By Eric Lunger
Errol Spence, Jr. took care of business on Saturday night, dispatching Carlos Ocampo (22-1, 13 KOs) with a vicious body assault in round one. It was as clinical as it was ferocious. The fight marked a return to the Lone Star state for Spence (24-0, 21KOs), who had not fought in his home state since 2014. The fight, or more precisely, the choice of opponent, took some heat in the boxing media. Ocampo is a good fighter, a professional with an undefeated record, and certainly Spence is entitled to make some money by putting on a card for his home fans. Nothing wrong with that. And, to be fair, Ocampo was the IBF mandatory – whether he should have been is a more fraught question. Nonetheless, with a successful first defense under his belt, Spence (and his fans) have to be wondering who is next.
Photo Credit: Errol Spence Jr. Twitter Account
Let’s start with the WBA champion Lucas Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs). The rugged Argentine is scheduled to take on perennial champion and fan-favorite Manny Pacquiao (59-7, 38 KOs) in July in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While that fight may appeal to certain fans, it is hard to see Spence wanting to face the winner of that bout, and it is even harder to see it making much sense financially. No disrespect to the Matthysse and Pac Man, both of whom I have enjoyed watching over the years, but they are on the down slope of their careers.
With the WBC belt vacant, the only other unification possibility is against the newly minted WBO champ Terrence “Bud” Crawford (RECORD). For obvious reasons, this is the fight that fans want to see. Both guys are young, dynamic, extremely skilled with sound (almost perfect) fundamentals, and both can hit that mean switch in the ring. It would be an incredible fight, no question. But this is boxing, and, as a veteran of the promotional side of the game once explained to me, if the fans (rather than promoters) made the matchups, we would have a different slate of fights.
Simply put, it is difficult to imagine Top Rank (Crawford) and PBC (Spence) willing to risk their fighters’s value when there are so many other fights to make, and when there is so much more value down the road. I hate the term “marinating” when applied to boxing, but here waiting makes more sense. And it is not like there aren’t other big names in the division: Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Jessie Vargas, to name a few.
Asked whether unification with a big-name welterweight was realistic as his next fight, Spence had this to say in the press conference after the Ocampo bout: “I’ll probably fight again later this year. The unification fight with Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia is definitely going to happen [in August],” implying that Spence is weighing the possibility of facing the winner. So, while indicating he will fight once more before a taking on a top name, Spence went on to note that a fight with Keith Thurman was a distinct possibility: “We got Keith Thurman coming back this year – that’s a fight I can have, we can make that. Same manager, same network. It’s an easy fight to make.” Spence again re-iterated that he wants a serious challenge: “I want big names, Jessie Vargas would be [on the list].”
Will Spence and Crawford ever climb into the ring together? Fans want to see it, but it may be a long time coming.