February 15, 2014

KO Digest Spotlight on Boxing's Up & Comers - Errol Spence Jr

The Truth will set you free
As we at KO Digest continue to shine our 'Spotlight on Boxing's Up and Comers,' our powerful beam reaches a little further this time around. In the past months, our focus has been on contenders braced for eliminators and title challenges but this month, we tilt our lens on a true 'Up and Comer' in boxing. 

Errol 'The Truth' Spence Jr (11-0, 9 KO's) was born on Long Island, NY, on March 3, 1990, and later relocated with family to DeSoto, TX. The promising welterweight still resides and trains in the small suburb of Dallas that houses a little over 50,000 people. "It's real quiet, a mellow place," said Spence Jr, who seems quiet and mellow himself. Until he's in the ring. Amazingly, Spence Jr did not step into a ring of any kind until he was 15 years old.

"My Dad got me into boxing," Spence told KO Digest.

"I'd finished school for the summer and I was just laying around the house, not doing anything, and he didn't want that. So, he asked me if I wanted to join a boxing gym. I started training and I liked it. I fell in love with it, and the rest is history." Four years later, Spence Jr was the 2009 U.S. National Champion at welterweight, a feat that he would go on to repeat in the three championships that followed, beating the likes of September 2013 'Up and Comer' Glen Tapia along the way. His amateur experience, after close to 170 bouts, culminated with a trip to the London Olympics in 2012. "I had a lot of tough fights to qualify, you know, a lot of guys have been doing this since they where five years old, trying to get to the Olympics" recalled Spence Jr. "It was especially tough qualifying through the world championships [in Baku, Azerbaijan] where I beat the number one seed [Imre Backsai of Hungary] to qualify. That was a great moment for me. It was great to be an Olympian too, and represent my flag, the country that I'm from. It was my dream to be an Olympian, but it was also my dream to win the Gold." Spence Jr failed to medal in London. "Coming short of achieving that was very disappointing and I feel I could have done better, but I gave it my all, and I'm not gonna mope around about it."

Spence works the mitts with trainer Derrick James
He certainly hasn't been moping around. After the Olympic Games in London, Spence Jr returned to Texas where he, and his coach Derrick James, signed professional terms with one of the biggest names in boxing. Yes, you guessed it. "Al Haymon is real important," said Spence Jr. "He's the force behind my career right now and he's the best manager in boxing, the best manager in the world. He's got all these great fighters like Floyd Mayweather and he brings the fighters up well, pays them well - and I'm just going to let him guide my career all the way to a world championship."

You wouldn't rule it out. Spence Jr is a decorated amateur operating out of a southpaw stance with good height and reach. He understands these attributes well and employs them in a controlled but very aggressive manner. His jab is snappy - to both the head and body - and if he's just 'touching' you with it, you're probably half a second away from being walloped by a crushing left hand. His knockout percentage is impressive, especially at welterweight. I watched him live at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas the night before Floyd Mayweather bested Robert Guerrero (Spence Jr stopped trialhorse Brandon Hoskins in the first round) and he has fought a further six times since then. Fighting regularly should only expedite his development.

Spence collects another scalp
His most recent fight was less than a week ago, on Monday February 10th, when he took on Peter Oluoch (12-6-2), as part of the new 'Golden Boy Live' series that airs on Fox Sports 1 in the US, and The Fight Network in Canada. "It was a good performance," said Spence Jr. He was a tough guy, only been stopped once in twenty fights, and I brought it to him, used my jab and he couldn't keep up with the pace."

Spence Jr's pressure, and his ability, have simply overwhelmed his opponents so far and Oluoch, a tough but limited Kenyan, was no different. Spence Jr stalks his opposition like prey and the outcome of his hunts often appear inevitable. The Olympian doesn't waste many steps and he cuts the ring off while finding his range behind the jab. Once inside, he rips crunching hooks to the head and body.

We are certainly going to see more of Spence Jr in the coming months and years. "I'm probably gonna fight at the end of April, I'll be back in the gym next week. I didn't take too much punishment in the last fight but I'll rest a little bit and then get the ball back rolling," explained Spence Jr. "They have spoken to me about stepping up the competition, and as this year goes on, you're going to see the quality of my opponents increase little by little. In twelve months time, I hope to be, at least, in the line-up for a shot at a world title, or fighting for one already." Strong words from a young fighter with less than a dozen prizefights under his belt. Spence Jr makes you believe him though. He's not full of bravado or arrogance. He simply believes in himself and outlines his aspirations in a very matter-of-fact fashion. "I gotta work my way up and there's still a lot of steps to climb but I'm just gonna keep climbing up and hopefully, I will get to the top." 

Written by Terry Strawson ~ exclusively for KO Digest

Look for a new KO Digest Spotlight on Up & Comers on the 15th of every month  

You can contact the author by email at Strawsonboxing@gmail.com