Lamont Peterson saw it all coming for Errol Spence Jr., back in 2011.
“I knew at the time six years ago that he would get at this point,” said Peterson. “He would be a world champion. I saw a lot of talent.”
Spence was 21 years old at the time, a decorated amateur on his way to a spot on the U.S Olympic team for the 2012 Olympic games in London. He got in the ring for a sparring session with Peterson, a fighter six years older whose style he’d admired from a distance.
Peterson had already won an interim WBO world super lightweight title bout two years earlier, and by the end of 2011 he would claim the IBF world super lightweight title and WBA super world super lightweight title against Amir Khan.
“It was just great work,” said Spence. “It was a learning experience. I was an amateur. I’m going at a fast pace, just firing punches.
“Lamont, he’s just being patient, blocking, just trying to counter, basically fighting at a pro level, pro pace, and I didn’t really understand it until I was a pro going 10, 12 rounds.”
That was their last sparring session, but their paths have continued to cross, and their mutual admiration has remained consistent.
They’ll be back in the ring together on January 20 at Barclays Center for Spence’s first bout since fulfilling Peterson’s vision and winning a world championship title. The current and former world champions met at the arena on Wednesday afternoon to announce their upcoming bout.
Spence powered his way to the IBF belt last May, building momentum as the fight went on before dethroning Kell Brook with an 11th round knockout. It was only the second career loss for Brook, who had dropped his previous fight to undefeated unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
It was a coronation for Spence, who had taken some of the final steps of his championship journey in Brooklyn. He made his Barclays Center debut in April 2015, destroying Samuel Vargas on the undercard of Peterson’s bout against Danny Garcia.
A year later Spence returned to headline a BROOKLYN BOXING fight card at Barclays Center for the biggest fight of his career to date, defeating former WBO world super lightweight champion Chris Algieri. With his fifth-round TKO, Spence became the first fighter to stop the tough as nails Algieri from going the distance. Four months later, Spence clinically took apart the veteran Leonard Bundu on Coney Island.
He’ll enter the ring in January with a 22-0 record and 19 wins by knockout, including his last nine fights. The next challenge is Peterson.
“I’ve been in training camps with him,” said Spence. “I know what Lamont can do. I’ve seen him fight. I’m going to focus on what’s in front of me. That’s Lamont Peterson. That’s a big task at hand.”
The former super lightweight champ captured the WBA world welterweight title with a unanimous decision over David Avanesyan last February, but has vacated that belt in order to take on Spence.
Peterson brings in a 35-3-1 record with a goal to reclaim a championship belt.
“We’ve never been in boring fights,” said Peterson. “Always in fan-friendly fights. We have a lot of dog in us. That’s what you’re going to get.”
“It’ll probably start as a boxing match, but at the end it’s going to end up as a dogfight,” said Spence. “We’ve both got big hearts. I’ve never known Lamont to duck any big competition.”
The two fighters are among ESPN.com’s top 10 welterweights, with Spence listed No. 2 following his championship win and Peterson coming in at No. 8. They’re part of a division filled with dynamic fighters — and big fights waiting to be made.
Undefeated WBA super welterweight champion and WBC welterweight champion Keith Thurman tops that list, which also features Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter. Barclays Center has been a home to those fighters, in addition to Spence. The possibilities for a year of big welterweight fights in 2018 awaits. Spence is ready for it.
“I see for the welterweight division the best fighting the best,” said Spence. “I know I’m willing to fight the best. I know Lamont’s willing to fight the best. It’s for the other guys to step up and make their choice whether they want to be great or whether they just want to get by.”