By Sean Reed
If you’re the fan requiring window dressing to liven up the mental image of a matchup, Saturday, January 20th ain’t for you. If threats, insults and press conference altercations are essentials to whet your pre-bout whistle, you have the wrong appetite for this fight. Errol Spence, Jr. and Lamont Peterson don’t roll that way; aren’t cut from that cloth.
That said, this won’t diminish or decrease the level of fan friendly action to transpire when niceties are finally put to the side and they go hard at each other for 12 rounds or less. Premier Boxing Champions and Showtime Championship Boxing will broadcast live from Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY., 8PM CST.
The initial Spence-Peterson media gathering, announcing the pairing, consisted of smiles, laughter, compliments, handshakes and bro-hugs. The utmost respect from both camps, talks of genuine friendship, but also a guarantee that a battle would eventually ensue; a dog fight.
Peterson’s trainer, Barry Hunter, praised Lamont and Errol Jr. as men of content, men of character, heart and competitive spirit that will almost assuredly lead to war. A ticking fistic time bomb if ever there was one. Spence’s trainer, Derrick James (who’s garnered every reputable “Trainer of the Year” designation for 2017), echoed Hunter’s sentiments.
Spence (22-0, 19 KO’s), a 2012 United States representative at the London Olympics, has been on a virtual victory lap around the city of Dallas, in lieu of fights. After crossing the Atlantic to pry the IBF welterweight crown from defending champion, Kell Brook, “E.J.” has been wined and dined by local government, television and radio outlets, not to mention professional sports team. But at the end of the day, he’d have much rather been competing, and therefore occupied his zest for combat assisting stablemates, Jermell Charlo and Robert Brant, in preparation for their upcoming affairs.
The thoughtful, contemplative Spence wants the world as his oyster, not just the Lone Star State and/or the Big Apple. Winning his first world championship didn’t quench anything, and that thirst will persist until Errol’s the undisputed champion at 147 pounds. In what can only be described as a buzzkill, the unified WBA/WBC belt holder, Keith Thurman, revealed late in 2017 that he wasn’t interested in seeing “E.J.” in the ring until 2019. Meanwhile, WBO titlist, Jeff Horn is slated to face undefeated pound for pounder, Terence Crawford, in the Spring. With unification out of the question for the time being, Spence is looking to make lemonade out of his lemon riddled path, which leads to Lamont Peterson.
Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KO’s) literally had his life saved by the sport of Boxing. Along with younger brother, Anthony, Lamont was abandoned, in and out of foster care and eventually taken in by Hunter, as a pre-teen. A wildly successful amateur career blossomed from the newfound support system, with Peterson coming up just short of a spot on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team.
As a professional, he’s been the unified IBF and WBA champion at 140 pounds and banged with the likes of Tim Bradley, Amir Khan, Danny Garcia, Kendall Holt and Felix Diaz. Only Lucas Matthysse has dominated Peterson, almost five years ago. Lamont’s always fancied himself a Ronald “Winky” Wright type of fighter, and similarly, he’s very much a high risk-low reward proposition, comparatively speaking.
Like Spence, Peterson’s a guy most look to avoid, and with elite welterweights collectively unwilling to fight them, they decided to fight each other. Peterson even vacated a lesser version of the WBA welterweight strap for a date with the younger, bigger, stronger, dangerous Spence.
They sparred once, roughly 6 years ago, but there were no Spence-Adrien Broner moments to speak of. Errol remembers starting fast and being impressed with Lamont’s unflappability under fire. He also admits to watching and studying Peterson back in those days. Hunter worked more than a few of Spence’s amateur bouts and even refers to him as “E.J.”. Familiarity breeds contempt, but in this instance, there’ll be no traces of it until the bell rings. “It’s gonna start as a boxing match, but end up a dog fight. He has a big heart, he’s a dog; I have a big heart, I’m a dog”, Spence said.
Spence and Peterson possess similar skill sets, but Errol’s is at a higher, fresher level. He’s more dynamic, ambitious, has superior firepower, and he’s the bigger man. Ultimately, Peterson’s propensity to stay in the pocket, trading shots, will be his undoing. He’s tough, proud and willing to go out on his shield, and that will be the case by the 7th-8th round.