IBF welterweight champion discusses increased exposure for the sport with PBC's new TV deals, a loaded 147-pound division gunning for him and if and when he might move up in weight.
IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. wore a black baseball cap with white letters that read “Strap Season” on September 8 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The hat symbolized the southpaw’s intention to dominate boxing’s deepest division.
“The Truth” sat ringside along with WBA counterpart Keith Thurman and other top welterweights as Shawn Porter defeated Danny Garcia by a close unanimous decision to win the WBC 147-pound title. Afterwards Spence climbed into the ring to challenge Porter to a unification match.
Spence declared himself “the best welterweight,” ready “to rule with an iron fist” and “be a legendary name mentioned like Sugar Ray Leonard” after his first-round knockout of Carlos Ocampo in June.
Lightweight champion Mikey Garcia wants to move up in weight and challenge Spence. And Spence is entertaining the offer. Spence has also mentioned that Thurman is on his personal “to-do list” at welterweight. Spence has a world of opportunities and options open to him and his future in boxing appears very bright.
What are your thoughts on the recent TV deals the PBC signed with Showtime and FOX and opportunities to defend against quality 147-pounders?
That just means that we can make the bigger fights happen with FOX and Showtime. We can get the best fights made and there’s more money in the pot, too. Fighting on network television is a great thing and I’m excited about it.
There’s more exposure like they used to do it back in the day. You can reach the casual boxing fans and the ones who don’t have cable television, which is even more exposure than fighting on an app. A lot of people don’t wanna get an app and put their [credit card] on there and pay $5.00 a month.
When we watch fights at my house, it’s a family thing. We sit around with a whole bunch of people and watch the fights. When you’re watching the fights on your phone and on your laptops, it’s really not the culture of boxing as I know it to be.
Are you the division’s best fighter considering your recent resume?
I definitely feel that way since the (Leonard) Bundu and Chris Algieri fights. You see how I’ve stopped those opponents and how I’ve finished them. Comparing them to the other guys that fight them you can see there’s a big difference in their performances and my performances.
Over my time in the welterweight division, you can see I’ve been dominating my opponents. I am the No. 1 welterweight. Still, I think a lot of people see a down to earth guy who speaks to everybody and doesn’t talk down to his fans like I’m a superstar. I’m a regular Joe and likeable, which is appealing to them.
Is it always on your mind to please your fans, making your sensational first-round stoppage of Ocampo bittersweet?
When I fought Ocampo at home (The Star at Ford Center in Frisco, Texas), it was hard not to have your fans on your mind. I was trying to please the hometown fans.
So the first round was a little bit too fast. People were joking like, “Man, I want my money back.” I did want it to go a little longer.
What’s is the significance of “Strap Season?”
That means it’s time to get all of the belts, man. It’s strap season. Before I won the title, after the Bundu fight, I did like this [mimes wearing a belt around his waist.]
That means it’s time to get all of the belts, to unify, and, eventually, to become the undisputed welterweight champion of the world.
“ I am the No. 1 welterweight. Still, I think a lot of people see a down to earth guy who speaks to everybody and doesn’t talk down to his fans like I’m a superstar. I’m a regular Joe and likeable. ” IBF Welterweight Champion Errol Spence Jr.
Your thoughts on Thurman mentioning he actually has compassion for your being listed behind him at No. 2 in some ratings relative to his inactivity?
I appreciate that. Keith Thurman’s a good fighter. He’s one of the guys who, with me, coming up and wanting to win a belt. That’s who I wanted to fight. I still want to fight Keith and to unify against him.
With Keith beating Danny and Shawn, he was the No. 1. But, now, with him being inactive, and with my winning streak and with my great performances, for him to get that back, I think that he has to fight me.
Do you have any empathy for Thurman given his frustrating injury-related 18-month ring absence?
Off the injuries, I feel bad for him, but that’s how the game goes as far as someone being on top and someone being on the bottom. That’s just life, period, and that’s how it goes. It’s the same thing in wildlife.
You can have the lion that’s on the top, and then, the younger lion comes and takes over his pride and kills his cubs. That’s part of the game, and it’s part of life. It’s on Keith to come back and try to take us on.
Would you fight Yordenis Ugas?
I’d fight Ugas, too. I like Ugas. He’s a good Cuban fighter. It think he’s the No. 1-ranked contender to my IBF belt, so we’re gonna have to fight, too.
How much do you want the Mikey Garcia fight?
If that fight happens, then it happens. Mikey’s been stating that he wants to fight, so if he wants to fight, I’ll take the fight. I believe those fights can be made. I’ve got the same manager as Shawn Porter and Mikey Garcia, and the same business people who do their business do my business.
I believe those fights can be made. Hopefully we can get back into the ring in December, but, if not December, then January, and it doesn’t have to be a homecoming fight. I’ll fight in New York, Las Vegas, California. But if it’s at home, then that would be sweet, too.
Do you have any aspirations of rising to 154- or 160-pounds given your sparring partner, Jermell Charlo’s indicating he would rise in weight to avoid you fighting one another?
I’m definitely going to move up, and I feel that Jermell’s gonna move up pretty soon after he does what he has to do at 154, like after he fights [division counterpart] Jarrett Hurd and gets all of the belts. But I’ve still got a lot left to handle at 147 right now.
So I won’t be moving up for probably the next two years. If there’s a money fight at 154, I’ll move up earlier. I’m thinking about going as high as 160, and if there’s a smaller guy that wins a belt at 168, then I can probably do that. But I think I’ll stay at 160.
For a closer look at Errol Spence Jr., check out his fighter page.