By Tris Dixon
IN an era of massaged records, easy options, soft touches, ridiculous mandatories and so much more, it all comes as a breath of fresh air when a fighter looks to both set and maintain high standards.
It should not be that way, but too often is.
Fighters look to division hop without ever cleaning up, claiming a slew of belts while never proving themselves as the number one or defining their careers.
However, not everyone takes that view of the sport or their legacies.
Errol Spence, the IBF welterweight champion, once again looked the goods on Saturday, dismantling Lamont Peterson to the extent that the Washington DC man was withdrawn from battle following seven torrid and one-sided rounds.
Those high on the welterweight king known as “The Truth” would have felt he was a step too far for Peterson while those hoping for a fight of the year candidate might not have been over-estimating Peterson’s ability, rather they were downplaying or did not acknowledge Spence’s potential.
Many have known about Spence’s talent for years, back when sparring stories circulated of him more than holding his own with Floyd Mayweather and Adrien Broner.
We have yet to see chinks in his impressive armour.
He is meticulous yet aggressive, clinical but watchable. He’s patient but forceful. He remembers to work the body and also dazzles with shots upstairs. As with any true talent, the exciting part is seeing what happens when they match up against someone of similar ability. Peterson was never careless with “The Truth”, he just was not as good.
But it was a solid first defence for Spence to notch.
Many in the UK tipped their hats to Kell Brook for taking on Spence, his mandatory challenger, last year. But credit has to go to Spence, too, for travelling overseas to fight for a title in his first professional outing abroad. In Peterson and Brook, he has faced two seasoned, proud and world-class pros who thought they could beat the young gun. Their skills and bravery have allowed a light to shine on Spence’s proficiencies yet still the depths of his ability remains unclear to all but those in his tightest circle.
Certainly neither Peterson nor his corner needed to witness anymore last night.
“I don’t like what I see,” said Barry Hunter in Peterson’s corner before extracting his man from the fray before the eighth could kick off. His man’s face was swollen and Lamont’s eyes were puffy. He had absorbed some heavy punishment and while you will see worse beatings, there was no sense in watching more of the same over the next few rounds. Spence had proven his superiority; Peterson had displayed his courage. We could all go home or switch off the TV safe in the knowledge that we had seen everything we needed to.
Now Keith Thurman is in Spence’s sights. So, too, is Terence Crawford. Spence last week even mentioned a move up to middleweight to face Saul Alvarez down the line.
That would be an astonishing run if Spence took on that gauntlet, Brook in the UK, Peterson, unification with Thurman and then against fellow pound-for-pounder Crawford. Then Canelo all the way up at 160lbs.
Of course, it will not play out that way, but full marks for his ambition.
He is not talking about a few mandatory defences. He is not talking about needing more ring time or trying to build experience while being decorated by a world championship belt.
The southpaw Texan, from DeSoto, is a fighter who makes the right noises both in and outside the ring. He does not just seem to want to back up his talk – he wants to prove himself and his talent.
Trainer Derrick James has an extraordinary talent on his hands.
"I still can improve a lot on my defence,” reckoned Spence, retaining an admirable modesty. “I just have to keep perfecting my skills and keep progressing. You're going to see a better Errol Spence next time I get in the ring."
For Peterson, well he turns 34 on Wednesday and said he could contemplate hanging them up.
A two-weight world titlist who had come through a spell of inactivity during which he boxed just once in three years, Peterson’s best days might well have past him by but that will not – or should not – be used to diminish Spence’s performance.
"It was really hard [to stop the fight], but if you know Lamont, you know he was not going to give up," coach Hunter said. "So I had to stop it. At the end of the day this is my son right here. And there's nothing more valuable than his well being. If it comes to him or winning, I pick him. I care about him."
Tellingly, Peterson disagrees. Hunter knows him better than anyone else.
"He was getting the shots on me early. He was the better man tonight," admitted Lamont. "I always respect Barry's decision. If he asks me to fight a million people, I will. If he asks me to stop, I will stop. I will never question his decision. I know he has my best interests at heart."
For now, Spence will be an interested observer when Thurman fights in April.
“One Time” is returning at a lower level as he comes back from elbow surgery.
Spence earned $1.2 million last night and that will surely rise substantially for his next performance, and for the one after that and so on.
The ambitious 28-year-old might be the one to breathe life into a division that could have feasibly spent years in the doldrums in the post-Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao era.
But “The Truth” is out there and he has a legacy to build.