You get the feeling that they could have told Errol Spence Jr. he was getting in the ring with a live Bengal tiger Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT) and his reaction wouldn’t have been any different.
While last-minute replacement Phil Lo Greco, subbing in for Roberto Garcia, who withdrew from Saturday's fight due to a personal issue, was animated at the podium Thursday afternoon outside the arena, Spence was strictly business.
“It’s not going to change the game plan,” Errol Spence Jr. said. “The game plan is still search-and-destroy, and look impressive in the fight. I’m just going to do what I do and look spectacular doing it.”
With 13 knockouts in 16 fights, the unbeaten Spence has looked plenty spectacular in his young, three-year career. Though Lo Greco, 30, certainly has more experience, having spent most of his career in Canada and Europe, he comes in as a lesser-known quantity.
Before his March win over Rafeal Cobos, Lo Greco had suffered his lone career loss to Shawn Porter back in 2013. Blaming what he says was a lack of quality opportunities, he had actually quit the sport for two years.
“The only opportunities, it would have cost me money to fight,” Lo Greco said. “I said I’m too good-looking to fight in this sport while I have other things in life I can do and be successful.”
But he finally got an opportunity he couldn’t turn down. Lo Greco had been working with Jessie Vargas on nearby Mount Charleston while Vargas prepares for his June 27 tilt with Tim Bradley when he got the call.
Shifting gears from sparring to playing for keeps won’t be a problem, he said.
“It’s all about the psychological game that you choose to go in with,” he said. “It’s very simple. I have been boxing since I was 10. I fought everywhere in the world as an amateur. When you go to the Olympics or the world championships, you don’t know who you’re fighting. I’m just looking at it like that: a professional fight, but I’m going in with the mentality I used to have as an amateur.”
Since the fight with Porter, the two boxers have become friends. When Lo Greco was mounting his comeback, he was able to spar with Porter to prepare for Cobos.
“Phil’s a good guy,” Porter said. “He’s very charismatic. He’s full of good positive energy. I can tell he really loves the sport. Taking two years off and coming back? It was just calling him.”
That love was on display Thursday afternoon when a chatty Lo Greco wrapped up his podium time by saying it was going to be fun in the ring Saturday night. It’s just that Spence took a rather more prosaic outlook on the affair.
“It’s not going to be [fun],” Spence said. “I come here to make a statement. I’m throwing a great performance and a great show. You’re going to get one-sided action. You’re going to be looking at the future of the sport come Saturday night.”
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