Path to Boxing
Born on January 13, 1990 in Long Island, New York before moving to DeSoto, Texas, Spence’s first love was football. He played cornerback and was so good that people asked him for autographs sometimes.
That all changed when he went with his father, Errol Spence Sr., to the barber shop on Saturday nights to watch the heavyweight stars of the 90s.
The two supported former British heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis when he fought top American heavyweights Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson, even though they were the only ones to do so.
Spence fell in love with boxing as a result and began at age 15. Although he wanted to quit at first, his father pushed him to stick with the sport.
“At first I didn’t like it. I wanted to quit. But he wouldn’t let me quit,” Spence told Fox News via NBC. “He told me if you’re quitting this when it’s hard, then you’ll quit anything in life. So I stuck with it and got good.”
Thanks to his father’s selflessness, a truck driver who took a graveyard shift so he could drive his son to the gym, Spence found early success training at Vivero Boxing Gym in Dallas.
“When I first got to the gym, like two weeks after my first training, I was winning a tournament,” Spence said to Bleacher Report. “I was fighting in the open class and then I was beating those guys who had been amateur fighters for six, seven, eight years. Been an amateur since they were like four or five years old. You know, I was beating guys, I’d knock them out just like that.”
As boxing is a hard sport to master, Spence’s ability to pick it up and thrive in it as a newcomer confirmed he was special.
Spence went on to dominate the amateur scene, showcasing his superstar potential under the tutelage of Derrick James, The Ring Magazine‘s 2017 Trainer of the Year.
James found Spence on a local amateur card in Dallas and noticed he was too predictable, doing the same thing over and over. He conveyed what he saw to Spence Sr., who asked James if he could help his son get to the next level.
The relationship between James and Spence flourished as he helped the welterweight southpaw win two U.S. National Golden Gloves titles (2010-2011) and three U.S. National Amateur Championships (2009-2011), as well as the U.S. National U-19 Championship (2008) and the Four Nations Tournament Championship (2010).
He finished his stellar amateur career with a 135-12 record.
After fellow Dallas fighter Luis Yanez qualified for the 2008 Olympic team, Spence desired to be next.
“That’s when I decided that I wanted to go to the Olympics too,” Spence stated to Bleacher Report. “At first I didn’t want to go to the boxing gym. I wanted to keep playing football. I didn’t see the point in boxing. And then I started reading up on the Olympics and the boxing Olympics and decided I wanted to go to the Olympics.”
Spence made his dream a reality in 2012 at the U.S. Olympic Trials when he won the welterweight championship to earn a spot on the Olympic team.
At the 2012 London Games, he came up short of bringing home a medal to the U.S. His time in England, however, wasn’t without controversy. Spence originally lost in the round of 16 to India’s Krishan Vikas, but the result was overturned after the American team protested.
Even with a second chance to achieve Olympic glory, he was defeated by eventual bronze medalist Andrey Zamkovoy of Russia in the quarterfinals. As rules prohibited James from working in Spence’s corner at the Games, the fighter struggled against the seasoned Russian amateur.
Spence was disappointed with his finish, but valued the experience he gained.
“I didn’t get the gold medal that I wanted,” Spence expressed to Premier Boxing Champions. “But as an Olympian, competing in international fights against different styles on all of those different stages around the world helps you a lot.”
Although the loss secured the worst place in American history for the men’s boxing team, as they failed to reach the podium for the first time ever, Spence emerged as the best pro prospect to wear the red, white, and blue in London.
He turned pro three months after the Summer Olympics, and it would be the last time he lost in the ring.
Rising up the Ranks
Making his debut in the 147-pound welterweight division in 2012, Spence set out to prove he’s “The Truth.”
After winning his first pro bout with a third round knockout of Jonathan Garcia (3-4, 1 KO), he continued to crush the competition under James’ leadership.
“My goal for Errol is for him to go out and continually perform at the highest level he can go,” James told the Dallas Sports News. “I try to see what he is not able to see in the ring. I know he goes into the ring well prepared.”
Spence won his next 11 fights, nine by way of knockout, with seven of those coming in the first round, before making his Showtime TV debut in June 2014 against Ronald Cruz (20-4, 15 KOs). He went the distance in the 10-round scrap and won by unanimous decision.
He followed up the victory with knockouts of Noe Bolanos (24-11-1, 16 KOs) in September and Francisco Javier Castro (27-8, 22 KOs) three months later.
As Spence established himself as one of boxing’s rising stars with a perfect 15-0 record, 12 by knockout, he stepped up his competition in 2015.
He opened his 2015 slate with a brutal fourth round knockout of Samuel Vargas (20-2-1, 8 KOs) in April followed by a third round demolition of Phil Lo Greco (26-2, 14 KOs) in June.
Spence closed out the year by destroying Chris van Heerden (23-2-1, 12 KOs) in eight rounds in September and dismantling Alejandro Barrera (28-3, 18 KOs) in five rounds in December.
For his outstanding 2015, he was named ESPN‘s Prospect of the Year.
In 2016, Spence faced his toughest tests, but they were no match for the next great welterweight.
He dispatched Chris Algieri (21-3, 8 KOs) in five rounds in April, becoming the first fighter to knock him out, and then finished Leonard Bundu (32-2-2, 12 KOs) in six rounds in August to become the mandatory challenger to IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook.
With many questioning if Spence was ready for the big stage, he leaned on his Olympic experience to prepare him for the opportunity.
“People ask if I’m nervous about headlining big fights, but I’ve already fought on the biggest stage you can fight on at the Olympics,” Spence said to ESPN. “I was fighting in front of the whole world, and it got me ready for where I’m at today.”
Carrying an eight-fight knockout streak, which dates back to September 2014, Spence traveled to the UK with high expectations. The Lone Star State native lived up to the hype by stopping Brook (36-2, 25 KOs) in the 11th round to claim his first world title in May 2017.
Down on two of the three judges’ scorecards after six rounds, Spence took control of the fight down the stretch. Working behind his strong jab, the southpaw’s speed and power caused Brook problems.
Spence dropped “Special K” for just the second time in his career in the 10th round after delivering a series of heavy punches before Brook took a knee in the 11th round due to blurred vision in his left eye that led to a count out.
With the win, he became only the third boxer from the Dallas area to hold a world title, the second at 147-pounds.
Fighting in enemy territory, Spence impressed with his composure as he recorded his ninth consecutive knockout in front of 27,000 Brook supporters. Following the bout, he acknowledged it wasn’t his finest performance.
“I kind of give myself a B-minus. I don’t think that I did too good,” Spence stated to CBS Sports. “I was off on my offense and defense. I give Kell a lot of credit. It didn’t plan out exactly like I thought it would. I thought I would come out a little bit sharper, and I didn’t feel all that sharp tonight. But as true champions do, they push it out and show true grit like I did.”
As the first American boxer to defeat a Briton on their home turf since 2008, Spence returned to the U.S. with his eyes set on dominating the welterweight division.
In his first title defense in January 2018, eight months after dethroning Brook, Spence successfully retained his belt against Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KOs). He outclassed the savvy veteran with punishing blows, scoring a knock down in the fifth round, en route to an eighth round stoppage.
“I still can improve a lot on my defense,” Spence expressed to Showtime. “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.”
With the welterweight division considered the deepest and most talented in boxing, Spence (23-0, 20 KOs) wants to unify titles.
His main target is a super fight with unified welterweight titleholder Keith Thurman (29-0-1, 22 KOs).
“Everybody knows I’ve been waiting on ‘Sometime’ Thurman,” Spence said to Showtime. “Since I was 15-0 I’ve been calling this guy out, and he keeps making excuses. Let’s get it on.”
“One Time” returns to action in April, but doesn’t think the fight against the Texan will happen until at least 2019. Following Spence’s victory, Thurman tweeted “I [see] you young buck. Be patient, your time is coming.”
A matchup between the world’s top welterweights would be one of the greatest fights in the sport. As both are managed by Al Haymon, it’s an easy fight to make.
However, Spence won’t wait for Thurman because he aims to fight three times this year. He dared fighters to call Haymon if they think they can beat him.
“If anybody thinks they see flaws in my game and they think they can capitalize on it, call Al,” Spence voiced to FightHype.com. “I love great performances, and I believe to get the ultimate win, it’s to get a knockout. So that’s what I want, and it looks good on your record too. 23-0 with 20 knockouts.”
His next fight will likely be a homecoming bout in Dallas in May or June. As the IBF approved Spence’s fight with Peterson on the condition that the winner would face their next leading contender, the sanctioning body ordered him to make a mandatory title defense against Carlos Ocampo (22-0, 13 KOs).
Although the Mexican prospect is practically unknown, Spence doesn’t look past anyone.
“I’ve seen too many fighters look down the road and get beat before they get to the big fight,” Spence told Showtime. “I have to be 100 percent focused and hungry.”
Spence aspires to be mentioned amongst boxing’s legends when it’s all said and done. The 28-year-old looks to continue building his legacy as he ascends toward 147-pound supremacy in the “Era of Errol.”