Boxing needs Spence-Crawford in 2021, and the fighters need it, too

Errol Spence Jr. is back. He was aggressive and effective in his unanimous decision win over Danny Garcia on Saturday -- erasing all questions that lingered about how he would respond in his first fight since his car accident in October 2019.

"I was smiling because it was a long, long road to come back," Spence said during a postfight news conference. "It was a lot of sacrifice and buckling down and staying focused and trials and tribulations to get to this point, to tonight. I got to that point and it paid off."

His performance was great -- both because of how he looked and felt after the fight, and because it clears the path for the only real question for Spence: Who are you going to fight next, and why is it Terence Crawford? We've waited too long as a boxing community for Spence-Crawford, and with both fighters showing they are currently in peak shape, it's time for the fight to happen.

Enough of the solid welterweights like Garcia or Kell Brook. Boxing needs its superfight -- and Spence-Crawford would be one of the biggest bouts we've had in years, with only Wilder-Fury 2 joining it in the conversation. Two fighters who both claim to be king of the welterweight division, each of whom have earned spots in the top-5 in ESPN's pound-for-pound rankings.

But Spence said after the fight that he wasn't worried about Crawford, noting that he'll simply see what the future holds.

"I'm not thinking about that," Spence said. "I'm thinking about seeing my kids tomorrow and chilling on my ranch and finally riding my horses after 10, 12 weeks."

It has always seemed like Crawford and Top Rank had more urgency to make the fight happen than Spence and Premier Boxing Champions. Maybe it's business, but if this fight is to happen both sides need to make it a priority.

Crawford was in attendance at Saturday's fight at AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas, leaving Las Vegas, where he has stayed recently to support Shakur Stevenson's upcoming fight, in a clear pursuit to put his face on the radar for a future fight with Spence. It didn't seem like his rival showed much interest in hyping up that future bout, though.

"If he says he's not worried about me, what is he doing here?" Spence said. "I wouldn't go to none of his fights. I'm not worried about Terence Crawford."

It was disappointing to hear that. It takes steam out of any optimism that Spence-Crawford is on the horizon.

The pressure needs to be on Spence to call for this fight to happen, just as much and maybe even more than it is on Crawford. But to this point, it seems like any responsibility for realizing this fight weighs too heavily on Spence's shoulders.

Seeing Spence beat up on solid but not elite PBC fighters no longer moves the needle. If Spence really wants to be the best welterweight, he has to beat Crawford.

Top Rank CEO Bob Arum said Spence and Manny Pacquiao are his only options for Crawford's next fight. Pacquiao does hold the other world title in the division, but that fight would be a cash grab for either Crawford or Spence, if they could make it. But fighting each other is the only matchup that truly matters in the eyes of the boxing world.

If we can't get Spence-Crawford, it's an indictment on boxing and both fighters. What is boxing if we can't have the best fight the best?

Spence won't be the undisputed best at welterweight, or have an argument as the clear No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, until he fights Crawford. Crawford needs Spence as the marquee opponent to cement his legacy. They need each other. It's time.