Can Golden Boy prospect become the next Sugar Ray Leonard?

Kevin Iole
Boxing Experts Blog

Even though the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team failed to win a medal, it's clear that there are several very good fighters who fought for that team.

Jose Ramirez, Terrel Gausha, Marcus Browne and Joseph Diaz have all looked impressive in their first year-plus as pros. None, though, has shown the promise of Errol Spence Jr., the unbeaten welterweight who stopped Peter Oluoch in the fourth round on Monday to improve to 11-0 with nine knockouts.

Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez, who isn't frequently prone to hyperbole, raved about Spence.

"He's a southpaw and Ray was [conventional], but really, Errol reminds me a lot of a young Sugar Ray Leonard," Gomez told Yahoo Sports. "I truly believe he has those kind of skills. He has that combination of boxing ability and aggressiveness that Ray had. He can box you, but when he hurts you, he has that killer instinct and he can put you away.

"Obviously, he's a young guy with a long, long way to go. But in boxing today, he's the closest thing I see out there to a young Sugar Ray Leonard."

Spence is 24, but didn't take up boxing until he was nearly 16. He played basketball and football, but his father, who was a fan of former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, suggested he give boxing a try.

Once he did, he gave up all other sports and committed himself to fighting.

"I was successful [early on in boxing], but not like I would be later, but I took to it right away," Spence said. "I loved it right away, though, and I knew it was my sport. The rest is history."

Spence had two victories in the London Games in 2012, though one of the wins came only after USA Boxing protested the result. Spence, and most who watched the bout, felt he'd beaten India's Krishan Vikas, who not only held excessively but also spit out his mouthpiece at one point during the action.

But the computerized scoring favored Vikas, 13-11. USA Boxing officials appeal to AIBA, which runs Olympic boxing, and the result was overturned.

"That was so difficult," he said. "When they were making the announcement, I raised my hand, thinking I had won. And then they announced him. And I was like, 'What? Really? Congrats to him, but he didn't beat me.' It was good when our appeal was successful, but the whole thing still hurt me. I had a lot of momentum going and after that happened, I lost of a lot of adrenaline and momentum and it wasn't the same."

Spence said many young fighters, such as Erickson Lubin, are turning pro and not going to the Olympics because they don't want to risk being robbed and figure they might as well start their pro careers.

Spence didn't get the bump that could come with winning an Olympic medal, but he's on the fast track now.

His success is due in part to the fact that he does the ordinary things extraordinarily well.

"I like to think I'm a good technical boxer," he said. "I work hard every day on the little things. Something as simple as keeping your hands up, it's something I think about in [practice] every day. Those things add up and they eventually become big things."

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