Unbeaten junior middleweight prospect, who returns to the ring this Sunday night on PBC on FS1, might have only five fights under his belt—but is seasoned well beyond his years.
Joey Spencer was introduced to boxing in kindergarten, trained alongside high-profile champions in middle school and began showcasing his own skills around the time he started driving.
Spencer is still only 18 yet is a veteran in the fight game, accepted and respected by boxers with far greater credentials. The junior middleweight from Lansing, Michigan shares a close relationship with former world champion brothers Andre and Anthony Dirrell, who hail from neighboring Flint. He also trained for his professional debut alongside retired great Andre Ward and two-time 147-pound champion Andre Berto.
Spencer, 5-0 (5 KOs), now resides in Union City, California. This Sunday, January 13, he battles southpaw Brandon Harder (2-1, 1 KO), of Southaven, Mississippi, at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles on a PBC on FS1 card (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).
The bout will be on the undercard of the anticipated IBF 168-pound title showdown between champion Jose Uzcategui (28-2, 23 KOs) and top contender Caleb “Sweethands” Plant (17-0, 10 KOs).
What is your relationship with Caleb Plant?
We’re managed by the same people, so it’s really been a great thing having someone to look up and relate to who is eight years older and a little farther ahead in his career than I am. I'll know the type of things that may be coming for me in the next couple of years. Right now, I’m training at the Dirrell’s Gym in Flint, Michigan, and I’m pretty sure Caleb’s training in California.
Do you have a ring nickname or does Caleb have one for you?
I don’t have a nickname yet. I haven’t had anybody really put one on me. My dad and I have thought about it, but we haven’t come up with one.
The ones we have come up with are too corny to even mention. Caleb doesn’t have one for me either. He just calls me ‘Little Bro’ most of the time.
Your father Jason is also your trainer. Do you two work well together?
It’s a great father-son relationship and a great working relationship. He’s trained me since I was a little kid. He’s always done his best to take care of me.
He’s always learning the best training methods for me, and we’ve continued to learn as we go along. My father fought as an amateur, and as I’ve learned as a professional, he’s learned more as a coach.
What about your relationship with the Dirrells?
We’ve been around them for a long time and they’ve been like family to us since I was young. The Dirrells have a nephew, Leon Lawson III. Leon is a 19-year-old pro right now, 8-0 with four knockouts. Leon and I came up sparring together since we were young, and he’s been like my best friend since we were little.
How long have you known them?
Our two families have always been really close. I’ve probably known them since I was 12 or 13 years old. With the Dirrell brothers, we’ve always gone to their fights, watching them and watching how they trained.
“ It could be an early knockout. If not, then I’m happy to get rounds in and learn on the job. ” Unbeaten Junior Middleweight prospect Joey Spencer
Have you been able to speak with them in advance of Sunday?
I haven’t spoken to either of them for this particular fight because they’re both in Florida. Anthony is in training camp. He’s fighting for the vacant WBC 168-pound belt on February 23 [versus Avni Yildirim].
I haven’t been able to get into the ring with them or talk strategy about the fight. But Anthony reached out and told me he is going to be ringside commentating for this fight. I’m really excited about it because he’s going to be ringside to watch me.
How did it feel to fight in front of both Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward on the same night?
My fourth fight was in New York, on the Andre Berto-Devon Alexander card. Both Andre Ward and Floyd Mayweather were ringside. That was a big deal for me.
It was incredible because they’re two of my favorite all-time fighters, and their presence just made me really excited to perform in front of them.
That was the first time I met Floyd. It was amazing that they were both there watching me. I felt like I did a good job, getting a knockout in the second round.
How are you acquainted with Andre Ward?
Andre Ward is a close friend of mine. When I moved out to California, before my first fight as a pro when I was 16, I was training in his gym.
At the time, Andre Ward was holding a camp preparing for Sergey Kovalev, and I was there training. Since then, I’ve been training out there—for about three years.
Which other fighters have you trained with?
I’ve had a lot of fighters I’ve worked alongside who have been a positive influence and an inspiration to me. Andre Berto is definitely one.
There have been a lot of other big names also, like Amir Khan was there at Ward’s gym, holding one of his camps while I was there.
What do you know about your opponent, Brandon Harder? Do you feel pressure to keep your KO streak going?
Harder is the first guy I have faced with a winning record—and the first southpaw I have faced as a pro. But I’m not feeling any pressure and I’m not concerned about the winning record.
The only thing that’s a step up in my book is the fact that he’s a southpaw. I’m ready for it and we’ll see how that goes.
I’ve had a lot of amateur fights against southpaws, but it is a different thing when you’re under the lights. If he brings something to the table that the other guys haven’t, then I’ll adjust to it.
But who knows, it could be the same as all my previous fights. It could be an early knockout. If not, then I’m happy to get rounds in and learn on the job.
Will you be more incentivized by the presence of Plant in the main event and Anthony Dirrell at ringside?
There will definitely be emotion and motivation, but in a good way. It’s not really going to be nervousness as much as it’s motivating to want to show your big bro what you’ve got and that you’re moving forward and looking sharp.
And then, being able to be ringside when Caleb’s fighting for a world championship for the first time gives me a glimpse into how my career might go. I’ve just been fortunate to have been around a lot of the big names in the sport.
For a closer look at Joey Spencer, check out his fighter page.