The IBF titleholder plans to put on a show for his fans in Dallas—who haven't seen a homegrown champion defend his world title at home in 50 years—while the unbeaten Mexican challenger insists he's intent on crashing the party.
The welterweight division is about to explode. If things play out as they should, fans could very well be looking at a modern day version of the 80’s Sugar Ray Leonard-Tommy Hearns-Roberto Duran dynamic in the coming months and years with at least a half-dozen elite-level fighters vying to be the 147-pound king.
Sitting at the top of the talented and jam-packed welterweight division is Errol Spence Jr. (23-0, 20 KOs), who is defending his IBF belt against mandatory challenger Carlos Ocampo tomorrow night on a Showtime-televised card (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT) from The Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
Nicknamed “The Truth” for obvious reasons, Spenece Jr. will be fighting for the first time as a world champion in front of hometown Dallas-area fans, friends, and family.
The 2012 Olympian possesses solid reflexes and a superb balance that always has him in position to throw punches. He achieves great leverage on everything he throws and, when combined with a natural aggression and tremendous raw physical strength, this makes him among the most efficient offensive fighter in the sport today.
The best tools in the southpaw Spence’s command are a stiff jab that he uses to great effect and a thudding body attack that drains the will and might of opposition.
So far, any flaws in the game or psyche of the 28-year-old from DeSoto, Texas are merely theoretical. Past theories of weaknesses were dashed in 2017 when Spence proved himself mentally tough enough to take the belt from the UK’s Kell Brook in front of 30,000 hometown Brook fans and, in the same fight, disciplined enough to withstand Brook’s early success and still build towards a fight-ending offensive surge in the eleventh round.
Spence’s opponent this time, Ocampo (22-0, 13 KOs), is a mystery to most and, as a matter of fact, the 22-year-old has yet to fight outside of his native Mexico, rarely even venturing beyond his Tijuana-Ensenada home base.
Ocampo’s high-water mark win as a pro came in 2015, at 19 years of age, when he scored a unanimous decision over the heavily-favored second-generation fighter Jorge Paez Jr. The shocking upset of the more experienced fringe contender prompted the Spanish-language TV commentator to exclaim: “This is truly amazing if this is the work of young man, 19 years of age!”
His work since then has been solid, showing enough proficiency to beat the journeyman-level opposition in front of him, but nothing that rattles the boxing world or gives one visions of Juan Manuel Marquez.
“ Ocampo is tough. He’s young and this is something he’s been fighting for his whole life…I know he’s going to give it his all and that gets me motivated. ” Welterweight World Champion Errol Spence Jr.
Yet, there is always going to be something dangerous about a young man who has literally built himself up from nothing. That kind of drive is never to be dismissed. Spence—who tipped the scales at 146 ¾ pounds, while Ocampo weighed 146 ½—knows this as well.
“Everybody poses a challenge in the ring,” Spence said. “Ocampo is tough. He’s young and this is something he’s been fighting for his whole life…Mexican fighters have a great tradition. They come to fight and they don’t back down. I know he’s going to give it his all and that gets me motivated.”
Ocampo also knows that he’s not being given much of a chance against a prime Spence. But his life experiences tell him that the obstacles placed before him can always be overcome. Nobody was ever supposed to hear the name Carlos Ocampo. His ability to beat a favored, more experienced opponent brought him to Saturday’s title shot.
“There is nothing etched in stone in boxing,” Ocampo told ESPN Deportes. “They have always thrown me in with the toughest opponents, they were supposed to beat me but the reality was ... it was I who ended up winning. That’s how we made our way to the top. We faced the best in my weight division in Mexico and we won, that’s why I feel that I can pull off a surprise and show them what I’m made of, that I’m not a fake.”
But alongside his knack for perseverance, Ocampo has the kinds of defects and flaws to be expected from a 22-year-old with zero world-class experience. He holds his hands too low, holds his chin too high, and has shown a penchant for fighting down to the level of his opposition. The tall Ocampo also doesn’t use his height very well, struggling with distance and swinging a wide sidearm right hand power punch from way back that just begs to be countered.
Ocampo will need to do something well above and beyond anything he’s previously shown himself capable of doing to prevent a brutal blowout loss this Saturday. Nothing is impossible in boxing, but a win over Spence would be a cosmic-scale upset.
However, in this time and place, Ocampo’s chances are secondary to the weight of the event. People will be watching for Errol Spence Jr. and how he stamps his mark on a division where Keith Thurman, Terence Crawford, Shawn Porter, and Danny Garcia constantly make their cases for top dog status. People will be coming to see a virtuoso performance to whet the appetite for the wars ahead and they most likely won’t be disappointed.
For a complete look at Spence vs Ocampo, check out our fight page.