The January 14 IBF welterweight title fight between Errol Spence (22-0, 19 KOs) and Lamont Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KOs, 1 KO by) marked another step in the maturation process of a man who appears to be a special fighter.
Young fighters on the rise have a look about them. Their confidence, optimism, and strength are evident in the way they walk, their posture, their eyes.
Spence, who turned 28 on January 13, has that look. And this appraisal is bolstered by the way he has outclassed a lot of ordinary fighters, his May 27, 2017, demolition of Kell Brook (KO 11), and now his performance against Peterson. Boxing might take a toll on him someday. But for the moment, he’s riding high.
By contrast, the 33-year-old Peterson has seen better days as a fighter. The high point of his career was a controversial 2011 split-decision verdict over Amir Khan in Lamont’s hometown of Washington DC. The low point came seventeen months later when Peterson was wiped out in three rounds by Lucas Matthysse.
Peterson had been in the ring only once in the 27 months preceding his outing against Spence. The prevailing view was that Lamont had little chance of winning and would be just another name on Errol’s resume. The promotion was about Spence, not Peterson and Spence. Errol was a 15-to-1 betting favorite.
Both fighters conducted themselves as exemplary sportsmen throughout the promotion. There was no trash-talking. They’re excellent representatives for boxing.
“Errol Spence is clearly a great fighter,” Peterson said at a January 17 media workout. “I can see why people revere him in that way. But on Saturday, we’re going to give him a fight and he’s going to have to prove it.”
Spence responded in kind, saying. “I’ve seen too many fighters look down the road, and the guy standing right in front of them that they don’t see beats them.” But Errol also put people on notice with the declaration, “I want a dominant performance. I want to look great. I want everybody to talk about this fight after the fight.”
Spence weighed in at the 147-pound welterweight limit, Peterson at 146-3/4.
A crowd of 12,107 witnessed the proceedings at Barclays Center. They saw a good fighter who’s past his prime versus a better fighter who might be moving toward greatness.
My notes, taken during the fight, read as follows:
Round 1: Spence controlling the action with his jab . . . Peterson maintaining a protective posture, throwing next to nothing . . . Spence is too good offensively to just play defense against. As dangerous as it might be, Peterson will have to fight fire with fire.
Round 2: Spence opening Peterson up by going to the body, then upstairs. He’s very sound fundamentally, economical with his punches and movement, very little wasted effort . . . Putting on a clinic.
Round 3: Peterson fighting more aggressively now rather than be a sitting duck. Trying without success to get inside and smother Spence’s punches . . . Spence landing more often and harder . . . Great punch selection, pinpoint accuracy. And the body shots keep coming . . . Peterson looks hurt and tired as he walks to his corner. No way he goes twelve rounds.
Round 4: Non-stop pressure from Spence. Good defense. Brutal offense. Not giving Peterson any time to rest . . . Peterson’s face is bruised and swelling up . . . Spence is painting a masterpiece.
Round 5: Spence teeing off . . . Straight left drops Peterson. A lot of time left in the round . . . Lamont fighting back courageously but he doesn’t have the tools to survive. Spence firing bombs. Peterson throwing firecrackers.
Round 6: Spence’s methodical assault continues. He has fast hands and pulls the trigger quickly . . . Peterson has nothing to keep him off . . . Peterson won’t win. He can’t win. They should stop the fight now.
Round 7: Peterson taking a beating. Nothing left but heart.
After round seven, Barry Hunter (Peterson’s trainer) stopped the fight.
“I didn’t like what I was seeing,” Hunter said afterward. “If you know Lamont, you know he wasn’t going to give up. I had to stop it.”
Hunter might have added that there’s nothing dishonorable about a fighter giving his all and being outclassed by a great fighter.
Spence has an aura of honesty about him. When he talks about his skills, it comes across as candid self-appraisal rather than bragging.
“There’s still a lot to prove,” Errol says. “There are so many guys in the welterweight division. I want to clean them all out. Everybody wants to be that number-one guy. That’s what we’re all fighting for.”
But as a practical matter, there are a limited number of competitive fights that can be made for Spence at 147 pounds. It won’t be easy to get quality fighters to face him. Some lesser boxers will line up for a payday. But not many beltholders or high-level contenders will risk their standing against him.
Spence can do everything that most fighters do, only he does it better. The fact that he’s a southpaw makes him more difficult to contend with. And in the ring, he’s “Sugar Ray Leonard nasty.” The one open question about him is his chin. For the most part, Errol has been steered clear of fighters who hit hard enough to test it. Beyond that, he’s a complete fighter.
After Spence beat Kell Brook, Bart Barry wrote, “Spence is the first prizefighter to give one hope about PBC’s prospects for survival as a promotional outfit, not merely a venture-capital black hole. Spence is PBC born and PBC raised. If Al Haymon’s outfit gives us a unified champion in our sport’s best division, the PBC and its model will deserve a second look and maybe even a bit less cynicism.”
That unification is unlikely to happen in the near future. And because of the PBC model (as well as its apparently dwindling cash reserves), Spence has fought only once every eight months as of late. There has been no continuity in his promotion from fight to fight, and Errol still doesn’t have an identity in the public mind. This shortchanges a fighter who might be great.
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One of the fights on the undercard of Spence-Peterson was of particular note. Adam Kownacki (16-0, 13 KOs) vs. Iago Kiladze (26-1, 18 KOs, 1 KO by) was a crowd-pleasing brawl.
Kownacki weighed in at 260 pounds, eighteen pounds more than he weighed for his previous fight against Artur Szpilka six months earlier. Kiladge was a trim 220.
Adam was the house fighter. He lives in Brooklyn, has a solid Polish-American fan base, and sells tickets.
Kownacki came out aggressively in round one, looking to establish his dominance. Kiladze moved, jabbed, and went to the body in response. Quite possibly, he broke Kownacki’s nose, which bled profusely thereafter.
Round two was more of the same. Then, in round three, Kiladze tired. In round four, Kownacki dropped him with a right hand, after which Iago lost all form and also his legs.
From that point on, Kiladze stood directly in front of Kownacki with the fighters trading punches and Iago looking like a man hoping to be taken out of his misery. That came to pass in round five when Adam landed another right hand to end matters at the 2:08 mark.
Kownacki is a big strong fighter who’s much too easy to hit. He isn’t giving himself the best chance he can to maximize his potential by coming into fights out-of-shape. He has a responsibility to himself and, at 260 pounds, he’s neglecting it.
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Boxing has a PED problem. And Barclays Center has its own drug problem. At times – and Saturday night was one of them – the smell of weed is so strong that non-smokers are in danger of getting a contact high. Sitting in the media section during Spence-Peterson was like hanging out in a legalized-marijuana dispensary. The odor was so intense that inspectors assigned to the fighters’ corners noticed it.
Someday, someone driving home from Barclays Center after a fight will be in an accident. Tetrahydrocannabinol will be found in his or her blood. There will be a lawsuit. And a jury will find that second-hand smoke from Barclays Center was a contributing causal factor. Or a fighter will say that his or her performance was adversely affected by the “Barclays buzz.”
It’s a difficult situation to control. But Barclays should do more to control it. That would include announcements over the public address system, security personnel with the proper equipment looking for vaporizers, and similar measures.
I appreciate the pleasures of marijuana as a recreational drug and also its benefits as a medicinal aid. But it shouldn’t be forced on those who don’t want it.
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at email@example.com. His most recent book – There Will Always Be Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.
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