Errol Spence Jr. just woke up from a deep sleep at 8 p.m. at his Dallas home. It’s Monday night, and the first thing the bleary boxer has to do is get on the phone and catch up on phone calls.
It’s fight week, and plenty of people are looking for the International Boxing Federation welterweight champion. He’s the man of the hour ahead of his Fox pay-per-view unification fight against World Boxing Council champion Shawn Porter at Staples Center on Saturday, but still operating on his clock for perhaps one last day.
Spence, who regularly trains and stays awake into the wee hours of the morning, still has to go for a late-night run. When he gets home, he will squeeze in some video games with “Call of Duty” and “Madden,” punching a controller just as well as he does people. He’ll watch “Power” on TV and then fall asleep.
It’ll be the last time he sleeps in his bed this week, and like many before him, Spence (25-0, 21 knockouts) will have dreams of becoming boxing’s next great American superstar and fill the shoes Floyd Mayweather Jr. has left behind. Spence has the superior skills to make his aspirations a reality, and the stiff test in Porter (30-2-1, 17 KOs) should be another step in proving whether he really is the “Truth.”
“I’ve worked hard to get to this moment, and I’m headed in the right direction, trying to become an icon of the sport,” Spence said. “I have the style, personality and aura to fill Floyd’s shoes, and I’m going to take over where he left off.”
If Spence wants to emulate Mayweather, he’ll have to raise his star outside of the ring. So far, the mild-mannered 29-year-old hasn’t showed much interest in presenting his exploits outside of the ring. He prefers to let his performances do the talking.
The word around boxing circles is that Spence already bested the man he’s trying to replace. During an intense 2013 sparring session, the left-hander gave Mayweather the business, and a black eye , when the since-retired fighter was preparing to take on Robert Guerrero.
Asked to recall that day, Spence laughed off the inquiry and said, “I don’t remember specifics.” Pressed further, he offered details.
“I didn’t get excited or take nothing from it, and say, ‘Oh, I gave him a black eye.’ People get black eyes and bloody noses all the time in sparring,” Spence said. “It was tit for tat. I was just learning from the best in the business. I don’t talk [about the black eye] to get in the headlines. I’m not a clout-chasing kind of person.”
In Dallas, Spence is well-liked and considered a star, especially in the eyes of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who considers him as somewhat of a second franchise and are frequently seen together during games. Spence packed AT&T Stadium with more than 47,000 people during his destruction of Mikey Garcia in March, a pay per view that topped 360,000 buys. Spence’s showing before that was at the Cowboys practice facility against Carlos Ocampo in 2018.
“Watching him grow up right before our eyes as a product of Dallas is something that we’ve all been very proud to see,” Jones said. “The Cowboys and our fans hold him in very high regard, both as a boxer and a wonderful representative of our community. Errol is a champion with class and style, and he is worthy of the largest stage in the world.”
The lifelong Cowboys fan said he’s humbled to have the support of Jones.
“He likes the fight game,” Spence said. “Sometimes he rubs my shoulders so I can give him good luck. I get love from the Cowboys and it gives me more motivation to keep grinding and do my best.”
Spence stumbled into boxing thanks to his father, Errol Spence Sr., who grew up watching the sport with his six brothers in Jamaica. After settling in Long Island, N.Y., he moved the family to Dallas when Errol Jr. was 3 and they built a bond over the years watching Jamaican Lennox Lewis’ fights.
When Spence was still a football player at 15, his father one day saw him slap-boxing on the streets of DeSoto, Texas. As soon as he learned that his son had some hands, he told him to get dressed and get in the car.
“I asked him, ‘where are we going?’ He told me, ‘don’t worry about it,’ ” Spence said. “I slept in the car, and the next thing I know, I wake up and I’m at the boxing gym. That ride paid off. It was divine intervention.”
While sitting at the table across the street from the arena he’ll be stepping into Saturday night, afan walks up to Spence and gifts him holy rosary beads from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico for good luck.
Most people believe Porter will need an act of God to beat the younger, taller and more skillful Spence, who hasn’t been tested much in 108 rounds.
“I don’t want to get too sloppy,” Spence said. “I want to break him down, beat him up and then stop him. I don’t want to do anything out of character, or out of whack.”
Premier Boxing Champions impresario Al Haymon has made it his personal project to position Spence as the next big star of the sport, much as he did Mayweather. This will be Spence’s second pay-per-view appearance in the last six months, and with the right dance partners moving forward in Manny Pacquiao and Terence Crawford, could solidify his spot as one of boxing’s best.
He’ll soon be embarking on a welterweight run much like Sugar Ray Leonard and Mayweather did at the climax of their careers.
“After I beat Shawn Porter, the sky is the limit and those two fights are ones that I’d love to have,” said Spence. “Pacquiao will be a very hard fight, and I want him next. Terence Crawford is a very great fighter too. That fight will happen. Timing is everything. It’s just not going to happen right now. It could happen by the end of 2020. Money always talks.”
For a second, Spence channels “Money” Mayweather outside of the ring.
Spence’s persona is more “be about it” rather than “talk about it.” He’s unmoved by the potential threat Porter presents, who’s no pushover by any means. Spence said he expects the rough and rugged Cleveland bruiser to provide a tougher test than the solid Garcia did.
“I’m expecting this fight to be way harder, especially in the early rounds with our clash of styles. He can hold, grab, be aggressive, dirty — I’m not worried. I’m aggressive and come forward, too, and am prepared for anything he brings to the table. I can bring that same energy,” Spence said.
“It will be a classic fight, and people who don’t even know our names will love it.”