoning welterweight Jaron Ennis as the only viable opponents for Crawford, who indicated a willingness to move to super welterweight.

Said Crawford: “I’m in the hurt business.”

Is he ever.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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