The undefeated Unified World Welterweight Champ says he's more mindful outside of the ring, yet still pushing himself in it as he prepares to face the dangerous Danny Garcia Saturday night on FOX Sports PPV.
Errol Spence Jr. is known for many things.
Making the U.S. Olympic team.
Shattering Kell Brook’s eye socket.
Out-boxing Mikey Garcia and brawling with Shawn Porter.
But beyond his in-ring accomplishments, perhaps less noticed is his confidence, the belief and complete trust that Spence has in his own abilities.
How else to explain Spence’s decision to face Danny Garcia on Dec. 5 in his first fight since suffering a near-fatal car accident that left him in the intensive care unit?
The video footage of the accident on Oct. 10 of 2019 in downtown Dallas is terrifying. Barely two weeks after he won a spirited split decision against Porter, Spence’s Ferrari flipped multiple times after veering left over the center medium, leaving a cloud of dust and debris in its wake. Spence, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, was tossed from the vehicle.
Somehow, he survived, suffering damage to his teeth, face and body but avoiding the types of injuries that could have wrecked his career.
Still, a more cautious person may have taken a tune-up fight before signing up to face Garcia, a former two-division champion who possesses a granite chin and power in both hands.
But talking on the phone in early November, Spence (26-0, 21 knockouts) made clear there was never any serious thought of taking on a lesser opponent to defend his welterweight titles.
Armed with a new perspective on life borne from sidestepping death and the recent birth of a son, Spence described himself as more aware of his limitations and accountable to the people close to him.
But that newfound caution doesn’t necessarily extend to the ring.
Because when it came time to decide on his return bout, Spence chose the steepest of hills to climb, believing he would have no issue scaling to the top.
The welterweight bout with Garcia will take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas for Spence's WBC and IBF titles on FOX Sports PPV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.
“I feel like (confidence) played a big role because most guys probably would have taken a tune-up fight or a lesser opponent, just to make sure their skills are on point,” Spence said. “Or, they would have taken a showcase fight just for a confidence booster and things like that, but I get my confidence from being in the gym and from training and sparring, so just how I’ve been looking in training camp, I feel like I’m 100% back to myself.”
Spence expressed that attitude through a T-shirt he wore for a recent media workout, which stated simply, “I’m back,” though he also seemed acutely aware that much of the curiosity surrounding the fight involves the question of whether he's the same fighter he was before the accident, when he was regarded as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, a status he will try to reclaim against Garcia (36-2, 21 knockouts).
“I’m a guy that likes a challenge,” said Spence, who was initially scheduled to face Garcia on January 25 before the accident scuttled those plans. “And I feel like Danny Garcia is one of the best fighters out there, and I’m one of the best fighters out there, and I wanted to fight a guy like Danny Garcia who is very tough and a guy who if you overlook, he can beat you. I didn’t feel like fighting someone who nobody knows, a Joe Blow. I know Danny will push me to the level that I needed.”
A lot has happened since Spence, a southpaw from DeSoto, Texas, was in the ring last against Porter on Sept. 28, 2019, when he was praised for his toughness.
While Spence healed from his injuries and returned to training, the sport moved on. In the last few months, fighters such as Gervonta Davis and Teofimo Lopez have dazzled and commandeered the spotlight with career-defining wins and highlight-reel knockouts, leaving Spence on the backburner, for the moment.
“ I get my confidence from being in the gym and from training and sparring, so just how I’ve been looking in training camp. ” Undefeated Unified World Welterweight Champion - Errol Spence Jr.
Spence demurred when he was asked if their performances — Davis obliterated Leo Santa Cruz and Lopez decisioned the universally admired Vasiliy Lomachenko – motivated him against Garcia.
A fan of the sport, Spence rarely misses a big fight or a chance to weigh-in on social media, and he watched the aforementioned bouts, not with an eye toward one-upping them but as a fight enthusiast, choosing instead to compartmentalize and set their performances aside.
“For me it’s just been great,” he said of watching others participate in big fights. “Just watching guys box and succeed and do what they’re supposed to do, especially with (Gervonta Davis) with the way he knocked out (Santa Cruz) and Teofimo beating the guy that everyone rated so highly as the best fighter in the world (in Lomachenko).
“It’s been good just to sit back and watch and to enjoy things like that, but for me, I’ve just been in training camp, just focused. I know my time is coming on December 5, so there wasn’t any envy or anything like that. They just put in the hard work and they were rewarded.”
As to his physical condition, Spence said he’s fully healed and feels great. But more than that, he’s encouraged by the reactions of those who have dutifully watched him as he returned to training. Spence conducted his camp under the watchful eyes of coach Derrick James, and his father, Errol Spence Sr., who he believes would have told him if he had regressed. They never did, he said.
“I feel great physically,” Spence said. “I feel like I’m back to normal and I feel like if I wasn’t 100% where I was, my dad or my coach wouldn’t let me continue boxing. My dad is always in the gym with me 24/7, just watching me and not saying nothing and my coach is watching how I react and my sparring and things like that. I just feel like they’re very truthful and they would tell me if I needed to hang it up.”
After nearly losing his life and also experiencing the birth of his son on October 28, Spence has become more introspective, more aware of the transience of life, his own mortality and also of the responsibilities he has to the people who depend on him, such as his family. Along with a son, he also has two young daughters, giving him more reasons to be meticulous about the choices he makes.
“I feel like a car accident like that happening at my age when I’m at the top of the sport, you really find out you’re not invincible,” Spence said. “And things can come to an end, so for me, it was that and just realizing I have things in place just in case something does happen or I never box again, to make sure things are in place for my kids and my family, so I won’t leave them out in the cold, the people who depend on me and love me. So that was the main concern, to take life more seriously in that regard and don’t (take things for granted).”
On the one-year anniversary of his car accident, Spence acknowledged the event on social media, showing it’s still on his mind and a source of motivation for his return to a sport he once dominated.
“A year today…I don’t know how or why I got saved but thank God the thought of leaving my lil girls & them growing up without me still f-ck with me but I’m triple blessed & must be here for a reason,” he wrote, while also posting a photo of his injuries.
Despite the accident making him more self-aware of his surroundings and responsibilities, when it comes to his career and the confidence he has in his own abilities, he still apparently believes in pushing limits. Thus, his decision to face Garcia instead of a lesser foe.
Not surprisingly, Spence thinks he will be just fine.
For a closer look at Errol Spence Jr., check out his fighter page.