Coming into 2016, there were plenty of boxing fans paying attention to Errol Spence Jr. The 2012 Olympian had established himself as one of boxing’s elite prospects. Social media pages dedicated to the Sweet Science were filled with fans hailing Spence as a future pound-for-pound elite.
He sure looked like one Saturday night in Brooklyn, in the first real test of his career against championship level competition. Facing former WBO light welterweight champ Chris Algieri, Spence demonstrated that he is a special talent indeed.
Algieri has a well-deserved reputation as a smart, gritty, super-tough competitor. He came off from the canvas twice in the first round against Ruslan Provodnikov in 2014 to battle his way back into the fight and take Provodnikov’s title via split decision. Last May, Algieri fought on very competitive terms before losing to upcoming Saul Alvarez opponent Amir Khan via decision. Algieri was knocked down six times against Manny Pacquiao in November 2014, but managed to finish the fight.
In the Barclays Center last weekend, Spence systematically broke Algieri down, hammering at his body and then finding the space for the big punches upstairs. He knocked Algieri down in Round 4, then dropped him twice in the fifth before referee Benjy Esteves waved off the count.
This was a performance that demonstrates Spence is ready for anybody in the world at 147 pounds. He showed a veteran’s boxing IQ and ring generalship. He has very good defense, but uses that defense to set up extremely dangerous offense. He is a boxer-puncher who does not rely on any one particular punch. He has the patience to wait for an opening and use whatever punch, with whichever hand, is most appropriate at the time.
Errol Spence is the mandatory for IBF champion Kell Brook and he called the Englishman out after his win. Brook-Spence would be a great fight. But Spence should be going after anybody with a belt at 147 pounds. He’s got a chance to unify titles and climb the pound-for-pound rankings over the next year.