Errol Spence Jr. may be boxing’s best fighter without a world title. It’s a label Spence would rather not wear, but one he seems certain to shed in the very near future.
Even without the hardware, “The Truth” checks all the boxes required of not just a future champion, but potentially an all-time great. Just ask no less an authority than longtime promoter Lou DiBella.
“I’m not crowning him champion or a pound-for-pound fighter,” DiBella says of the 26-year-old southpaw from Desoto, Texas. “But I think he [eventually] will be with his ring generalship, tremendous power, intelligence, great body work [and] great jab.
“Errol Spence knows how good he is, but allows his skills to do the talking.”
Spence (20-0, 17 KOs) will put those skills on display once again Sunday when he battles former title challenger Leonard Bundu (33-1-2, 12 KOs) at Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, New York (NBC, 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT).
It’s by far the biggest fight of Spence’s career, as the winner of the 12-round title eliminator—which follows coverage of the Olympic men’s basketball gold medal game on NBC—will become the mandatory challenger for the crown held by England’s Kell Brook.
For Spence, Bundu represents the latest target on the destructive path he’s blazed over the past two years, during which time the Long Island, New York, native has stopped all seven opponents he’s faced—with six of those victims failing to make it to the end of the fifth round. And these aren’t chumps that Spence is destroying, either.
From April 2015 to April 2016, he defeated five veterans who entered the ring with a combined record of 118-7-2. That includes a third-round TKO of Phil Lo Greco (whose only defeat to that point was to future world champ Shawn Porter) and a fifth-round TKO of Chris Algieri (a former 140-pound champion).
Putting Spence’s latter victory—his most recent—into perspective, consider that Algieri’s three defeats have come against the legendary Manny Pacquiao, onetime 140-pound titleholder Amir Khan and Spence. However, only Spence finished the job early.
“ Errol Spence knows how good he is, but allows his skills to do the talking. ” Lou DiBella, longtime promoter
Bundu is yet another veteran fighter who sports a terrific record and who has never been stopped. The only blemish for the 41-year-old Italian was a unanimous decision loss to 147-pound champion Keith Thurman in December 2014.
The heavy-handed Thurman dropped Bundu in the first round and rolled to a shutout victory, but failed to get the knockout.
“It's been [my] motive to outdo other welterweights,” says Spence, a 2012 U.S. Olympian. “It makes you look better when Keith Thurman or Manny Pacquiao or Amir Khan fought a guy, and you’re fighting him now.”
Even as he prepares for a fight, Spence always does so with an eye toward future foes. That’s why he’s often on his computer scouting potential opposition, including premier fighters in his own weight class and below.
“I’m not one of those dudes who’s going to lie and say, ‘I never watched that guy fight,’” Spence says. “I've been watching these guys on YouTube since I turned pro and since I was an amateur. I’m real familiar with everybody at 147, and [even] 140, 135, 130.”
Spence’s attention to detail carries over to his work in the gym.
“Errol will spar 17 three-minute rounds with a 30-second break,” says trainer Derrick James. “He knows you win the fight in the gym.”
Needless to say, James is supremely confident that Spence will find a way to get past Bundu. However, the coach stopped short of predicting that his protégé’s knockout streak will continue.
“Bundu is a former Olympian and European champion with the ability to box and bang, so you can’t beat him doing just one thing,” James says. “Keith Thurman’s face was busted up at the end of their fight, [so] this guy’s tough.
“But these types of fighters bring out the best in Errol Spence. He’s a split-second thinker who knows that each punch sets up another.”
Those in-ring smarts are among many skills that Spence possesses in abundance, and why he’s drawn comparisons to and earned high praise from such icons as Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard.
“Errol Spence is the most talented kid to come out of the Olympics since Andre Ward,” DiBella says. “He’s the entire package. There are a lot of champions with reason to worry.”
For full coverage of Spence vs Bundu, bounce over to our fight page. And following the bout, tune into NBCSN at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT for a Premier Boxing Champions card headlined by rising 130-pound contender Claudio Marrero (20-1, 14 KOs) against unbeaten Derrick Murray (13-0-1, 5 KOs). Also scheduled is a long-awaited 126-pound clash between East Coast rivals Heather Hardy (17-0, 4 KOs) and Shelly Vincent (18-0, 1 KO) in PBC's first ever televised women's bout.