By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – The welterweight Errol Spence Jr. really wants to fight sat several feet away from him Saturday.
Unfortunately for Spence, he’ll have to wait at least until sometime late in 2018 for a showdown with Keith Thurman. That 147-pound championship unification fight has been delayed due to Thurman’s rehabilitation from elbow surgery.
Spence will settle for facing Lamont Peterson in January.
The unbeaten IBF welterweight champion confirmed during a press conference Saturday that’ll he’ll defend his title against Peterson in his next fight. Spence-Peterson could take place as soon as January 13 either at Barclays Center in Brooklyn or at a venue on the West Coast.
“That’s the guy who stepped up and said he’ll take the fight,” Spence said. “That’s the guy who accepted. He’s a top-five welterweight.”
The 27-year-old Spence is very familiar with Peterson and knows better than to take the former two-division champion lightly.
“He’s a hell of a fighter,” Spence said. “He’s someone I looked up to in the amateurs. He’s someone I sparred in the amateurs and learned a lot from. I had a training camp with him at the Olympic training center. He gave me different advice – how to punch, how to slow down my punches and how to speed ‘em up.
“So he’s a guy that I really look up to. He’s one of my favorite fighters. He’s a guy who’ll fight anybody. I’ve never known him to duck a fight, to say no to a fight. He always fought the best. You look at [Lucas] Matthysse, Tim Bradley, all these tough names. He fought Victor Ortiz.”
Spence will make the first defense of the IBF 147-pound championship he won by knocking out Kell Brook (36-2, 25 KOs) in the 11th round May 27 in Sheffield, England, Brook’s hometown.
Peterson will end a longer layoff than Spence. The Washington, D.C., native hasn’t boxed since he out-pointed Russia’s David Avanesyan to win a 12-round unanimous decision February 18 in Cincinnati.
Peterson, 33, has since given up the WBA world welterweight championship he won from Avanesyan (22-2-1, 11 KOs).
“Lamont has true grit,” Spence said. “He’s a real fighter. He’s a guy who gives it all and has a big heart. So I see this being a great fight for me.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.