Why Errol Spence vs. Lamont Peterson Matters

    Boxing was on fire in 2017 and that is in part due to the tenacious matchups in the welterweight division. Even with the heavyweight division reemerging both domestically and abroad, the welterweights have stolen the show.

    One large part of this division’s luminescence is Errol Spence, Jr., the quiet young 2012 London Olympian from DeSoto, Texas. Groomed from the outset and labeled the future by Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Spence has lived up to the hype thus far. 

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    Early in his career, Spence won the U.S. National Golden Gloves and three consecutive national amateur welterweight championships. Spence reached the quarterfinals at the 2011 World Championships and also made it to the quarterfinals of the London Olympics.

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    He turned professional shortly after the Olympics and began to turn heads immediately, knocking out his first two opponents as a pro in 2012 and then fighting eight times in 2013, scoring knockouts in five of those bouts. He opened a lot of eyes when he knocked out former champion Chris van Heerden in eight rounds, and then went on to knock out former champion Chris Algieri in five. 

    But what put Spence on the map was when he showed “true grit” (his words) and knocked out British star Kell Brook in his native Sheffield, England. In front of 27,000 fans, Spence dropped and eventually stopped Brook to win the IBF welterweight title after 11 rounds, becoming a champion and officially on the radar for all champions and challengers alike.

    When Spence was making his bones on the amateur circuit, Lamont Peterson was already established and a champion in the light welterweight division. He defeated Amir Khan via split decision to become a double champion, but then tasted the sting of losing one of the belts when it was ruled that he failed a drug test. He was knocked out by Lucas Mattyhsse and lost a controversial majority decision to Danny Garcia, but has still been here in the game as a wily and relevant veteran. Recently, he won the WBA welterweight title.  

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    Now that Spence has the IBF belt, Peterson decided to vacate his belt and any mandatory challengers to pursue Spence for the more prestigious title. The young one is indeed the one. He is game for all opponents and his technical brilliance meets a power and speed that hasn’t been seen since Danny Garcia’s early career. Except he’s sharper than Garcia and it makes the majority of the fans look at the pending bout as already won by the young Texan.

    But when you realize that Lamont Peterson is the reason why Adrien Broner trains in D.C. at Headbangerz and that his little brother Anthony is considered by some to be even better than him, you will understand that Peterson is never to be doubted. 

    At times, Peterson starts slow, but he is a master of ring generalship and pushing the pace. Spence has been showing his ability to do the same, but Peterson has done it much longer.

    The money is in the welterweight division. Peterson knows this and so does Spence, so each is highly motivated to either stay at the top of, or in Peterson’s case, to knock the young lion down a peg. With former undisputed lightweight champion Terence Crawford now in the welterweight ranks and Keith Thurman hopefully returning from surgery in early 2018, the game is changing baby.

    Spence will actually meet the biggest challenge in his career on January 20th, 2018. Bigger than the weight advantage of Kell Brook and even the possibility of fighting Keith Thurman. This is what Marcos Maidana, Oscar de la Hoya and Miguel Cotto was to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. a veteran’s challenge and it is why this fight, above all in his career to date, matters.              

    Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. RhettĀ hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.