Errol Spence Jr. on Lamont Peterson, the National Anthem and unifying at 147
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – They rolled them out at Barclays Center Saturday night, before the 154-pound tripleheader – Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman and Deontay Wilder. Each is at a different stage of his career, each looking to make further steps ahead.
Wilder, the WBC heavyweight beltholder, is still looking for respect. Thurman, the WBA/WBC welterweight titlist, is looking to recover from elbow surgery and Spence, the IBF welterweight champ, and possibly the best of the trio, is looking to unify the 147-pound class and had no problem declaring that, with Thurman sitting a few feet to his left.
It was part press conference, part political symposium on how to address the National Anthem.
But first, Spence (22-0, 19 knockouts) had to declare that his first title defense will come against Lamont Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KOs) on January 13, 2018, at a site to be determined, which was hardly a secret. The fight will take place in the United States, marking the first time Spence will be fighting in the U.S. in 17 months since he destroyed Leonard Bundu in August 2015 in Coney Island, New York.
Spence got a good eyeful of Peterson when he fought Danny Garcia in a bout Garcia won by majority decision in April 2015 at Barclays. Spence saw the fight as a draw. He felt Peterson started too late.
“(Peterson) is somebody that I looked up to as an amateur. I sparred with him as an amateur and learned a lot from him. He’s one of my favorite fighters and is a guy that will fight anybody. I’ve never known him to duck a fight,” Spence said. “Lamont is a tricky fighter. He’s been around the block. He does a lot of cagey, veteran things. I’m looking to get experience in this fight. I’m still a young fighter.
“Since I was 5-0, I’ve said I’d fight Keith Thurman or anybody in the Top 5. He’s got to go through rehab but I’m ready when he is. I’m always ready to fight the best. This is what it is (with Peterson). Keith Thurman and I are on the same sides of the street until this happens. I’m trying to get this fight and then Keith Thurman. I don’t really care about stuff like pound-for-pound and things like that. If I’m not pound-for-pound in the next two or three years, then someone has something with them.”
If he gets by Peterson in January – and judging by how Spence has been fighting, it should not be much of a problem – Spence didn’t laugh off the possibility of going down to Australia to fight WBO welterweight titleholder Jeff Horn, who upset Manny Pacquiao last July and shocked the boxing world.
“If Al (Haymon, Spence’s manager) came to me with it knowing that it would be in my best interest, I would go to Australia, if it was presented to me,” Spence said. “Everything has to be a fair playing field, with the judges and the official on the level, and, so far, Al never came to me with it, so I’m not worried about it.
“I have Lamont Peterson in front of me right now and that’s the guy that I have to prepare for. He’s a far better fighter than Jeff Horn. I feel Lamont would beat Jeff Horn. If that fight, in the future, presented itself, and my management thought it would be good for me, I would do it. I don’t think Jeff Horn is that big of a deal to where I would have to go down there.”
There was another topic, a focus that is the subject du jour across the country, that Spence touched on.
“Right now, if you want to stand or you want to kneel during the National Anthem, that’s your right. We have free speech in this country,” said Spence, a former U.S. Olympian. “I don’t see how you tell someone to kneel or stand during the National Anthem. There’s nothing wrong with it. We all have freedom of speech.
“I rock with (former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin) Kaepernick. People are trying to make it something different. It’s not about disrespecting soldiers. I don’t think it’s about disrespecting soldiers at all. It’s about skin color. It’s about standing up for equality, regardless of what skin color you are. It’s a known fact. There is injustice out there due to being a minority, even in the court system. A white person does a crime and a black person does a crime, the black person is going to get more time for it.
“It’s a fact. It’s a known fact. Is he lying? Look up the things Kaepernick said. They’re fact. I respect soldiers standing up for us. They put their lives out there for us. It’s the ultimate sacrifice. Kaepernick is standing up for the rights of others. You can’t knock a guy for that. He’s not out there burning stuff up or shooting people. He’s not doing anything crazy. I don’t see anything wrong at all.
“You see young black men out there getting killed in the streets. There’s no justice out there and I think it’s why Kaepernick did what he did. It got blown out of proportion.”
Ultimately, Spence said he might think about taking a knee for the National Anthem before his fight against Peterson.
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On the cover this month: Mikey Garcia