SAN DIEGO, Calif. January 19, 2018 – Last May, American welterweight Errol Spence Jr. of Dallas, Texas put on a show in enemy territory In front of 27,000 screaming fans in Sheffield’s Bramall Lane football stadium “The Truth” defeated Kell “Special One” Brook Spence by knockout at 1:40 of the 11th round to become the IBF world champion.
Boxing fans have been eager to see Spence get back in the ring again to defend his title, but they’ve had to wait eight long months. On Saturday, Spence fights in the first significant bout of the year, putting his title at risk against the rugged Lamont Peterson of Washington, DC. The fight airs on Showtime Boxing at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Spence (23-0, 19 KOs), age 28, is a former U.S. Olympian (London 2012) who has been quietly working his way toward the top of his sport – and slowly. He had a nine month layoff prior to the Brook fight, and he admitted the layoff made him feel “kind of shaky,” overshooting punches. He gave himself a B-minus for his performance.
Spence says another long layoff says more about his opponents than himself. “I had to wait for my title defense and then I had a lot of guys not answer the call for this fight. I have a belt and I still have to call these other guys out. Lamont Peterson answered the call like a real fighter,” explained Spence.
“In a perfect world I’d be unifying with Keith Thurman this year. I’m going to fight three times this year though. You don’t get time back. I’m ready to strike now.”
Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KOs), is five years older at age 33. Nothing in life has been easy for Peterson. Peterson lived in abandoned cars and on the streets between ages 8 and 10 with his younger brother Anthony. He found a home in boxing gyms and eventually with his trainer and surrogate father, Barry Hunter. Peterson isn’t afraid to get rough and nothing intimidates him. What he lacks in finesse, he makes up in determination.
“Errol even taking the Kell Brook fight was impressive to me,” said Peterson. “Most guys in his position take their time leading up to the first title shot, but he ended up fighting someone in his prime in his country. To will himself to that win was very impressive.”
Peterson’s losses came at the hands of Timothy Bradley Jr., Lucas Matthysse, and to Danny Garcia in 2015, a majority decision most people believe Peterson won. Peterson’s last bout was 11 months ago, so he’ll have his own ring rust to brush off. “If you left it to me I’d fight every month,” said Peterson. “That’s how much I love the sport. I know a victory would help me get in the ring even more often. Sometimes if you lose at the top level, other top guys don’t want to take a chance against you. I can fix all of that this weekend.”
Peterson has determination and a rugged constitution going for him. Spence Jr. punches with force, and has the magic ingredient for all boxers, exceptional speed. But the target needs to be in front of him. When Kell Brook performed well against Spence, he managed to land his shots and get out of the way. Peterson isn’t a fighter who uses a lot of the ring. He comes to fight and he relishes a fight. It’s hard to imagine Peterson winning if he trades punches with Spence Jr.
“I think it’s going to turn into a war,” predicted Spence Jr. “A lot of people have thought this would be an easy fight for me. But if you follow Lamont Peterson, you know this will be tough. He’s always in great shape and has a lot of skills. It might be a dogfight and that’s what I wanted. He’s the guy who wanted to fight and I said of course. It’s going to be a rugged fight. Later on in the fights, he always gets rough and stands toe-to-toe.”
“I’m excited and looking forward to the skill level that’s going to be displayed this weekend,” said Peterson. “It’s going to be a rough fight for sure. But I look forward to the technique and skill level. Defense, offense and transitioning between the two. That’s the part of boxing that I love.
“When you get to the big stages and those big fights, you have to win more than you lose. I think if I can win some big fights these next few years my career will be in a good place.”
Spence Jr. can’t sleep on Peterson and he can’t make any mistakes. Peterson could catch Spence Jr. by surprise if he strikes early. But the longer the fight goes on, the more likely Spence Jr. will simply wear the older Peterson down. Spence Jr. is more likely to stop Peterson by attrition with a TKO in the late rounds. Fans are in for an entertaining kickoff to 2018.
On the undercard, Robert Easter Jr. (20-0, 14 KOs) of Toledo, Ohio of faces Javier Fortuna (33-1-1, 23 KOs) of the Dominican Republic. Easter Jr.’s IBF world lightweight title is on the line. It’s hard to see this fight going to Fortuna. Easter Jr. has a six inch height and reach advantage, and he has faces by far better opposition in recent years, taking the talented Denis Shafikov and Luis Cruz apart in his last two fights. Fortuna’s only loss came in 2016 to Jason Sosa by 11th round TKO. Both his 2017 fights were in the Dominican Republic with regional prospects. This is a significant step up.
Fortuna is only the second southpaw Easter Jr. has faced. Easter says he’s not concerned. “I made my last fight hard, but this time I’m going to use my reach, my feet and my speed to dominate. I’m looking for a great performance. This is going to be the best Robert Easter the fans have ever seen. We prepared to dominate this fight.
Fortuna expressed confidence in himself. “I have the style and the skills to beat Robert Easter. I know how to make sure his height does not affect me at all. Everyone will see it on fight night.
“A win would be great for my country, my fans and my family. Winning this title is everything for me. That’s why I’m here and I will not be stopped,” said Fortuna.
Words are one thing, reality another. Fortuna will have to rise to the occasion, literally, and put on the performance of his life to beat Easter Jr. If Easter remains disciplined, fighting from the outside to neutralize Fortuna, he’ll have an easy night of it.
Ukrainian middleweight Sergiy Derevyanchenko (11-0, 9 KOs) has reportedly been added to the card, with an opponent TBD. He is coming off a 12th round TKO of Tureano Johnson, and hopes to position himself as the IBF mandatory opponent for champion Gennady Golovkin. Keep your eye on “The Technician.”
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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