By Michael Rosenthal
Errol Spence: Who’s the No. 1 fighter pound for pound? Depends when you ask.
After Vasyl Lomachenko fights, everyone seems to agree “it doesn’t get better than that.” After Terence Crawford fights, you shake your head and say “Damn.
Maybe this guy is the best.” And after Mikey Garcia fights, I personally think “this guy could end up at the top one day soon.”
On Saturday, it was Errol Spence’s turn.
Spence faced more of a pop quiz than a significant test against past-his-prime Lamont Peterson at Barclays Center in Brooklyn but he scored 100 percent, artfully pounding the former 140-pound titleholder until his corner stopped the fight as the eighth round was getting underway.
That victory followed Spence’s knockout of Kell Brook to win the IBF welterweight title last March in Brook’s hometown, which vaulted Spence (23-0, 20 knockouts) onto most pound-for-pound lists.
What can’t Spence do?
He obviously has an unusual skill set; he methodically but viciously chopped Peterson down with sharp, accurate punches. He obviously has power; he has 10 consecutive stoppages even as his opposition has improved. He obviously has a good chin; he was drilled several times by Peterson but never blinked.
And he has the bearing of a champion, one who knows – without question – that he’ll win if he follows the game plan.
Spence said in the ring afterward that he can get better, particularly on defense. That seems to be true. Some of the shots he took could’ve been catastrophic against a bigger puncher, although I think he became reckless at times because he knew Peterson couldn’t hurt him.
Can you imagine a better version of Spence? As it is, I think he might be the most complete fighter of the pound-for-pound bunch when all is said and done. Again, what can’t he do?
Of course, Spence, 28, is just getting started. A more significant and much-discussed test would be fellow titleholder Keith Thurman, who hasn’t fought since last March because of elbow surgery. Spence is determined to fight Thurman this year, which is doable in part because both fight for the same promoter.
I might be in the minority but I don’t think Thurman would give Spence much trouble. Shawn Porter, with his swarming style and toughness, might actually be a more difficult opponent for Spence.
Ultimately, though, the fight I want to see is Spence vs. Crawford. If Crawford is strong and comfortable enough at 147 pounds, I can’t imagine a better matchup in boxing. That might be a fight for 2019 if competing promoters can work together, which is never a given.
I know I’m not alone when I say I can’t wait to see how all this plays out.
Robert Easter: The lanky lightweight, fighting on the Spence-Peterson card, could not have lost his IBF belt because opponent Javier Fortuna failed to make weight but he probably lost some respect.
Easter was frustrated for 12 solid rounds, as he could never figure out how to catch Fortuna to hit him with any consistency. And the athletic (and awkward) Dominican didn’t just run. He held his ground often enough to win at least some rounds.
And while Easter will tell you how much punching power he has, it was Fortuna who buzzed Easter.
The judges gave the titleholder a split-decision victory – 115-112 and 114-113 for Easter, 114-113 for Fortuna – but a close loss would’ve been reasonable. In fact, a point Fortuna lost in the second round cost him a draw.
The announcement of the decision was greeted with boos in Brooklyn, an indication that Easter didn’t have his best night.
Easter strikes me as too one-dimensional to reach great heights. If you stand in front of him and exchange, he can use his length to pick you apart. If you move particularly well, as Fortuna did, he’ll likely have a hard time.
Easter spoke afterward about meeting fellow titleholders Jorge Linares and Mikey Garcia, assuming Linares and Garcia win upcoming fights and Garcia is open to fighting again at 135 pounds.
I would pick Linares and Garcia to beat Easter. Linares, the beautiful boxer, could fight in the Fortuna mold even though he isn’t quite as athletic. And while Garcia’s flat-footed style might suit Easter, the Los Angeles-area fighter is too good and powerful for Easter.
Evidence suggests that Easter (21-0, 14 KOs) also doesn’t have the punching power he claims to have. His last four fights – all title matchups – have gone the distance, including another so-so performance against Denis Shafikov in his previous fight.
I’m not suggesting Easter should be written off. He has unusual height for a 135-pounder (5 feet 11 inches; 180 cm) and knows how to use it against most opponents. And he’s only 26. He’ll learn from fights like the one on Saturday.
I don’t see a star in the making, though. We’ll see.
Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KOs) might be wise to consider retirement after a taxing career but he shouldn’t base that decision on a one-sided loss to a fighter like Spence, who might be able to dominate any fighter near his weight. Peterson couldn’t withstand Spence’s incessant attack but, once again, he landed some good punches and his admirable toughness allowed him to survive longer than many others would have. I’m guessing that Peterson, who turns 34 on Wednesday, has some fight left in him. … Meanwhile, Fortuna (33-2-1, 23 KOs) might’ve benefited from a disappointing few days. He made a significant mistake by failing to make weight on Friday and then suggesting that cold weather had something to do with it. He can’t let that happen again if he wants to be taken seriously. That said, he made a strong impression in the fight. He fought on equal terms with a respected titleholder, proving he can compete at an elite level as a lightweight. That’s a valuable consolation. … Heavyweight Adam Kownacki (17-0, 14 KOs) stopped Iago Kiladze (26-2, 18 KOs) in six rounds on the Spence-Peterson card, another step toward becoming a legitimate contender. Kownacki, a Brooklyn-based Pole, is popular in New York. … Light heavyweight contender Marcus Browne (21-0, 16 KOs) needed only 2 minutes, 15 seconds to stop Francy Ntetu (17-2, 4 KOs) on the Spence-Peterson card, Browne’s third KO in a row. The former U.S. Olympian seems to have corrected whatever was wrong when he escaped with a split-decision victory over Radivoje Kalajdzic in 2016. He deserves the title shot he fervently wants. … I doubt Manny Pacquiao will ever fight Lomachenko because of their weight disparity but the prospect reminds me of another matchup: Pacquiao vs. Oscar De La Hoya. In that fight, De La Hoya was the aging legend moving down in weight to take on the sensational upstart. And we know what happened there. Pacquiao, 39, might be wise to get the concept out of his mind.