With a future unification bout against Keith Thurman a possibility, sharing a podium with his 147-pound champion counterpart at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, barely sufficed for Errol Spence Jr. last Saturday night.
Spence (22-0, 19 KOs) announced his first title defense would be mid-January against two-division world champion Lamont Peterson at a site to be determined. But the southpaw is itching to fight Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs), who has defended his crown twice over the past 16 months. Thurman scored a “Fight of the Year’’ contender with his unanimous decision win over former champion Shawn Porter in June 2016 and had a split-decision victory in a title unification match against Danny Garcia last March.
“I’ve been waiting for Keith Thurman since I was 15-0. He’s been making excuses,” said Spence, 27, who will pursue his 10th straight stoppage against Peterson.
“[Thurman] said I haven’t proven myself, I ain’t won a world title [before becoming champion,] that he was gonna burst my bubble, but I’m waiting to find out what he’s gonna do.”
Thurman could return against an undetermined opponent as early as February or March, having suffered an injury to his right elbow during training for Garcia. "One Time" is enduring rehabilitation after successful surgery by Dr. Riley Williams to remove painful calcium deposits and bone spurs from his elbow in April.
“We’re not looking at anyone in particularly, right now. I’m still focused on my rehab for the next four to six weeks,” said Thurman, 28. “I look forward to great competition, and Errol is that. My motto’s ‘I’ve got an ‘0’ and I’m not afraid to let it go.’ If you can beat me, beat me. I’m that true warrior.”
Spence last fought in May, traveling from his home in Desoto, Texas, to Sheffield, England, where he dethroned Kell Brook (36-2, 25 KOs) by 11th-round knockout before 27,000 Brits.
Trailing on two cards after seven rounds, Spence scored 10th-and final-round knockdowns of Brook, who suffered a broken orbital bone in his severely swollen left eye.
In Brook, Spence defeated a man who dethroned Shawn Porter and became the first American to earn a title from an English champion on foreign soil since 2008 when Tim Bradley upset Junior Witter in Nottingham for a 140-pound title.
"I wanna look a lot better than in the Kell Brook fight,” said Spence, who is trained by Derrick James at R&R Boxing in Dallas. "Lamont Peterson has true grit and a big heart…I don’t know if I’m gonna stop him early or late, but we’re training for 12 hard rounds.”
“ I have a goal and a dream to be the undisputed welterweight champion of the world and I’m not gonna let anybody stop me from that path. ” IBF 147-pound world champion Errol Spence Jr.
The 33-year-old Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KOs) rebounded from a 143-pound majority decision loss to Garcia in 2015 with a majority decision win over Felix Diaz and a unanimous decision victory over David Avaneysyan in February to earn a 147-pound world title.
“Lamont’s one of my favorite fighters. I sparred and learned a lot from him in the amateurs,” said Spence. “I had a training camp with him at the Olympic training center. He gave me different advice on how to slow down and speed up my punches."
Spence had a busy 2015, stopping Samuel Vargas, Phil LoGreco, Chris van Heerden and Alejandro Berrera all for the first time in their careers. Their combined records were 97-5-1, with LoGreco having lost a 10-rounder to Porter in 2013.
That dominance continued in 2016, when Spence scored three knockdowns during a fifth-round TKO of former 140-pound champion Chris Algieri in April and a pair of final-round knockdowns during a sixth-round KO of Leonard Bundu in August.
Algieri had suffered 12-round unanimous decision losses to Manny Pacquiao (2014) and Amir Khan (2015), and Bundu the same against Thurman (2014), rising from a first-round knockdown.
“It’s a factor when guys go the distance with other fighters and I knock them out,” said Spence. “Lamont’s a tricky fighter who has been around. He does a lot of cagey, veteran things. I always want to outperform my foes.”
Peterson’s losses include a unanimous decision to Timothy Bradley in a 140-pound title match in December 2009 and a third-round stoppage to Lucas Matthysse at 141 pounds in May 2013.
Peterson also rose from a pair of third-round knockdowns during a 140-pound draw with Victor Ortiz in 2010 and won a 140-pound unification by split-decision over Amir Khan in 2011.
“Lamont’s been in with tough names. He's never ducked anybody," said Spence. "We wanted to fight another world champion. He’s a top five welterweight who stepped up and took the fight."
But Spence’s ultimate goal is Thurman.
“I said I would fight Keith Thurman or anybody in the top five. He’s gotta wait until he goes through rehab, but I’m ready when he is,” said Spence. “I’m always ready to fight the best. I have a goal and a dream to be the undisputed welterweight champion of the world and I’m not gonna let anybody stop me from that path.”