On January 13th or 20th of next year, the fighter who many believe is the best welterweight in the world, Errol Spence 22-0 (19), will make the first defense of the IBF title he won from Kell Brook this past May in England. His opponent will be former two division title holder Lamont Peterson 35-3-1 (17). Peterson vacated his WBA (regular) title so he can challenge for Spence’s IBF belt. The bout will air on Showtime.
Peterson, 33, hasn’t been very active. He fought just once in 2015, was inactive for all of 2016, and has only fought once this year, winning a unanimous decision over Russian David Avanesyan back in February. Having turned pro in 2004, Peterson was pretty active through 2015. He always sought to fight the best and has had more than moderate success, only losing to the elite fighters between 140-147. In 39 fights he has only been stopped once and that was by the very hard punching Lucas Matthysse in 2013. And perhaps the best thing that can be said about Peterson is that he comes to fight and has never backed away from any opponent regardless of their credentials. This is great for the fans but very well could be his undoing against Spence.
As for Spence (pictured on the left), where do you start? He’s 27 years old and he’s approaching his physical peak. Stylistically, he’s a boxer-puncher who fights from a southpaw stance, and the style reference says exactly who he is as a fighter. Spence boxes smartly, using his skills to set up and deliver his cracking power. In his title winning effort against Kell Brook in his last fight, he allowed Brook, a strong welterweight who was trying to assert himself, to push him back. In the midst of that as he gave ground he was shooting his jab at Brook and whacking him to the body with his left hand. Brook no doubt thought he was seizing the fight, but what was really happening was that Spence was making him pay for pushing the fight, with the reward coming later. Eventually Brook slowed and that’s when Spence started pressing the fight, forcing Brook to either punch or try to move, both of which sap a fighter’s stamina.
Once Brook slowed to a near walk and began to get caught along the ropes more frequently, Spence, who can throw every punch in the book with proper technique and foot-work, really began to open up. Brook fought back gamely but was being outgunned and hindered by a swollen left eye. Unfortunately for Brook, Spence is murder when he has his foe backed against the ropes. In the 11th round, with Spence landing with almost regularity and his eye paining him from a busted orbital bone, Brook took a knee and the fight was stopped. Up until that point, the bout was pretty evenly contested with both having their moments, but Spence was beginning to have a few more of them as the fight was progressing.
Spence is a good sized welterweight who can punch with both hands and, going by his foot-work, is very athletic. I love the confidence he projects as he is fighting. Unlike most punchers who just look to blast through you, Spence knows he has the ability to deliver his power regardless of whatever roadblock his opponent attempts to throw at him. At this time I’d favor Spence to beat WBA/WBC title holder Keith Thurman and Jeff Horn who won the WBO title from Manny Pacquiao this past summer. The fighter who will be Spence’s career rival will most likely be former undisputed junior welterweight champ Terence Crawford who vacated his four titles in order to campaign as a welterweight. It looks as though Crawford will probably fight for Horn’s title by next summer, and after he beats Horn the drumbeat for Spence vs. Crawford will be ignited.
As for Lamont Peterson, it’s hard to get excited over his chances of even testing Spence, let alone beating him. Peterson and Spence are friends but they’re on different levels when it comes to their skill set. Peterson looks like he’s bulked up a little bit, but that won’t help him neutralize all that Spence will bring to the battle. I know Peterson trains very hard, but I view him as a fighter with no discernible style. He changes from minute to minute from puncher to mover. He’s a solid enough professional, but there’s nothing he does in any outstanding way. In the eyes of many observers he was given a gift decision over Felix Diaz, who Crawford took apart 19 months later in a fight that was stopped at the conclusion of the 10th round.
Peterson is brave and tough. It’s not in him to fight just to survive, which will lead him to fighting it out with Spence and that will no doubt be his undoing. Spence shouldn’t have much trouble with him, but it should be action packed for as long as it lasts.
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com