“The best welterweight fighter in the world?“
Thomas Hauser, one of boxing's literary legends, doesn't take long to consider a question left hanging in the air like a would be white towel thrown by a paternal corner; had a merciless assault from IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. continued into the 8th round, Lamont Peterson may have exited the ring on a stretcher.
“I think he's the best fighter in the world,” spilled Hauser, in response to my question before leaving ringside and making his way to the post fight press conference.
In many respects, it was a dare to tell the truth about Spence – or a perceived one, with the understanding that it would be a subjective one. In January 2017, I sat next to Hauser inside of the same Barclays Center in Brooklyn and watched Gervonta “Tank” Davis blow up Jose “Sniper” Pedraza to take the IBF super featherweight title.
“I think Tank could give Vasyl Lomachenko a lot of problems- right now. He's just as fast and hits harder… It's quite possible that he'd beat him,” opined Hauser, unsolicited. Today, he'd probably agree that Lomachenko, the actual pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, would most likely disarm and “No Mas” Tank. Sometimes, it is [the causer] of the moment who becomes handcuffed. Or doesn’t.
“Are you the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet?” asked NY Fights editor and publisher Michael Woods, opening a round of questions presented to ESJ in front of assembled media, after watching Spence (23-0, 20KOs) run rough shod over Peterson (35-4-1, 17KOs) courtesy of a bruising 8th round TKO.
“I'm not going to say I'm the best pound for pound right now, but I'm definitely headed that way,” revealed Spence, offering another glimpse of why he’s “The Truth”.
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Andre Ward, the now retired all-time great, was anointed world #1 following a dental floss thin UD over Sergey Kovalev in November 2016. If you picked Roman Gonzalez around this time heading into 2017, you weren't seen as wrong, even though both legends were essentially in the checkout line at the grocery store.
Former undisputed super lightweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford has just entered the produce section. Spence is still shopping for greatness, anywhere, and leaves the distinct impression that he’s not interested in mythical awards. The difference between a champion and a contender is that one of them doesn’t care about a title. Most likely, that’s going to be the champion. When this person is special, he’ll make contenders look like pretenders.
Chris Algieri—> Manny Pacquiao. Leonard Bundu—> Keith Thurman. Danny “Swift” Garcia—> Lamont Peterson
In each of the above trials involving a jury, the champions needed judges to decide their fate. Pacquiao’s case was easy for jurors to decide, but Spence had the same one violently thrown out of court and dismissed. We witnessed Thurman produce enough reasonable doubt to decide against his attacker; but that same attacker was completely prosecuted and jailed by Spence. Boxing’s justice system can be brutal. Though Peterson’s justifiable assault and battery of Danny Garcia wasn’t seen that way, he was (in a sense) exonerated by Spence via manslaughter.
Peterson was bigger and stronger than the fighter who gave DSG hell, and is the same fighter who at least pushes Pac-Man or One-Time to its gates. Thus, the fact that Peterson was absolutely sent to hell is sound reasoning to crown Spence #1. But the reason I suggested “It Won’t Make No Damn Spence” is because the result wasn’t surprising. There was no 50/50 split among “experts” on this fight, like say Lomachenko V Rigondeaux, where Loma’s Picasso warrants the highest merit.
Spence should’ve been in the top 5 pound-for-pound before bouncing Kell Brook. This isn’t a popularity contest, and the title of the world’s best shouldn’t change like a fair-weather fan. Do Canelo Alvarez or Gennady Golovkin now just leave the top 5? Of course not. They should earn their way out, just like Spence has earned his way in. As you’re reading this, having already read what you have, does Spence not do to Danny Garcia or Shawn Porter (rumored as possible opponents for ESJ’s next title defense in Dallas) what he did to Peterson?
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ESJ, in response to a layer cake question from yours truly at the post fight presser:
“He (Keith Thurman) says he’s a bigger puncher than these guys but when is the last time he’s had a KO? The pedigree of opponents raised and he’s not getting knockouts anymore. He was “One-Time” when he was fighting lower caliber guys, but now he’s not getting KO’s. And I’ll give him a pass… I’ve been on the record saying he’s been off for a while—have a tune-up fight in April and then fight me.”
I then asked if he wanted that fight “specifically” in 2018.
“In 2018,” said an adamant Spence, literally daring Thurman to face him. “It’s the beginning of the year, we’re in January, he can have a tune-up fight in March or April and then fight me at the end of the year.” So bold is Spence when it comes to Thurman, that when the notion was raised about the two possibly promoting their coming superfight by appearing on the same card at Barclays, Spence declared: “Yeah, as long as he’s the co-feature.”
If Errol Spence Jr. isn’t the world’s best fighter in this fistic Game of Thrones, then he at least has the look of him, while sounding exactly the way the pound-for-pound champion is supposed to sound.