It went back and forth between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao until Floyd conclusively beat Manny in May of 2015 and then it was Mayweather. After Mayweather, Andre Ward was considered the top pound-for-pound fighter in boxing after he beat Sergey Kovalev. Ward further endorsed that sentiment when he stopped Kovalev seven months later in their rematch. Shortly thereafter, Ward retired from boxing and now the pound-for-pound debate is at a fevered pitch and seen as a horse race, at least for the top five spots between Terence Crawford, Vasyl Lomachenko, Mikey Garcia, Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.
This past Monday (January 8th) during an interview on Sky Sports posted on their website, IBF welterweight title holder Errol Spence 22-0 (19) stressed his ambition and how he desires to be thought of in the same vein that Mayweather and Ward were.
“Everyone wants to be that No. 1 guy in boxing, not just in their weight division, or even their country,” Spence said. “With Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward gone, that just leaves it wide open to see who is the best fighter in the world.
“I think that’s what we’re all fighting for. That’s what Terence Crawford, that’s what [Vasyl] Lomachenko are fighting for. And that is what I am after. Expect a damn good performance from me (on January 20).”
Spence won the IBF title with an 11th round stoppage over Kell Brook last May and will be making his first defense against former two division title holder Lamont Peterson 35-3-1 (17). Peterson has a warrior mentality and has never shied away from engaging in a rough and tumble fight, and you can forget about him being in awe of Spence’s vaunted power because Lamont doesn’t know the meaning of fear or intimidation. Peterson is also a solid boxer-puncher who likes to fight it out and trade. So if there ever was a top fighter whose corresponding style would enable Spence to shine and show boxing fans all that he has in his arsenal, it’s Peterson who will be looking to put the brakes on Spence’s rise and delay the lofty expectations many have for him.
Spence, since his impressive showing against Brook after a slow start, has captured the imagination of most boxing fans and observers and there’s a lot of interest in watching him fight. And much of that is based on his showing against his last three opponents, all of whom fought at the world class level before facing Errol. In April 2016 he stopped Chris Algieri in the fifth round after Algieri had gone the distance with Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan. Next up was Leonard Bundu, who’d only lost to WBA/WBC welterweight champ Keith Thurman via unanimous decision, and Spence stopped him in six. After that Spence beat Brook whose only setback before fighting him came against hard punching Gennady Golovkin in his attempt to win the middleweight title.
What makes Spence special is he’s a genuine boxer-puncher who is harder to hit than you’d expect for a fighter who seeks to win exclusively by knockout. Watching him work, it doesn’t take one long to glean that he has elite ring skills. He has a fantastic jab from a southpaw stance, and his wide stance enables him to extend it while at the same time being low enough so he can avoid return fire. When he throws his left cross, he steps in nicely and sets up his body punching from both sides….and he’s a murderous body puncher, one of the few among boxing’s best today. And when he’s in close, he keeps his elbows tucked in, enabling him to blunt wide punches and be perfectly in position to work up the middle. Swinging at him with a fully committed shot and missing is very dangerous. In addition to that, Spence has good footwork and cuts off the ring effectively, complimented by his hand and foot speed. He gets great leverage on every punch he throws and looks like an elite pro even when he misses.
When he says his goal is to be considered the no. 1 boxer in the world, it’s not a reach to envision him being thought of in that regard someday down the road. He really does have all the requisite tools to achieve it. The welterweight division is one of the deepest divisions in boxing. If Spence gets by Peterson as convincingly as I believe he will, he’ll have stern challenges awaiting him, the likes of WBA/WBC title holder Keith Thurman 28-0 (22), former WBC title holder Danny Garcia 33-1 (19), former WBA titlist Shawn Porter 28-2-1 (17) and former undisputed junior welterweight champ Terence Crawford 32-0 (23). And if Spence were to defeat, let’s say, Thurman and Crawford, he’d have a great case for being considered boxing’s top dog on the mythical pound-for-pound list, although Thurman and especially Crawford represent huge obstacles.
During the Sky Sports interview, Spence said he sees himself eventually moving up to super-welterweight and would consider fighting Kell Brook again if there was a title on the line. And if Spence ever makes it up to the 154-pound division, there’s two physically impressive title holders there in WBC champ Jermell Charlo 30-0 (15) and IBF title holder Jarrett Hurd 21-0 (15) for him to test himself against.
The thought of Spence touching gloves down the road with Crawford, Thurman or Charlo is enough to make any boxing fan salivate. Consider Spence-Peterson the beginning of Errol Spence becoming a boxing star in the making. Shortly thereafter his name will be thrown out as one of the fighters fans most want to see in action. He’s a tremendous fighter and because of the style clash between he and Peterson, there’s a very good chance Spence will score his most impressive victory in front of the Showtime audience and then on Sunday morning, the day after the fight, boxing fans will be asking when he’s fighting Crawford or Thurman.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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