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Spence: I’m heading for pound-for-pound (best fighter at 147)

Image: Spence: I’m heading for pound-for-pound (best fighter at 147)

By Chris Williams: Errol Spence Jr. (23-0, 20 KOs) says he’s heading towards being on the pound-for-pound list following his 7th round defeat of Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KOs) on Saturday night. Spence knocked Peterson down once in the fight, and battered him until his corner let the referee know that they wanted the fight to be called off just after round 7 ended at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

For Spence to be on the pound-for-pound list, it might require that he beat someone a little better than the 33-year-old Peterson. This was not the ideal opponent for Spence to be fighting given than Peterson had been out of the ring for 11 months, and he hadn’t beaten anyone of note in a long time. For Spence to be a pound-for-pound fighter, he needs to beat someone like Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman, Terence Crawford or Jeff Horn. Peterson won the WBA World welterweight title last year in beating David Avanesyan, but for some reason, he vacated the belt without ever having defended it.

“I’m not going to say I’m pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world but I’m definitely heading that way,” said Spence. I’m looking to come back in May or June. Looking for a homecoming in Dallas. But at least fighting three times this year…I’ve been telling people I can do it all.”

For Spence to become the PPV fighter he wants to be, he’s going to need to defeat these fighters:

• Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman

• Terence Crawford (if he beats Jeff Horn)

• Jeff Horn

• Shawn Porter

• Danny Garcia

The problem that Spence has is he’s probably not going to get much cooperation from any of those fighters on the above list to fight him in 2019, and probably not in 2019 either. Spence might have scared away Danny Garcia and the promoters for Horn and Crawford with his performance against Peterson. Garcia likely won’t fight Spence until he becomes a star, even though he’s not a champion himself. No longer being a champion, Garcia will eventually recognize that he has to face Spence. There are only so many Brandon Rios type fighters for Garcia to fight before the boxing public will expect him to fight Spence.

Peterson didn’t have the fire power, speed, youth or the mobility to give Spence a good test. The punches that Peterson did last against Spence, they lacked the power to go anything to him. Spence had full advantage in every category in this fight. It’ll be a different story when Spence takes on Keith Thurman. He’s got good punching power too, and he’s faster than Spence, and more mobile. Spence will need to move faster round the ring if he wants to catch-up to Thurman, because he’ll hit and run all night long if he’s able to.

“Errol Spence has an argument as pound-for-pound. This kid is the highest level of talent,” said promoter Lou Dibella. “In the ring, he is a dangerous man. There’s a lot of things that reminds me of Ray Leonard. He’s the whole package…I’ve never seen a guy like him, who’s a champion as good as him, running around calling out everybody on earth. I have no doubt that Keith Thurman is going to fight Errol Spence. It’s going to happen. Relax.”

I don’t know if the Spence vs. Thurman fight really needs building up. It’s not being built up at present due to Thurman fighting only once a year. It would make sense for the fight to wait if Thurman was an active fighter competing at least 2 times per year of not 3 times. The problem is Thurman, 28, is only fighting x1 per year, and he’s not been looking good in quite some time. Thurman has struggled in his last 2 fights to squeak by Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter by close 12 round decisions. Those are not the kind of performances that Thurman needs for him to build up a fight against Spence. Indeed, Thurman is keeping the Spence fight from being built up due to the hard times he’s been having in his last 2 fights, as well as with his inactivity. Since it’s clear that Thurman isn’t going to be able to fight often due to his fragile body, he needs to face Spence in 2018 before he loses his WBA and WBC welterweight titles. Thurman is barely winning his fights, and he’s getting fat in between tile defenses. It would seem to be the wiser move for Thurman to take the fight against Spence now rather than waiting until he’s beaten by Garcia or Porter in a rematch. Once Thurman loses to those guys, he’ll be little more than just a challenger to Spence and it won’t be nearly as interesting a fight.

The guy that Spence really needs to fight to become the pound-for-pound guy in the welterweight division is Terence Crawford. However, Crawford is with Top Rank, and the boss of that promotion Bob Arum is probably not going to want to feed Crawford to Spence and watch his investment get chopped apart and left on the canvas in an embarrassing way. Arum is trying to turn Crawford into a pay-per-view star by having him fight on ESPN in front of casual boxing fans against guys that he can beat. It’s unclear whether Crawford will ever become a PPV fighter even with Arum feeding him guys that are beatable. But what we do know is that Crawford will never become a PPV guy if Arum makes the mistake of putting him in with Spence and he winds up getting knocked out. For that reason, I think it’s doubtful we’re going to see a fight between Spence and Crawford anytime soon. Arum will probably keep Crawford in his own lane holding down the WBO welterweight belt [after he defeats Jeff Horn in April], and letting him defend the title against the mediocre contenders the World Boxing Organization ranks.

Spence is probably going to have to be content with fighting the contenders in the division for a long time to come and not the top guys that will take his career to the next level. That’s the way it is in boxing. The top fighters avoid dangerous guys like Spence unless there’s a ton of money that they can make fighting him. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was able to get the top fighters to face him because he was a PPV fighter, and that meant that his opponents would make a massive amount of money facing him. Spence isn’t a PPV guy. He needs the top fighters for him to become a PPV star, but unfortunately they don’t want to fight him. When you have a situation like that, it makes it necessary for the fighter to move up or move down in weight to find the best guys that will face him. I don’t think Spence is going to be willing to do that, which means he’s going to need to wait years for his popularity to slowly build before he’s a big enough name to where he can attract the top guys to want to fight him.

Spence is probably 3 to 4 years from being a star in boxing. Spence, 27, will need to fight 3 times per year like he’s talking about, and he’ll need to be flexible in moving up to 154 occasionally to take on certain fighters like Erislandy Lara and Jarrett Hurd. In the meantime, Spence should keep calling out Saul Canelo Alvarez. Spence might just get lucky and get that fight. If nothing else, it helps for fighters to name drop in boxing, because it gets the attention of fans.

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