Errol Spence Jr. warms to the spotlight’s glare as he prepares to take on Chris Van Heerden

Errol Spence Jr. fields the questions with the offhanded ease of a shortstop gloving a lazy pop fly. He’s getting used to this.

Errol Spence Jr. and Chris van Heerden

Errol Spence Jr. takes a step up in competition Friday night against tough South African Chris van Heerden. (Lucas Noonan/Premier Boxing Champions)

“I’ve been doing a lot of interviews,” says the in-demand 147-pound prospect, talking about all the talking he’s been doing of late. “People are starting to notice me more, starting to walk up to me and greet me. Outside the ring, everything’s been great.”

Inside the ring, everything’s been going as scheduled for one of boxing’s most promising talents, whose rising status is underscored by the increasing number of media requests for his time.

This is the other side of the game, when microphones are in your face instead of fists.

The good news is Errol Spence Jr. (17-0, 14 KOs) has been groomed for this moment, lauded since he was a teenager for the almost instinctual way he’s taken to the sport.

He’s still getting used to the heightened attention, though, which will only grow as he steadily faces tougher and tougher competition, his next opponent being another step up in class in all-business South African Chris van Heerden (23-1-1, 12 KOs).

“He’s a tough fighter. He’s gritty. He’s not a guy who’s going to lay down,” Spence says. “I’m prepared to box. I’m prepared to fight. But I’m going to dictate the pace. The fight is going to go how I want it to go.”

Like Spence, Van Heerden is a lefty.

Unlike Spence, he’s not especially heavy-handed, but he compensates for that with craftiness and guts.

Style-wise, Van Heerden can mix it up, and Spence is well aware of this, noting that he has to be ready for just about anything Friday, whether Van Heerden wants to box, brawl or, most likely, stake out the middle ground between the two.

“If he comes forward, then he has to evade my punches,” Spence says, anticipating that Van Heerden might attempt to press the action. “He’s not a quick fighter, he’s not a fast fighter. If he comes forward, then I don’t have to look for him at all. That’s when I rope him in.”

In camp, Spence says he’s been working on the little things, honing in on the fundamentals, such as making sure he doesn’t throw his hooks too wide or drop his hand when he pumps his jab.

“Nothing’s going to be perfect,” says Spence, who came in at 146.5 pounds, as did Van Heerden, at Thursday’s weigh-in. “But you can still try to perfect it.”

It’s this attention to detail that amplifies Spence’s natural athleticism. He’s a studious boxer, not the kind who will beat himself or overlook a guy like Van Heerden, who may lack name recognition, but not ring savvy or backbone.

“You’re fighting another grown man in eight ounce gloves,” Spence says. “One mistake can put me back from something that I’ve worked for since I started boxing.”

Still, Spence is clearly confident heading into fight night.

“I’m prepared for anything that he can bring to the table,” he says, sounding ready to take a seat at said table and feast. “I just gotta keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

That would be winning.

And answering more questions.

For full coverage of Spence vs Van Heerden, visit our fight page.

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