Report/Photos: Jeff Zimmerman
IBF welterweight champion Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. (22-0, 19 KOs) along with his trainer Derrick James hosted a full house of media Tuesday afternoon at his home gym in Dallas, R&R Boxing Club. Spence Jr defends his crown for the first time against former champion Lamont Peterson Saturday, January 20th at the Barclays Center and shown live on Showtime.
Spence Jr. shadowed boxed in the ring for a bit and then pounded the heavy bag for several minutes as the sound of his punches could be heard over the blaring music.
He looked fit as always as he hit the mitts of James around the ring and is not concerned about another long layoff between fights. It will be almost 8 months since Spence Jr. stopped Kell Brook to claim his first title when he climbs in the ring with Peterson later this month.
“I don’t think so, I have been training since the Jermell Charlo camp. I have been in the gym and sparring and haven’t see any signs of ring rust. I’m not worried about it at all.”
And although they now have their first title as fighter and trainer, James doesn’t see much difference out of this camp.
“Not different just trying to be better, trying to be better than before the Kell Brook fight. I’m looking for the perfect fight when we do everything right. That’s what I always strive for.”
Spence Jr earned his coveted first world title last May and with his impressive knockout of Brook vaulted into the top 10 pound for pound list of many in boxing. Spence Jr. reflected on the recognition.
“It has sunk in but I’m not #1 pound for pound so I mean it hasn’t really just hit me yet, but it’s great to be on the pound for pound list but the main objective is to be the #1 pound for pound and be that fighter in boxing,” stated Spence Jr.
The scary part for the welterweight division and for potential junior middleweights down the road is Spence Jr. is only getting started and still learning his craft.
“I feel like I’m learning new things every day. I haven’t reached my peak yet. I still have a lot more experience [to gain], I’m still relatively green in the ring, but my skill wise and everything else is continuing to improve so I’m getting better each day. I’m willing to learn each day from my coach and from just watching other people train and other people fight so I am like a sponge right now soaking everything up.”
And his Coach, Derrick James, happened to be honored recently as Trainer of the Year by Ring Magazine and Yahoo Sports which was not lost on Spence Jr.
“It’s great. This is what he worked for. This is what we have worked for collectively. I have seen the grind, I have seen the process from him putting in the work and him being dedicated coming to the gym. I mean there was ice days and the roads were icy and we both found a way to the gym. He has been grinding just like me and for him to get it, I congratulate him and you know I have the seen the grind, I have seen the process so it’s a great feeling to have my coach, coach of the year.”
On this day, the talk was more about the potential mega fights looming with Keith Thurman and Terence Crawford and less on Peterson, a former champion and a good fighter in his own right.
And when a Steven A. Smith interview of Crawford was brought to Spence Jr. attention of the two locking horns one day, Spence Jr. had this to say.
“Terence Crawford said he wanted to fight Keith Thurman first. He never came out said I want to fight Errol Spence, he called out Keith Thurman.”
Spence Jr. added, “I don’t know where you’re getting that from, but it is what it is. When you fight you fight. I’m not ducking Terence Crawford, I’m not ducking Keith Thurman, I’m not ducking nobody. If it it’s time to fight him, I am going to fight him. Right now, he is on the other side of the street.”
Spence Jr also responded to Keith Thurman saying he is not on his level.
“Keith Thurman has said a lot of things he hasn’t lived up to. He calls himself “One Time” but he hasn’t been “One Time” for a long time, so I don’t care what Keith Thurman says until he signs a contract. It doesn’t matter what he says, everything else is irrelevant.”
As much as Spence Jr. wants to become the undisputed welterweight champion, he has also made it clear he will not wait around for fighters and would even jump to 154 if the right fight came about.
“There’s a lot of top welterweights at 147 so I mean could find somebody but if there’s an opportunity at 154 and you know it’s a great opportunity and maybe it’s a title fight I might move up to fight and come back down.”
But Spence Jr. is not looking past Peterson, nor is James.
James explained, “Peterson is a very elusive fighter. I show him [Spence Jr.] how to negate what he’s doing. So that’s the key to it. Lamont is great fighter, a smart fighter, an intelligent fighter and I focus on what EJ has to do to negate some of things Peterson does.”
Spence Jr. agreed with his coach, “Lamont Peterson is a dangerous fighter and if I don’t beat Lamont Peterson then I can’t get those fights so one step at a time.”
Spence Jr. continued, “Lamont has a big heart, he’s experienced and has been in there with a lot of great fighters.”
Spence Jr. understands Thurman, Crawford and the boxing world will be watching closely to see how he defends his title for the first time and he’s more than ready to put on a show.
“It’s a statement fight. Lamont Peterson has a name and to show everybody I’m the best welterweight in the division.”