Anson Wainwright

Q&A: Errol Spence Jr.

Heading into last summer’s Olympic Games one of America’s best boxing medal hopes was Texas-based welterweight Errol Spence Jr. However, like all of his male teammates, Spence returned home empty handed. The 23-year-old southpaw, who won the national Golden Gloves and U.S. Championships, and took part in two World Amateur Championships, compiled an impressive 135-12 amateur record.

After the disappointing Olympic experience Spence decided it was time to make his way in the professional ranks, first signing with ever influential manager Al Haymon, and then winning his first four pro outings, three inside the distance. Recently he’s been one of Floyd Mayweather’s chief sparring partners ahead of the pound-for-pound king’s “May Day” date with Robert Guerrero on Saturday, an experience any up-and-coming prospect would be more than happy to have.

The sparring in many ways is more useful to Spence at this stage of his career than his actual fights. “It’s been a great experience sparring Floyd Mayweather especially so early in my career,” Spence said of the opportunity. Reports coming out of Mayweather Boxing Club suggest that Spence has impressed with the work he was able to give Mayweather. On Friday, takes on Brandon Hoskins (16-4-1, 8 knockouts) who has lost to 147-pound prospects Phil Lo Greco and Mikeal Zewski, as well as to contender Keith Thurman, at the Cosmopolitan Resort. The bout will be part of a Fox Spots Net broadcast that begins at 8:00 p.m. PT/11:00 p.m. ET.

Anson Wainwright: This Friday you have your fifth pro fight. What are your thoughts on the fight?

Errol Spence Jr.: I’m ready to fight. I’m ready to go. I’m in great shape and I’m on weight right now. It’s just playing the waiting game but I’m ready to get in there and show my stuff.

AW: You’ve been in Las Vegas training for your fight and been one of Floyd Mayweather’s chief sparring partners. How did that come about and what has that been like?

ES: Someone called me up and asked if I wanted to come to camp and spar Floyd and I jumped to it. It’s probably a once in a lifetime opportunity cause he’s getting ready to retire after six fights.

It’s been a great experience sparring Floyd Mayweather, especially so early in my career, sparring someone as great as him. I hope I can do it again.

AW: What did you learn from sparring with Floyd?

ES: I learned a lot from him. I pride myself a lot on sparring and he’s patient, he’s always composed no matter what situation he’s in. I like that. He’s a very defensive fighter, so while I’m sparring I’m watching and learning from the old-school technique he has, the way he turns, throws combinations and throws punches.

AW: How have you found the move from the amateurs to pros?

ES: Um, it’s just a little adjustment with headgear being off and with smaller gloves. The adjustment went real smoothly; I didn’t feel a big difference except those things but everything has gone good.

AW: What were things like growing up in Texas for you?

ES: Thing’s were good. My dad got me into boxing when I was 15 years old. I have both my parents; they supported me with whatever I wanted to do. I started boxing because I like to fight.

AW: You were an accomplished amateur. Could you tell us about your amateur career?

ES: I am a three-time national champion. I won the USA nationals three times, I won national Golden Gloves once, I won the national PAL three times, under-19 national championships, two World Championships and one under-19 World Championships. And in the Olympics, I lost in the quarterfinals. I haven’t fought any big names (who are currently pro) but I sparred with a lot of big names like Lamont Peterson, Shawn Porter and a couple more guys.

AW: As we touched on, you represented America at last year’s Olympics. Could you tell us about your Olympic experience?

ES: My experience was great. I met a lot of stars on the American team like the Williams sisters (tennis), it was a great experience. It was kind of controversial because I had lost before the quarterfinals. Well, I had won but they robbed me so they put me back in against Russia when they had overturned my (previous) fight (result).

AW: There have been a few internet rumors that you had been sparring with Adrien Broner in Las Vegas and that you dropped him. Could you tell us what actually happened?

ES: Me and Adrien Broner never sparred when he was Las Vegas at all. They (internet bloggers) spread a rumor saying I knocked him out and I guess people ran with it. I have sparred with him like a year and a half ago in Colorado Springs, but nothing happened. We just sparred.

AW: Away from boxing tell us a little about yourself as a person and the things you enjoy doing?

ES: I just see myself as a regular guy. I hang out with my friends, I love to play basketball. I play a lot when I’m not boxing. I play video games; just a quiet life, nothing flashy.

AW: Though you’re still at the very beginning of your pro career what goals do you have?

ES: My goals are to be a world champion some day at 147, real soon, I would say; within a two-year span to become a world champion and to make a lot of money in the business and get out while I can still talk and have my senses.

AW: Who was your boxing hero growing up and who do you enjoy watching today?

ES: When I was growing up I watched a lot of Lennox Lewis. My dad is Jamaican so he supported him. I watched and got into boxing because of Terry Norris, Pernell Whitaker, Sugar Ray Leonard, guys like that.

Today I enjoy watching Floyd Mayweather, Andre Ward, and Lamont Peterson.

AW: Do you have a message for the boxing world?

ES: I want everybody to tune in on Fox Sports this Friday and just be on the lookout for me because I’m going to be a force to be reckoned with.


Photos / Joe Klamar-AFP, Nick Laham-Getty Images

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