By: Hans Themistode
Turning 30 years of age may feel like the beginning of old age for most, but for professional athletes, it usually signals the beginning of their primes.
Unified Welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. capped off his 20s with a win over Shawn Porter which netted him the WBC title to add to his IBF belt. It was the perfect way to begin his 30s. But with a horrific one car accident in October of 2019 setting the tone, things began to look bleak.
The Dallas native was thrown out of his Ferrari at high speeds just before it crashed. Surviving the wreck seemed impossible, but Spence proved that he not only has an iron chin inside of the ring but also outside of it as he reportedly was left with only a few missing teeth.
Fans were relieved to hear the news. Their favorite fighter would simply heal up and get back to kicking butt. That may have been the viewpoint of those on the outside. From Spence’s point of view though, he thought this could be the end.
“When I was hurtin’, it creeped into my mind,” said Spence on “The Last Stand podcast with Brain Custer. “I can say like November, December, I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to box again. I’m hurtin’ like bad.”
Retiring at the age of 30 is something that many dream of. No longer do you have to clock in and deal with mountains of paperwork. Nor do you have to deal with an annoying boss. But for Spence, retirement was the furthest thing from his mind as he was just getting started.
Now though, it was staring him down as though they were facing off in the ring.
A truncated career almost became a reality. But when the ball dropped to signal the start of a new year, Spence began to feel like a new man.
“January came around, because I was already running [in] like December, I was already running a little bit, but my hip was still hurtin’, but I was still running. And then around January, February – like right now, I have no pain at all. And that’s when I really felt good. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m gonna come back. I’m gonna come back guns blazing, too.”
Spence spent most of his time out of the spotlight following his accident. Normally, he would grab a ringside seat at boxing events and flash the jewelry that he worked so hard to get, along with his million dollar smile. The camera would continually fixate on him throughout the night as well. But for months he was hardly seen. When he did make a public appearance, the criticism came in waves.
Words that used to accompany his name such as great, the best and unbeatable, were quickly replaced with washed up, fell off and has-been. The negativity doesn’t bother him though. He just simply wants you to keep that “same energy” when it’s all said and done.
“Like a lot of people are writing me off right now. I want them to keep writing me off. I want them to keep saying I’m fat and, you know, I look out of shape, I look overweight and things like that. Like, right now I look small right now. Like I’m getting there. And um, I just want everybody to keep doubting me. It’s just fuel to the fire. But at one point, I did think I wasn’t gonna come back. Like when I was like super in pain, I was like, ‘I don’t think I’ll come back.’ I was like, ‘I’m about to take Brian Custer’s broadcasting job.”
COVID-19 has been hell for both boxing fans and fighters as the deadly disease forced the sport into a hiatus. But in the case of Spence, it was exactly what he needed. The extra time off has been great to him. But he still has one more hurdle left to clear.
“Right now, I think I’m a hundred-percent back,” Spence said. “Yeah, I think I’m a hundred-percent back. I haven’t sparred yet. That’s something I can’t do because I have two posts in my mouth now. And they already healed up. I’m about to get a third post in my mouth. And then, after all that heal up, then I’ll be able to spar.”