By Jeff Zimmerman
Photos: Noe Gonzalez
IBF Welterweight Champion Errol Spence Jr. (23-0, 20 KOs) and Carlos Ocampo (22-0, 13 KOs) spoke to the media one last time Thursday at the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco as they get ready to square off for Spence Jr. welterweight title Saturday night. The fight will also be shown live on SHOWTIME Championship Boxing.
Spence Jr. already considered one of boxing’s pound for pound best, could become a household name Saturday night if all the “stars” align. Make no mistake, this homecoming is all about him and whether he could carry the city of Dallas on his broad shoulders for future, major fights.
Sure, there has been mega fights in the past with two from Manny Pacquiao and one with Canelo Alvarez at AT&T Stadium that put the spotlight on the city and Jerry Jones’ crown jewel, but nothing sustainable long term for the community and the potential that Spence Jr. could do as the hometown hero.
Spence Jr. is fan friendly with his ferocious, knockout power and although he is somewhat reserved, he is great in front of the camera. He seems as poised as anyone to be in the limelight, even in a city known as BIG D, known for big time sports and even bigger personalities, none bigger than Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys.
Spence Jr. is very active on social media with close to 300K followers on Instagram alone, a number that continues to rise by the day. He also coined or made popular in the boxing community the terms “strap season”, “iron sharpens iron”, and “man down” which is aptly now the name of his promotional company, Man Down Promotions, which will be a part of Saturday nights event.
Spence Jr. is also well liked by many other professional athletes as he confirmed when pressed, a few of the stars that will be in person to see him fight this weekend.
“A lot of people are coming, Von Miller, Dez (Bryant), Dak (Prescott) are coming, a lot of people.”
It certainly doesn’t hurt to be associated with Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys and have their marketing power and support behind you, but this says just as much about Spence Jr. as it does America’s Team.
Stephen Espinoza, President of SHOWTIME Championship Boxing, believes Spence Jr is already on the short list as the “face of boxing” and the right guy to make Dallas a regular landing spot for other top fights.
“The reality is he is really paving the way not just for future Spence fights but future other fights as well. There has been AT&T stadium fights before but there’s a special connection with Spence. The challenge has always been who’s going to do it first. It’s the chicken and the egg. You can’t develop a market until you know there’s a market there.”
Espinoza added, “You can go to Barclay’s Center and get this gate, do I want to take a risk breaking in a new market? It’s tough. But here, now, with a hometown fighter, you’re getting a sense, that hey, Dallas can be a fight town and something that will carry on far beyond Spence fights.”
Trainer Derrick James who has been in his corner from the beginning knew early on Spence Jr. was a special fighter.
“I think once we started training and he finally got everything I was teaching and working with him on and he started to implement it, which was good. But when he started to make it his own thing, that’s what made him special. He took everything I was teaching him, bagged it, and brought it out in a different manner and that’s what made him special to me.”
Spence Jr. knows he must get through Ocampo to keep his pursuit of the other top welterweights and is fully focused for this fight.
“It’s not tough at all knowing that someone is coming in to knock my head off so that keeps me focused in the gym, that keeps me training hard. He has two hands and 8oz gloves, so he can easily hurt me like I can hurt him.”
And of course, he knows potential “Super Fights” with the likes of new WBO welterweight champ Terence Crawford lies in the future. Crawford shares the same mindset as Spence Jr. on wanting to take on all comers.
“Terence Crawford said he wants to fight everybody, he wants to fight the best and that’s what I like to hear. I like to hear fighters say I want to fight the best in my division, I want all the belts and I want to be the undisputed welterweight champion of the world, things like that. That’s what I want to hear.”
For now, though, Porter or Garcia is more likely his next opponent since they all share Al Haymon as an advisor.
“It’s already in the works, it’s already been said. It’s going to happen. There will be a unified champ soon.”
“I want Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia winner. If I can’t fight them next, I’m not going to wait around 7 or 8 months to fight and wait on somebody.”
Both James and Spence Jr. can’t wait for the fight in front of their hometown fans.
James stated as he was brought to the podium to address the media, “I’m very happy to see everybody out here and we’re so glad that the fans are getting involved. This city means everything to me and Errol, so to bring a great night like this and have this huge reception from the fans, is a little bit of extra motivation.”
Spence Jr. concurred, “This is my home, this my fan base, my core fan base where I first started at where I have grown up as a boxer. It’s going to be crazy Saturday night.”
Although this is as much as celebration for Spence Jr. as the first world champion from Dallas to defend his title at home since hall of famer Curtis Cokes did so 50 years ago, he knows what’s at stake at his homecoming fight.
“Dallas already is a boxing town, just not enough boxing comes here. I can be the star who has annual fights and bring the city out like we’re doing Saturday night. I’m going to prove we’re a boxing city in Dallas and that Texas is a boxing state period. I do this for the whole state.
In a town of stars, Spence Jr. will have the chance to showcase his immense skills to a sold-out arena and in front of Jerry Jones and many of his star Cowboys and other celebrities.
This could be the night that Spence Jr. starts his rise from boxing star to becoming a household name. And if social media is any indication, don’t be surprised if his Instagram jumps over 300K after Saturday night.
“It’s going to be life changing and hopefully my fan base grows, and I become as big as the Dallas Cowboys especially in Dallas.”