THESE days, few rising stars in the sport of boxing are shining brighter than Errol Spence Jr. (20-0, 17 KOs). The 26-ear-old former Olympian is unbeaten in 20 fights and is blasting through the welterweight rankings.
He has knocked out his last seven opponents and is being pegged by some as a potential heir to the welterweight throne long-held by Floyd Mayweather Jr.
On Sunday, in Brooklyn, New York, he will be competing in an IBF title eliminator against veteran Leonard Bundu (33-1-2, 12 KOs), who hails from Freetown, Sierra Leone, by way of Florence, Italy.
For Spence, this has been a very busy fight week. The IBF’s number two ranked welterweight contender has been actively making the rounds. He has appeared on morning shows, mid-day shows, radio shows, press luncheons and everything in between.
To say that the young man is being primed for the limelight would be an understatement.
On CBS’ The Jim Rome Show, Spence endeared himself to fans when he humbly spoke about his parents and how he got into the sport of boxing.
“My dad got me into boxing when I was 15 years old,” he said. “I grew up watching Lennox Lewis when I was a little kid. My dad didn’t want me having a lot of time on my hands, ‘cause that’s when you get in trouble. He figured I needed something to do for the summer. So I started boxing, fell in love with it, and dropped everything else.
“I think at the time I was a little naive,” he continued. “You don’t really see it until you get a little bit older and you sit back and think ‘Man, they really sacrificed a lot.’ It means everything to me. That’s what motivates me to be the best, try my hardest, and train my hardest. So I can pay them back. My mom, she can retire. My dad, he can retire. Then I can take care of them.”
His fight week tour of New York City, arguably the world’s most important media market, seems to be as much about preparing Spence for superstardom as it has been about promoting his match against Bundu.
Yet, while many would argue that he still needs a career-defining victory to enter the conversation, Spence believes that he’s already up there with the best fighters at 147 pounds.
“I definitely see myself in the top six or seven,” said Spence. “I think it’s great group of guys. If everybody fights each other, anybody who comes out of top in that welterweight division is a future hall-of-famer. I know I’m just two steps away from kicking in the door.”
Defeating Bundu is first on his agenda. Spence acknowledged the veteran’s talent and positive attributes but, without an ounce of bravado, predicted himself the winner as if he had just travelled back in time to share the account of events already witnessed.
“Bundu is awkward,” he said. “He switches from southpaw to orthodox. Has a a lot of experience but I feel like I’m the bigger fighter. I’m stronger. I’m faster. I’m smarter. I’m going going to use my skills and my boxing experience just to beat him.”
In his tone, statement, and demeanor, you’d be hard-pressed to find an ounce of Adrien Broner, a smidgen of Keith Thurman, or a single iota of any version of Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
In short, you can’t not like the guy. Even Floyd thinks he’s the real deal.
Likeability, however, doesn’t necessarily translate into victories, ticket sales or championship belts. In order to get a shot at obtaining the latter, he’ll need to defeat Bundu on Sunday and he’s keenly aware of this fact.
“This to me is the biggest fight of my career because this is a title eliminator. I have to handle business on Sunday (because) it guarantees me a world title shot on my next fight.”
The belt on which he has his eyes set is currently hanging in Kell Brook’s closet while the Brit sets his focus on new challenges and new waist accessories, but of the middleweight variety.
Brook, who readily admits that he struggles to make the 147 lb welterweight limit, will be the one to decide in which division he chooses to compete after the Golovkin fight.
Irrespectively, and in the meantime, Errol Spence Jr. relishes in the fact that he’s two victories away from achieving his dream of becoming a world champion.