The IBF World Welterweight Champion talks Goku, his favorite ‘90’s movies and the subtle skills that could lead him to victory over Mikey Garcia Saturday night on FOX PPV.
It’s not often that one gets the chance to sit down with IBF World Welterweight Champion Errol Spence Jr. (24-0, 21 KOs) and discuss everything from footwork to anime. Especially now, as Spence prepares to face four-division world champion Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on PBC on FOX PPV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Throughout his years in the sport, Spence, a former 2012 U.S. Olympian, has focused on mastering his craft. Like all elite fighters, “The Truth” has a thorough understanding of boxing fundamentals and how they’re best used to defeat an opponent.
“Footwork is something my coach (Derrick James) and I work on a lot. A lot of guys, especially with me being southpaw, they’re looking for the straight right. So, I’m angling to my right, and we’ll slip outside their outside foot. They’ll get confused, especially with me throwing my left hand, not my lead hand. A lot of guys are not used to that.”
Another crucial fundamental Errol utilizes is the jab. It’s not by accident.
“The most important thing I use the jab for is to set up my other punches. I feel like it’s the fastest punch you can throw because it’s straight and it’s right to the point. And it’s your lead hand. So, it gets to the target faster than anything else. If you can hit the person with the jab, you can also hit ‘em with a hook or an uppercut because that means you’re close enough and you’ve got positioning.
“You can get the opponent’s timing too, using your jab. They might do something you can react to.”
Though Spence is perhaps best known for his finishing ability, he’s also a skillful boxer who can be successful whether he’s moving forward or backward.
“A lot of guys can [do one or the other] but they can’t do both,” Errol said. “I think that’s what made Pernell Whitaker so good—he could fight off the back foot and he was pretty good coming forward too. A lot of people say Floyd Mayweather Jr. only fought off the back foot, but he had a lot of success—especially early in his career—going backward then coming forward to finish his opponent.
“It gives you more of an arsenal, so the opponent never knows what you’re going to do.”
Outside the ring, Errol is a fan of a popular Japanese anime series that was adapted for American audiences. Specifically, the lead character is who Spence immediately thought of when asked about his favorite fictional character.
“Goku, from Dragon Ball Z. Most people would say Superman or Batman but I like Goku.”
While the anime hero inspired Errol from the TV screen, in real life he had the best role models a person could ask for.
“ My family has been with me from day one. If everything disappeared, they’d still be here. ” IBF World Welterweight Champion - Errol Spence Jr.
“My mother and my father are my heroes,” Errol said. “They helped make me the man I am today—how I am with my kids, how I go about boxing, and my work ethic overall.
“I saw them working hard, never complaining, always putting food on the table, taking us to all our games and different events, and supporting me in all that I do.”
Like most kids, Spence couldn’t fully appreciate his parents’ sacrifices at the time. But his outlook changed as he began to understand that what they’d done for their kids wasn’t easy.
Errol is now a father himself. His motivation to perfect his craft is spurred on by his children, and he’s working to provide for them the same way his parents did for him.
“My biggest accomplishments outside the ring are my two daughters. They’re fun to be around and they’re real lively. They bring a bright light inside camp.
“They give me comfort and kind of keep me calm in training camp. I might feel mad or agitated, but they always put a smile on my face.
“When I don’t want to be around people, I’ll just be around them.”
Despite reaching the top of his sport and achieving worldwide acclaim, Errol has maintained his down-to-earth character. The single thing he values most isn’t something that can be purchased.
“I don’t really be into material things, so my most prized ‘possession’ is family. You get a lot of people around you because you’re doing great things or you have money.
“My family has been with me from day one. If everything disappeared, they’d still be here.”
Because of his years in the spotlight and his apparent ease at dealing with the pressures that come with that, one might be surprised to learn what Errol’s personality is really like when he’s not in front of the cameras.
“I’m an introvert,” Errol said. “It is hard [to deal with the public attention], but I’ve gotten used to it. I’ll have a day to myself with no interviews, watch movies, and I’ll take the whole day to charge myself back up.”
As a film fan, Spence’s favorite movie is one that hearkens back to his childhood in the ‘90s.
“The Sandlot is one of my favorites. Growing up I used to watch that movie like every day. I liked that it was about kids playing baseball.”
And of course, everyone is familiar with Errol's personal motto. It’s the same one he delivers come fight night.
“Man down!” he said, laughing.
For a closer look at Errol Spence Jr., check out his fighter page.