Errol Spence Jr. has been hearing for weeks that Saturday’s fight against Chris Algieri will be his toughest challenge to date. The 147-pound contender agrees—but only to a point.
“On paper, Chris Algieri’s the best fighter that I will be fighting in my career,” Spence says. “But I don’t know if that means that he will necessarily be my toughest fight once it’s all said and done.”
An undefeated southpaw, Spence has displayed the kind of skills that have some of boxing’s most recognizable personalities—including the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard and Floyd Mayweather Jr.—salivating about his potential. The 26-year-old has even been tabbed as Mayweather’s eventual heir apparent at 147 pounds.
On Saturday, Errol Spence Jr. (19-0, 16 KOs) will continue to try to justify that hype—and take another step toward his first world title shot—when he faces Chris Algieri (21-2, 8 KOs) in a 12-round clash from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT).
At Friday's weigh-in, Spence came in at 146.4 pounds, slightly higher than Algieri, who was at 145.6.
Spence will be seeking his seventh straight stoppage, this time against a seasoned opponent who has never been counted out. Adding to the challenge for Spence is that Algieri will be fighting for the third straight time under the tutelage of John David Jackson, a left-handed former 160-pound champion turned southpaw-training specialist.
“I try to show Chris what most southpaws are going to do, working different angles and the habits and tendencies that southpaws have in trying to avoid shots,” says Jackson, who will be in Algieri’s corner for the third straight fight. “There are certain things that [Spence] does well, and we work on those, and there are certain things he doesn’t do well, and we work on that as well, hoping to expose those things on fight night."
Says Algieri: “The biggest thing about fighting a southpaw is the ability to see the punches coming, particularly power punches from different angles. [Under Jackson], it’s been much easier transitioning into fighting a southpaw than in the past.”
Algieri, who is 32-year-old lifelong resident of Huntington, New York, is returning to the site of his biggest career triumph. In June 2014 at Barclays, he overcame two first-round knockdowns, as well as a right eye that was nearly closed shut, to gain a dramatic split decision over then-140-pound champ Ruslan Provodnikov.
“ Chris Algieri did show a different skill set after the Manny Pacquiao fight. But I am a bigger, stronger fighter than Manny Pacquiao. ” Errol Spence Jr.
In his last fight in December, also at Barclays, Algieri scored an eighth-round knockdown during a 10-round unanimous decision over Erick Bone.
The victory over Bone helped Algieri rebound from a six-knockdown loss to left-handed, eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao in a 144-pound bout in November 2014, and a unanimous decision loss to former titleholder Amir Khan in May.
Many observers—including Khan himself—praised Algieri for his efforts in the latter fight, which appeared closer than the judges’ scores indicated. It was Algieri’s 147-pound debut and his first bout with Jackson in his corner.
“Chris Algieri did show a different skill set after the Manny Pacquiao fight,” Spence says. “But I am a bigger, stronger fighter than Manny Pacquiao, and I have more technique, and I think I’m smarter than Manny Pacquiao.”
And what does he make of a former southpaw champion coaching his opponent on how to handle a lefty?
“Of course I’m sure John David Jackson can give [Algieri] some pointers, but I don’t think it will help him very much because every style and every fighter is different,” Spence says. “John David Jackson could never put himself in my shoes and figure out what I’m thinking.”
A resident of Desoto, Texas, who was born in New York, Spence is coming off a stellar 2015 that began at Barclays on April 11 with a fourth-round TKO of Samuel Vargas. That was followed by three more TKO wins over Phil Lo Greco (June), Chris van Heerden (September) and Alejandro Barrera (November).
Those four boxers entered the ring with a combined record of 97-5-2, and none had ever been stopped before facing Spence.
But if you ask Jackson, none of those opponents measure up to Algieri talent-wise.
“Spence has been spoon-fed his opponents in a good way,” Jackson says. “I don’t see one fight where he had to really dig down and dig deep to pull out a victory. So what you can say is that was very good management; he’s won his fights impressively, and he’s looked spectacular doing it.”
Spence plans to look spectacular once again come Saturday night, although he acknowledges it probably won’t be easy to put away an opponent who has never been stopped.
“Chris Algieri is a tough fighter, and he’s always in shape and brings a lot of gritty determination into the ring,” he says. “I’ve trained for 12 rounds, but if I can get the knockout, I will go after it.”
For full coverage of Spence vs Algieri, visit our fight page.