By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Music fans of a certain age may remember Jon Landau.
He was a rock critic in Boston who caught a concert at a local venue in the early 1970s and essentially launched the career of a then-struggling New Jersey singer/songwriter named Bruce Springsteen with the following turn of phrase in a review:
"I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time."
Of course, I'll never claim to have Landau's gift for writing, nor his obvious prescience. Though, 21 Springsteen concerts later, I certainly can understand what he saw in the guy.
And I'll concede -- in the aftermath of Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn -- to having felt a similar jolt of professional enthusiasm by the end of the main event.
So, in honor of Landau, here's my boxing-tinged translation of his musical masterpiece...
I saw boxing future and its name is Errol Spence Jr. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was watching fights for the very first time.
When his seven-round demolition of a surely overmatched, but certainly capable Lamont Peterson ended I could only think, can anyone really be this good? Can anyone say this much to me? Can a welterweight still perform with this kind of power and glory? And then I glanced at the notes that I'd made as the fight progressed and knew that the answer was yes.
Spence does it all. He is a boxer, a puncher, a bully, a tough guy, a humble technician, a gritty dog, and a truly great all-around performer. He works a ring like he has been doing it forever. I racked my brains but simply can’t think of a 147-pounder who does so many things so superbly. Simply put, there is no one I would rather watch in the weight class today.
He opened with footwork and movement while establishing his jab and working the body, all the while looking as calm as if he were in a routine sparring match -- not a primetime premium cable main event. Combinations began flowing and Peterson was ceding ground as early as the second, a trend that continued in the third and fourth as the Texan landed more frequent and more powerful blows.
A left hook yielded a knockdown in the fifth, and Spence maintained the momentum even as the gutty Peterson rose and made his final stand. Audio from the corner indicated the challenger's confidence was ebbing as he headed out for the sixth, and his inability to provide any consistent deterrence led to a perfectly warranted team-mandated surrender after the seventh.
Spence is no wonder to look at. Skinny, and barely looking old enough to drink -- let alone his actual 28 years -- he coolly patrols the ring with the presence of a decade-long veteran, not a relative youngster in his second title fight who turned pro after the 2012 Olympics. Every lefty jab and cross adds something to his ultimate goal — to dominate the weight class with his own brand of precise violence.
Many try, few succeed, and none more than he. It’s Monday now and I’m watching a replay and my memory of the fight has made me feel a little giddy. I still feel the spirit and it still moves me.
Last Saturday, I remembered that the magic still exists and as long as I write about boxing, my mission is to tell a stranger about it — just as long as I remember that I’m the stranger I’m writing for.
* * * * * * * * * *
Weekly title-fight schedule:
IBO lightweight title – Accra, Ghana
Emmanuel Tagoe (champion/No. 59 IWBR) vs. Fernando Saucedo (No. 35 IBO/No. 53 IWBR)
Tagoe (27-1, 13 KO): First title defense; Undefeated since pro debut (27-0, 13 KO)
Saucedo (61-6-3, 10 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Seventh 12-round fight (3-3, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Saucedo is a serviceable veteran who’s been in with a few names. Problem is, he’s never beaten any of them and won’t be more than a recognizable foe for Tagoe here. Tagoe by decision
WBA lightweight title – Inglewood, California
Jorge Linares (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Mercito Gesta (No. 15 WBA/No. 27 IWBR)
Linares (43-3, 27 KO): Sixth title defense; Eighth fight in the United States (6-1, 2 KO)
Gesta (31-1-2, 17 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Third 12-round fight (1-1, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Linares has seen his career stabilize at 135 pounds and though he’s in with a former prospect here, the years have seen the gap widen significantly, and it’ll show. Linares by decision
WBC/WBO cruiserweight/junior heavyweight titles – Riga, Latvia
Mairis Briedis (WBC champ/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Oleksandr Usyk (WBO champ/No. 1 IWBR)
Briedis (23-0, 18 KO): Second title defense; Seventh 12-round fight (6-0, 3 KO)
Usyk (13-0, 11 KO): Fourth title defense; Sixth 12-round fight (5-0, 4 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Do you like the big Latvian who can punch or the bigger Ukrainian who can punch? They both have pristine records, but it says here that Usyk has a higher upside. Usyk in 9
Last week's picks: 3-0 (WIN: Spence, Easter, Mimoune)
2018 picks record: 3-0 (100 percent)
Overall picks record: 924-304 (75.2 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.