By Keith Idec
When Errol Spence Jr. left Bramall Lane a year ago, he wanted to know what it’d feel like to defend his welterweight title in front of an adoring hometown crowd.
A year after devastating nearly 30,000 of Kell Brook’s hometown fans by knocking out Brook in Sheffield, England, Spence will get that opportunity two weeks from Saturday night. He’ll defend the IBF 147-pound championship he won from Brook against mandatory challenger Carlos Ocampo on June 16 in the Dallas area, where Spence was raised.
Showtime will televise the Spence-Ocampo clash from Ford Center at The Star, the Dallas Cowboys’ training facility in Frisco, Texas. BoxingScene.com has learned that more than 12,000 tickets already have been sold for Spence’s hometown fight, and a capacity crowd of roughly 15,000 is expected that night.
Spence (23-0, 20 KOs), a high school classmate of Denver Broncos star linebacker Von Miller, dreamed when he was growing up that he’d play for the Cowboys one day. That’s among the reasons this hometown fight is so special to the powerful southpaw from DeSoto, Texas.
“This is a big opportunity for me,” Spence said recently. “This has been a lifelong dream of mine. I can’t wait to fight in front of my hometown fans that have been rooting for me since the amateurs. It’s great to bring this event to Ford Center. I’m happy to defend my title against a great contender like Ocampo and I hope everyone comes out and supports their champion.”
The 28-year-old Spence intends to treat this homecoming just like any other fight. The emerging star is heavily favored to defeat Mexico’s Ocampo (22-0, 13 KOs).
“I don’t think there’s any extra pressure fighting in my hometown,” Spence said. “It’s just added motivation. Real pressure was fighting against 30,000 fans in the champion’s hometown for my first title against Kell Brook. This is me fighting in front of people who love me and who have seen me grow up as a boxer. I can’t wait to put on a show for them.”
Three of Spence’s past four fights have taken place in Brooklyn. Most recently, he stopped former 140-pound champ Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KOs) following seven one-sided rounds January 20 at Barclays Center.
This time last year, he was celebrating beating Brook (37-2, 26 KOs) by 11th-round knockout at a soccer stadium May 27.
“I feel like I’ve definitely earned this hometown fight,” Spence said. “To go to another country and fight a champion in his hometown, and to win the belt, I think I deserve to defend my belt in front of my fans.
“It’s going to be a great feeling being at this venue on fight night. When I was a kid, I thought I was going to be playing for the Cowboys. So this is just going to be a wonderful opportunity. I’ve already talked to a lot of Cowboys players who are excited to come see me fight.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.