By Eric Lunger
Errol Spence, Jr. is a three-time amateur national champion. He was a 2012 Olympian reaching the quarter finals in the welterweight division. Turning professional seven years ago, he is undefeated in twenty-two fights and has scored nineteen KOs. He is ranked number eight in the world in Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound list, and number two at welterweight.
Photo Credit: Premier Boxing Champions
These are impressive facts, but to gauge how good Errol Spence, Jr. is, we have to go back to May of last year, when he traveled to Sheffield, England, to face the experienced IBF welterweight champion, Kell Brook (36-1, 25 KOs). Spence took home the belt, stopping the British champion in the eleventh round, and showed a mature mastery of all areas of the sweet science.
Despite a thunderous home crowd and massive stage, Spence was calm and poised, relaxed even. His ring IQ is so high that he always seems to anticipate what his opponent is going to do. No movement wasted, everything under control – Errol looked at times like he was sparring in his home gym, not facing one of the best welterweights in a hostile stadium.
Here are some of his strengths. Spence has quick and precise footwork, which in turn means he can control the distance from which he fights and the style in which he fights. He is a southpaw with an excellent jab, and behind that jab is world-class hand speed and punching accuracy. Spence’s defense is also highly technical, utilizing a high guard from which he can counter punch effectively.
Spence is rightly known for being one of the best body punchers in the division, and it showed in the Brook fight. He was also able to switch styles at ease, sometimes fighting on his back foot and countering, sometimes walking Brook down, and sometimes getting inside and fighting in the phone booth. Spence also showed excellent conditioning and pacing in the Brook fight, hitting a new and higher gear in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh rounds, a gear that the Sheffield fighter could not match.
Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect fighter. Where is Spence vulnerable? Maybe against a more athletic puncher – like Thurman, or even Peterson – Spence’s technical skills could be nullified. Peterson might need to get inside, lean on Spence, muscle him, in order to get the younger man off his game. Brook had some success leaning on Spence, holding and wearing him out, and working the body. In short, turning the fight into a brawl rather than a boxing match might be one way (the only way?) to negate Spence’s skill level.
Spence has never been in real trouble and had to fight his way out. He has never been on the canvas as a professional. The flipside of Spence’s poise and calm in the ring is that he can get casual and too comfortable, as he did in the sixth round of the Brook fight, where Brook caught the American and put him in momentary difficulty.
Then there are the intangibles: focus, resilience, drive, mental preparation, late-round confidence. Nothing in Spence’s career so far has shown that he has anything less than the highest ability in all these categories. Errol Spence, Jr. is an elite-level boxer and a world champion. How good can he be? He will take another step toward that answer this Saturday night against Lamont Peterson, live on Showtime starting at 9:00 PM.