Top 154-pound prospect Joey Spencer was born to box

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Highly-decorated amateur from tiny Linden, Michigan looks to make another large statement during his second appearance on national TV Sunday night on PBC on FS1.

It was bound to happen. The combination of the two had a combustible effect that often resulted in rearranged living room furniture, broken lamps, splattered glass and one time a shattered vase.

Any time Joey Spencer was near his brother Mickel, the two would invariably begin slapping-boxing one another. Joey, being larger and four years older than Mickel, had a tendency for his open hands to slap heavier, and within an eye blink, someone was crying, most of the time Mickel; someone was yelling to knock it off, most of the time mom from the kitchen while cooking dinner; and someone was running for cover, most of the time Joey, in a feeble attempt to get away.

That’s the genesis of Joey Spencer’s fistic success. The other part came from watching his dad Jason’s amateur fights. There are still some weathered shots lying around of dad’s oversized boxing gear hanging on Joey’s head and hands. Where most children in their formative years were bouncing off the walls engaged in some sort of mischief, Joey would sit by Jason’s side on the sofa and watch a 12-round championship fight without so much of a squirm or complaint.

Joey loved it.

At 18, he still does, and perhaps that’s why the highly-decorated amateur from tiny Linden, Michigan, is 2-0, with two knockouts and is looking for a third this Sunday on an FS1 and FOX Deportes-televised card (8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT) featuring the 10-round heavyweight headliner between veteran Travis Kauffman (31-2, 23 KOs) and Scott Alexander (14-2-2, 8 KOs).

Spencer, a super welterweight, will be facing 26-year-old Tom Howard (8-7, 4 KOs) in a four-rounder. Howard, who is from Michigan, hasn’t fought in over two years. But Joey, and his dad, Jason, who is also his trainer, know Howard and certainly respect the fact that he’s had 15 pro fight to Joey’s two.

However, don’t let Joey’s inexperience fool you.

He’s been around boxing since he first started going to his dad’s fights at the age of five. He has been living in the gym since he was a six-year-old and was sparring by seven.

“Boxing is all I thought about, and I became a huge fan of the sport at a very young age, it’s all I was ever around,” Joey said. “I saw the tail end of my father’s amateur career. It came to the point by eight, my father got me involved with these different tournaments around the country and it grew from there.

“It actually started because I was always fighting in the house. My little brother, Mickel, was about five and I was nine. We boxed all day. That’s what we loved to do. Mom is cooking dinner and we would rearrange the living room, and it was always an ordeal. Someone was going to get yelled at, and most of the time, it was me who slapped Mickel too hard. Things would get out of control from there.”

The slapping-fighting reached its point when Joey, his cousins and Mickel, who the Spencers adopted when he was two, broke an expensive vase in his paternal grandparent’s home. Joey was around 13 and Mickel was nine. Joey tripped and fell hard on a family-room couch, which jostled a table positioned behind it, tipping over the vase off the table.


“I ran,” Joey recalled. “That was the end of our boxing inside the house. Our grandparents yelled for us and we had to face it.”

Joey, who started being home-schooled his sophomore year in high school, has obviously graduated from knocking down vases to knocking down real people. It quickly dawned on him when he was eight that boxing was something in which he could be special. That’s when he had his first fight. It was against a kid who had a slightly better resume, making Joey exceptionally nervous.

“I blew the kid out and remember thinking that I could be good,” Joey said. “That started it. I competed in and started winning national championships. I dreamed about going to the 2016 Olympics, but because they changed the age to 18 then, I couldn’t go and decided to turn pro. It did start at eight. At that age, if you asked me then what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said that I wanted to be a professional boxer.

“Now I want to be a world champion. We’re in a good situation, associated with the best people in the sport, and I’m staying active. My life is boxing. It’s why I scheduled my life around it and began being home-schooled my sophomore year. I wanted to commit more time to boxing.”

Joey’s grand scheme is to be wearing a major title belt no later than 23.

Jason, who owns US Diesel Remanufacturing, which rebuilds old diesel engines, fought as an amateur into his late 20s. That’s when he realized boxing is a young man’s game. The Spencers, as Jason describes them, were rednecks originally from Virginia and moved to Michigan for the booming auto industry in the 1950s and 60s, and Joey’s mother embraces her Mexican heritage.

“Joey would sit at seven, eight years old and watch 12 rounds of boxing with me without blinking,” Jason said. “Joey just loved it. It wasn’t anything I was going to pull him away from. Mickel is very good already. He’s fighting and there are people asking about him now. I have no faith in USA Boxing, or amateur boxing and what’s going on there.

“When Joey won his first national tournament in Kansas City, when he was around 11, and he won two more national tournaments the next year is when I started to think Joey could be special. People started to tell me how good Joey really is. These were people more advanced in the sport than me encouraging us. It’s why we devoted the last eight years of our lives to boxing.

“I feel good about the Howard fight. He doesn’t have Joey’s pedigree. He certainly doesn’t have Joey’s speed and power. He has age and experience as a pro. We’re not taking him lightly. We don’t dare.”  

This will be Joey’s second appearance on national TV in just his third fight.

It seems as if Joey is on a solid, patient career path—without, hopefully, too much shattered glass ahead.

“We’re trying to stay grounded and keep working and grinding, and keep the right perspective,” Jason said. “The goal is try to fight six times this year. Joey loves it.”

It appears almost since birth. 

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