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Previewing Our First Big Fight of 2018: Counting Down To Spence-Peterson

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The Fight:

Errol Spence Jr. takes on Lamont Peterson in the first defense of Spence’s IBF welterweight title. The fight will take place in the suddenly hot Barclays Center, which has been host to several big fights recently – for now competing with Madison Square Garden as New York’s premiere boxing theatre. Spence comes in riding a nine-fight knockout streak, while Peterson is coming in looking for his third straight win after his loss in a catchweight fight with hard hitting Danny Garcia.

What’s on the Line:

Well, the IBF 147-pound title is on the line, but that’s a secondary consideration. For Spence, he will be looking to retain the belt and his unbeaten record. In beating Lamont Peterson, he would add another high-quality fighter to his mantle of heads. This fight is less about the belt and more about putting further pressure on Keith Thurman to fight him.

For Peterson, there’s less on the line. He’d love to become a three-time, two-division champion but a loss to Spence hardly ends his career. He is in the same place as Shawn Porter; good enough to be a contender but not quite a world-beater. Peterson’s losses have come to Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse, and Timothy Bradley, all of whom are world-class fighters. He can continue on being a player at 147 even with a loss. Were Spence to lose, it would be far more damaging.

The Fighters:

Errol Spence Jr. is on basically every pound for pound list you can find, and with good reason. A decorated amateur, Spence has been rising to the top of 147 for some time now. Since making his Showtime debut back in 2014, the Texas native has been steadily ascending the division becoming a star in the process. He’s stopped nine straight opponents, including a win over former IBF champion Kell Brook, and quality wins over the likes of Leonard Bundu and Alejandro Barrera.

Spence is a handful. Anyone who knows me knows that I consider an amateur background to be a prerequisite for any elite fighter. The skills learned as an amateur are vital in becoming a pro star. Spence has what my friend and yours, Roy Jones, calls a full toolbox. There’s nothing he does poorly in the ring, and there are several things he does exceedingly well.

Let’s start with his most prominent attribute, his power. Spence hasn’t been racking up knockouts by mistake; he’s a genuinely big puncher. Where some big punchers, throw long, sweeping shots, Spence is almost always controlled and on balance. He attacks the body look a good power puncher should, landing them accurately and firmly. The difference between a good body attack and a bad one comes down to placement. Some of the best body punchers in the sport like Naoya Inoue and Terence Crawford are so effective because of the placement. Spence is able to put his left hand right on the liver, and generally stops anyone unlucky enough to catch it. He’s also supremely fast, which allows him to come in and out of range with ease, all the while delivering tight combinations to overwhelmed opponents.

Like peak Yuriorkis Gamboa, Spence has that special ability to realize when his opponent is no threat to him. He is fully capable of controlling a fight with his jab and tricky southpaw style, but he has a mean streak in him. Once he figures out that he is in charge, he ups the tempo and starts delivering his devastating power. Anyone who was wondering if the power would hold up at the upper levels got their answer when he knocked out Chris Algieri, Leonard Bundu, and Kell Brook all consecutively.

Like most good southpaws, Spence is challenging to find. He controls range quite well, and his patience is quite good for someone with his power. I have him number eight on my pound-for-pound list, and he’ll probably be moving up as two fighters leave the list for me. Spence is one of the best fighters in the world right now, and I don’t expect that to change against Lamont Peterson.

Speaking of Peterson, let’s talk about him a little. The former 140-pound world champion has had a pretty good career, having been in with some of the best – though losing most of the time. Even when he beat Amir Khan in a robbery of a decision, he lost, having to give up the WBA strap after admitting to steroid use prior to the fight. He also had a controversial draw with Victor Ortiz, and was wiped out by Lucas Matthysse. Timothy Bradley also beat him back in 2009, in what was a near shut out for Bradley.

The point I’m making is that Peterson has generally not held up against elite opponents. Take away the Khan win, and we’re left with Kendall Holt as his best win to date. That came five years ago, when Peterson was still at 140. His awkwardness and genuinely good speed has allowed him to hang around the upper-tier of boxing, but he never has been accepted as an elite fighter. His chin and his power have never really been a credit to him against the best opposition.

In his first official fight at 147, his conditioning proved an issue when he cramped up partway through his fight with Felix Diaz. Peterson had done enough to win, earning a majority decision, but was far from impressive in the bout. Any power he had at 140 is likely gone at 147, especially against a natural welterweight like Errol Spence. He did look good in winning the interim WBA title against David Avanesyan, though he relinquished that title in order to challenge for the IBF title against Spence.

Peterson is awkward and fast, which can give anyone problems given the right circumstances. He’s no joke – no one who has held titles across two divisions is. He’s a pretty solid defensive fighter, using strong upper body movement to slip and avoid punches, and he does counter punch with efficacy.

Prediction:

Here’s how this is going to go: Peterson is going to trouble Spence for a couple of rounds, but he will eventually be broken down. Spence is too fast, too polished, and too powerful for Peterson to truly give him problems. Spence is a -1667 favourite to win, so if you feel like making some money you can loan a mortgage payment to a sportsbook for the night. Spence will stop him somewhere between round three and five. Let’s get weirdly specific and call it a left uppercut to the midsection that sucks the will out of Peterson.

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About Thomas Peter John Penney

Thomas Penney is a freelance writer. He writes about boxing for NY Fights, and whoever else will have him. Send tips to tpjp28@mun.ca.

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