It doesn't grow on trees.
The first thing you understand about IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr is that he's about business. Period. If he were a rap album, he'd be “T.I. – I'm Serious.” Seriously.
When I asked him about Terence “Bud” Crawford and his coming welterweight invasion as quite possibly the world's best fighter among respected media, Spence grinned with a glance that examined if I was high.
In the weed community, you're more likely to pass the blunt than you are judgement. But let's be blunt about this: After mashing Keith Thurman Jr in an ashtray, Spence Jr absolutely wants to smoke the very best “Bud” in the world.
We know Bob Arum does, and will roll up on him with a Top Rank joint from Omaha, NE when fans are really looking to get a little loud. The whispers are starting to turn into wind in Texas, as a Midwest storm may turn out to loom ahead of a hurricane from Florida.
At an October press conference seated next to the WBC/WBA welterweight champion, it was clear that the menacing IBF king known as “The Truth” basically regards “One-Time” as a lie. Though questions hit the podium about a possible modern day Sugar Ray Leonard V Thomas “Hitman” Hearns, there was a noticeable lack of tension between them caused by Thurman, making the comparison seem like vapor smoke and something from a hippie's bong.
Sooo… What would you rather have in late 2018 or shortly thereafter? Real Bud, or Thurman's theoretical K2 in 2019?
Rest assured, there will be sick, superfight tension thicker than the beard of James Harden between Spence Jr and Crawford, when – or if – that situation prevails. But first, Errol must hit with Barclays Center on January 20 to deal with veteran brick Lamont Peterson, who has a beard even thicker than Harden's that appears to be made of steel wool.
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Tales of his gym war destruction are quickly becoming legend in boxing. Spence shocked “Money” Mayweather into full “Pretty Boy Floyd” mode back in early 2013. Some names you know, got their ass beat badly mixing it up with Spence in the years since, leading up to this year's titanic confrontations between Spence and WBC super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo.
Derrick James, architect of Spence and redesigner of Charlo, raves about the quality of those gym wars, sessions he believes may eventually manifest into the #1 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
The world's best boxing trainer in 2017, Derrick James evokes Ving Rhames' Marsellus from “Pulp Fiction” with the reassurance of Morpheus from The Matrix. Whereas Tony from Rocky was a crying, screaming mess on some “This is supposed to be an exhibition!!” shit while watching Ivan Drago murder Apollo Creed…if Creed had been trained by James, he would simply tell the worried Russians, “We didn't train for no fuckin exhibition.”
This much became abundantly clear while chopping it up with James on the SportsBlog podcast with the legendary Doc Stanley: He takes every fight and every challenge seriously. Meaning the idea that “The Truth” sees Lamont Peterson as a far greater threat than the down-the-line Terence Crawford is not only real, but fact.
“We don't understand this notion of a ‘stay busy' fight at all, Lamont Peterson is an extremely strong welterweight ready to die to win a world championship,” warned James. “In terms of a pure challenge, he's physically stronger than Kell Brook and more durable. Crafty and rugged. Gritty. Determined. This threat we have in front of us is real.”
James sprinkled sage all over the phone, so its easy to understand why Spence is so seasoned– and why he deserves a major fight. That major fight will truly come from Bud. Already on the cusp of being great, Spence would be the taller, southpaw Sugar Ray Leonard, as Crawford registers as a shorter, multi-stanced Thomas Hearns in a potential equation.
Bud also projects as a solid welterweight, with elements of an angry Pernell Whitaker to deal with the Sonny Liston-like attack of Spence embedded in his game. Or could he? Though it's obviously too early to talk about this bout, an aerial view of the boxing landscape shows two roads that will inevitably collide.
Where there's smoke there's fire.