By Ryan Maquiñana
Errol Spence Jr. had the longest Olympic run out of the entire 2012 U.S. men’s boxing team this summer in London. Unfortunately, the welterweight’s quarterfinal finish would not be sufficient to make the podium, as the team failed to medal for the first time in history.
“It was disappointing, but I’ve put it behind me, so I’m over it now,” Spence said before his pro debut Friday night. “I have my sights set on new goals like the world title, and I’m getting to do what I love to do, so I can’t complain.”
That first step of his professional journey begins at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif., against Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Garcia (3-3, 1 KO) at a contracted weight of 150 pounds. Spence, a talented southpaw out of DeSoto, Tex., a suburb of Dallas, has spent his first training camp at home in the Maple Avenue Boxing Gym with longtime trainer Derrick James.
“I’ve trained eight weeks for this, I’m in shape, and I’m ready to go,” Spence said. “Naturally, I’m going to be a little more conscious about my opponents’ power, but I’ll continue to use my jab, and stay in control early on.”
Spence first made waves on a worldwide stage during this summer’s Olympic Games. After a decisive 16-10 victory in his 152-pound opener over Brazil’s Myke Ribeiro de Carvalho, Spence seemed to have replicated the feat against India’s Krishan Vikas in the round of 16. In fact, the referee began to raise Spence’s hand in triumph.
However, Vikas was announced a 13-11 winner, leaving the referee a bit embarrassed, the majority of boxing fans livid, and Spence emotionally devastated to the point where he shed tears with his closest supporters, namely his father, Errol Sr.
Ultimately, amid global criticism of AIBA, amateur boxing’s governing body, the decision was overturned and Spence would advance to the quarterfinals, where he would fall to Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy 16-11.
“Having the whole controversy kind of knocked me off my groove a little bit when I got back to fighting [after the reinstatement],” Spence said. “I had beaten [Zamkovoy] before the Olympics, so I felt like I could have won, but it happens.”
After leaving the amateurs, he (as well as five of his Olympic teammates) signed with advisor Al Haymon and promoter Golden Boy. Five out of the six fighters will make their pro debuts on Friday night's card.
“It’s great to be able to fight on Showtime in my debut in front of my family and friends,” Spence said. “I can’t wait to see them there, especially my dad who has been there since day one. I’m just really fortunate to be in this position right now.”
Not since former world champion Curtis Cokes has Dallas had a welterweight as highly touted as the 22-year-old Spence, a three-time national amateur champion who hopes to bring boxing prominence back to Big D.
“Al knows how to move fighters so I trust him,” Spence said. “When my career is over, I want to be known as one of the greatest who ever boxed, and I’m going to make the most of it.”
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected], check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.