A margin of Errol

Undefeated IBF welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr. (left) vs. Lamont Peterson. Photo credit: Amanda Westcott/Showtime

 

 

BROOKLYN, NY – IBF welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr. continued his onslaught of the 147-pound division with a thorough beatdown of a game but shopworn Lamont Peterson, last Saturday night, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Recognizing the only outcome that awaited his charge was a stay on a hospital bed at Mount Sinai, Barry Hunter, Peterson’s longtime chief trainer, wisely waived off the fight before the start of the eighth round.

 

One of the main talking points leading into Saturday’s main event was that Spence and Peterson, both known for their consistent body punching, were going to put up a “dogfight.” To have actually bought into this promotional prattle, however, would have required a bit of a self-imposed concussion. Perhaps a true scrap might have been possible several years ago, when Peterson was closer to his prime – say, when he fought Danny Garcia in 2015 – but there were simply too many factors going against the version of Peterson who entered the ropes on Saturday night.

 

Not only was Peterson, 33, battling inactivity – he had exactly one fight, a decision over mediocre David Avanesyan, in a two-and-a-half-year span – but he has also never quite proven himself capable of defeating a fighter at the world-class level. Apart from his surprising victory over a prime Amir Khan in 2011, a contest marred by Khan’s repeated shoving, Peterson was outclassed by Timothy Bradley Jr., in 2009, and brutally stopped by Lucas Matthysse in 2013. Moreover, some of Peterson’s wins against decent foes have been unsatisfying, if not questionable, including his unanimous decision win in 2015 over Felix Diaz, who many thought deserved the nod. In other words, determination and grit, qualities germane to most prizefighters, can only get you so far when there are more glaring deficits in skill.

 

Though Peterson, who falls to 35-4 (17), has a reputation for being a versatile fighter, who can box on the outside and bang on the inside, he showed a reluctance to commit to either plan of attack. That much was clear from the opening bell. Spence, now 23-0 (20), wasted no time thrusting his stiff jab into Peterson’s guard, keeping the Washington D.C. native at his preferred range. When Peterson tried wading in to force the action on the inside, he got hammered in return with a straight left. From that moment on, Peterson assumed the high guard stance, yet that only served to open himself up to Spence’s methodical, knifing body blows.

 

In the third round, Peterson, in addition to landing a clean left hook, found some success with the right hand to counter Spence’s consistent left to the body. But Peterson, a longtime 140-pounder, has average power at best and Spence shrugged off the punches with a flurry of his own.

 

(Similarly, former WBO welterweight beltholder Chris Algieri managed to land the same punch on Spence but, like Peterson, Algieri’s punching power leaves much to be desired. It will take a fighter with heavy hands and a great deal of creativity to offset Spence’s clockwork pressure offense).

 

Indeed, what makes Spence, Desoto, Texas, particularly threatening is he responds to moments of adversity by literally punching his way out. For example, toward the end of the fourth round, Peterson caught Spence momentarily out of position and uncorked his best punch of the fight, a clean clubbing right hand. Yet not only did the punch not buckle Spence, it produced the exact opposite response Peterson would have wanted – it emboldened Spence, who returned fire with a strafing straight left that sent Peterson staggering into the ropes.

 

In the fifth round, Spence added the uppercut to further open up Peterson’s tight but ever-loosening guard. About a minute through the round, Spence scored a knockdown with a blistering left, setting it up beautifully with a pitty-pat jab-cross-hook combination that shifted all of Spence’s weight to his left side. Peterson got up immediately before referee Harvey Dock could even pick up the count from ringside but he was unquestionably hurt. Yet instead of holding, a totally appropriate response when you’re on the brink of peril, Peterson elected to fight Spence toe-to-toe, mixing haymakers and looping hooks on a pair of wobbly legs. While few of Peterson’s punches actually landed, his efforts added an element of drama that stoked the passions of a reported 12,107 in attendance – but a dogfight it was not.

 

By this point, Peterson’s right eye was nearly swollen shut and he looked like a fighter getting off the stool for the 14th round. Still the fact that Peterson, bruised and bloodied, was still trying to rip shots on Spence, toward the end of the sixth round speaks, to his merits as a no-frills prizefighter.

 

In the seventh, Spence, feeling confident, loosened his own guard and started jogging toward a backpedaling Peterson, parrying Peterson’s soft jabs as though the two were in a sparring session. With five more rounds to go, an eternity, Peterson’s corner threw in the towel before the start of the eighth round.

 

At the post-fight press conference, Hunter explained why he decided to stop the fight.

 

“I thought we took too much damage too early in the fight and we got too far behind. (Peterson) said something to me that really, really stuck in my mind. He said, ‘Well, you make the call. Other than that, I’m too far behind. I’mma go for broke.’ When he said that, I knew that he had too many holes in his defense and Errol was too fresh, too strong, and it seemed like he may have been getting stronger down the stretch, so that’s why I made the decision I made.

 

“If he never fights another day in his life, that’s all right by me.”

 

With the win, Spence moves on to what many hope to be a true challenge in the division’s other champion WBC/WBA beltholder Keith Thurman. “Everybody knows I’ve been waiting on “Sometimes” Thurman,” Spence said after the fight. “Since I was 15-0, I’ve been calling this guy out and he keeps making excuses. Let’s get it on.” That fight, however, likely will not take place in 2018, if Thurman’s repeated requests for two tune-up bouts is to be taken seriously (and they should be). Moreover, top welterweight and Premier Boxing Champions colleague Shawn Porter, the WBC’s 147-pound mandatory challenger, has come out recently, saying he only has a rematch with Thurman on his mind. Danny Garcia, the other elite welterweight in the PBC universe, who could make things interesting against Spence, is scheduled to face faded Brandon Rios. And undefeated former two-division champion Terence Crawford, a recent newcomer to the division, appears exclusively on Top Rank/ESPN cards. Though the prospect of pairing Spence with a stiff challenge appears to be an ongoing issue in 2018, his brain trust can make even the slightest improvement from last year with one simple move: have Spence fight more than once in a year.

 

 

 

Sean Nam is a contributor to The Cruelest Sport and UCNLive. He also writes about film for Slant Magazine and Mubi Notebook.

 

 

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