By Thomas Lyons
Tipped as one of the upcoming stars in the world of boxing, IBF champion Errol ‘The Truth’ Spence Jr showcased his superb skill set and tenacious fighting style to successfully defend his belt against a seasoned world level boxer in Lamont Peterson at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York.
From the opening bell, it was clear to see who was the dominant of the two, with Spence taking the centre of the ring and started to go to work immediately, unleashing accurate combinations to the body and head, with nothing significant coming back from the challenger. The jab proved integral to gauging the distance from Peterson and Spence remained composed throughout each and every round up until the fifth round, where the complexion of the fight changed, with Spence dropping Peterson with a sharp and snappy left hook to the temple. Beating the count, and with two minutes remaining in the round, Peterson appeared to be on unsteady legs and dazed by the barrage of punches coming and landing his way. The tide was always in Spence’s favour but after the knockdown, the ferociousness and relentless work rate of Spence intensified.
When Peterson returned to his corner after the sixth round, another round that was dominated by the superior boxing skills of Spence, the trainer and father figure of Barry Hunter showed compassion for his fighter, telling him he didn’t like what he was seeing and wanted to see his man show something to change his mind about pulling the brave Peterson out. However, Peterson was given permission by the doctor and his corner to go on at least one more round before pulling their man out. Spence certainly turned on the gas in the following round (seventh) and broke Peterson’s will and sapped the energy out of his close friend from the amateurs. At the end of the seventh round, Hunter told the referee to stop the fight and Spence retained the IBF belt in what was his first defence since beating Kell Brook back in May to snatch the title away from the Sheffield man.
The young lion in Errol Spence prevailed, and in an interview with Jim Gray for Showtime Sports afterwards, he immediately called out Keith Thurman to make a unification fight between the two happen sometime later in the year, with the unified WBC & WBA champion recovering from elbow surgery, and would almost certainly need a tune-up fight. “I’ve been waiting a long time! Since I was 15-0, I’ve been calling this guy out, but its been excuse after excuses, let’s make the fight happen”, said Spence. He also commended Peterson for his performance and heart in the fight. “I know Lamont, he’s a great fighter. He’s willing to die in there. That’s why his coach has to stop it. That’s the kind of person Lamont is”. The mutual respect between the two camps was evident from the minute the fight was announced and this carried on into the fight. Peterson’s gratitude showed, applauding Spence for his display, “He was the better man tonight. he was able to establish himself with the jab. He’s a step ahead of the rest”. Hunter told Gray that the wellbeing of his fighter means more than anything related to his love for boxing. In what was a very honest and compelling set of interviews, it highlighted the severity and brutality of the sport but that respect between two hungry fighters when its all said and done is paramount.
Kicking off the year in style, the 147-pound division is heating up very nicely with the return of Thurman inevitable, also Garcia back in the mix and many other fighters campaigning at world level. Terence Crawford has also moved up in weight class and will be chasing these big fights. After stopping his last ten opponents, Spence has definitely made a statement with all the other contenders looking on.
Elsewhere, the co-main event saw Robert Easter Jr win a split decision points decision over Javier Fortuna, remaining unbeaten. The IBF title was not on the line, however, with Fortuna failing to make the weight in an unprofessional manner on Friday. With Fortuna making the fight messy and awkward for Easter Jr, it became difficult for Easter to use his considerable advantages in height and reach but still managed to nullify the dirty tactics of Fortuna to earn the victory. A lot of the punches behind the back of Easter Jr proved decisive in favour of the reigning champion One judge saw the fight 114-113 in favour of Easter Jr, whilst another gave the score in favour of Fortuna, but the final judge gave it to Easter Jr by three points (115-112). In the post-fight press conference with the media, Easter Jr explained that Fortuna was out of shape and had to be bullish in there to have any success. “He was using tactics…he knew he wasn’t in shape. It was an ugly fight but we got the job done and that all that matters.” Onwards and upwards for Easter Jr, it would seem, still some big fights on the horizon with Garcia or Linares, depending on whether he decides to move up or remain champion at 135lbs.