Joey Spencer Learns a Hard Lesson

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Prior to his last bout, the undefeated, 19-year-old middleweight prospect encountered struggles outside the ring that manifested in it. He returns Sunday night on FOX to apply the lessons learned from that experience.

The cold bathroom tiles forced Joey Spencer’s toes to rise. Seconds later, it was the searing red number ‘167’ that beamed at him from the digital scale that prompted him to raise his eyebrows.

A week prior to a fight, Spencer was never in that spot before. Spencer, the 19-year-old middleweight phenom from Linden, Michigan, didn’t lose discipline. A fever added unwanted weight.

That translated into a sluggish performance in beating Osias Vasquez by unanimous decision back on April 13, when Spencer went the distance for the first time, going six rounds.

Call it a harsh lesson learned.

It was hardest weight cut of his young career and a mistake he’ll never make again, when Spencer (7-0, 6 KOs) fights Akeem Black (5-2, 2 KOs) on the undercard of the Jermell Charlo-Jorge Cota 12-round super welterweight clash Sunday night on PBC on FOX/FOX Deportes (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

Spencer will be engaging in a six-round fight at 156. This will mark the third time Spencer is fighting this year. He admits his evolution as a fighter is a fluid process.

Take, for example, his last time out. Spencer prides himself with being on weight as a fight nears. His training camps are structured more towards designing a fight plan than on throwing his sole emphasis on making weight, since he’s always been in shape.

For Vasquez, the contract weight was 156—and it was a struggle.

“I actually overworked a little bit, and I think that was more from over training, so I got sick a few weeks before the fight, which really halted my weight-cut process,” Spencer recalled. “When you’re sick, you need to feed yourself to keep your weight up and get healthy. That’s what happened to me. I went six rounds with Vasquez and that’s the reason. I feel that if I didn’t get sick, I would have gotten him out of there in a few rounds.

“But you know what, I wouldn’t change anything. I’m young. I’m still learning. I’m learning my body. People don’t realize when you’re young in boxing, people see a young fighter with talent and they want to see you do things right now. What people don’t realize is that we’re still learning our bodies and still learning that through training camp.”

Experiences like what occurred against Vasquez can only make Spencer better.

“I was 166, 167 pounds a week out,” Spencer said. “It was tough, real tough losing the weight. I was getting a little stressed out, because I was never in that spot before. I knew how to handle it. I like to stay positive. I didn’t think it would affect me, but it did. I felt drained for that fight. I wasn’t myself.”  

Spencer made adjustments for this training camp. He’s already close to weight a few weeks before the Black fight. This time, Spencer walked around at about 166, not 170, as he did before previous training camps. It’s been a subtle, gradual weight cut. Spencer hasn’t been starving himself. He cut out dairy products, including some of his favorites like pizza, cheeseburgers and cheese. Glutton, with a heavy accent on bread, was out, too. His diet is more geared toward organic, clean food. His body fat is less than five percent.

I’m young. I’m still learning. Undefeated Middleweight Prospect - Joey Spencer

He’s never been leaner, as close to a fight, as he’s been for the upcoming Black fight.

“My feet felt heavy, my body wasn’t able to do all of the things I was used to doing (against Vasquez),” Spencer said. “I guess it was a positive, because I won a six-round fight at a C-plus version of myself. I was proud of myself, yet it was frustrating. All six of my previous fights I was a different person. As a positive, I got six rounds in. I was able to work under adversity and I was able to win.”

Black, 29, is on a two-fight winning streak. Spencer knows Black is a pressure fighter who likes to march his opponents around the ring. Spencer has watched a few of Black’s fights. Spencer feels he’ll be able to either outmuscle Black on the inside or outbox him.

“I haven’t had to focus on cutting weight, and I’m sparring lots of rounds; I feel really fresh,” Spencer said. “The last camp, especially with the curveball getting sick, that was focused on cutting weight. This time, my body is in a good state. I’m lean and feel great. ‘Weight cut’ may be the two words no fighter wants to hear. I never had a problem with making weight. I don’t plan on that happening again.”

Spencer says his game plan calls for either option of going six rounds or stopping Black within the distance.

“We needed a six-round fight and coming out of the Vasquez fight, Joey just turned 19, and he’s still a teenager who loves pizza and burgers and drinking Coke,” said Jason Spencer, Joey’s father and trainer. “We made some changes and cleaned up his diet, and it’s made a big difference.

“This is the time Joey has to build experience. He’s always been the athlete or the fighter that you have to hold back. It was Joey who made the differences and adjustments for this training camp. He learned, and I learned as a coach. I consulted Ronnie Shields and Virgil Hunter, veteran guys who I really respect, about what some changes could be.

“Joey kept getting sick in five of our seven training camps. You learn what to go hard on, and what not to go hard on and Joey’s adjusted. Akeem Black is a fighter who fights to win, and he’s a young guy who’s well put together, with quick feet. He’ll stay in there as long as he can, but Joey is settling down and taking his time.”

He’s evolving—like all rising stars do.

For a closer look at Joey Spencer, check out his fighter page.

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