The undefeated 147-pound king is ready to defend his crown against Yordenis Ugas in their three-belt welterweight unification Saturday night in Spence's native Texas, live on SHOWTIME pay-per-view.
Sometimes fortunate twists of fate come in the unlikeliest of forms.
Such might have been the case for WBC and IBF Welterweight World Champion Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr., the DeSoto, Texas, resident who defends those bejeweled belts in a unification matchup with WBA Champion Yordenis Ugas Saturday, April 16 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, home of Spence’s favorite NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys.
A massive hometown crowd is expected for the fight which headlines a SHOWTIME pay-per-view (9 p.m./6 p.m. ET).
“I feel most people take life for granted until they’re given a second chance,” Spence (27-0, 21 KOs) said when the fight with Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs) was announced. “I’ve been given a second chance at life, and I’ve been given a third chance at boxing.”
Those chances that Spence says he is now thankful for and intent on capitalizing upon nearly came at a tragic cost. Given the benefit of hindsight, he now views the horrific, high-speed crash of his white Ferrari in the early morning hours of Oct. 10, 2019, as a needed wakeup call. Not wearing a seatbelt, he was ejected from the vehicle, which flipped over several times, suffering injuries that could have been, and probably should have been, much worse.
Transported by ambulance to Methodist Dallas Medical Center where he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, Spence, still celebrating 12 days following his split-decision unification victory over then-WBC champ Shawn Porter, came away with nothing more than facial lacerations and head-to-toe soreness. The fact that he was ejected from the wrecked car probably saved him from death or irretrievably catastrophic injuries.
When the consequences of bodily damage that might have matched or surpassed that done to his pride and joy ride had sunk in, Spence’s mood quickly switched from ebullient to somber and reflective. He said the fact he was able to walk out of the hospital under his own power was “a miracle … it was a miracle from God. It really protected me because anybody else probably would have been killed.”
Spence, a southpaw who is particularly adept at delivering thudding body punches, still is regarded by many as the best welterweight on the planet, but he now is of the opinion that his frequently dominant successes inside the ropes might have lessened his resolve to put in all the work necessary to maintain his skill set as full proficiency.
Staring the Grim Reaper in the eye and making him blink does have the effect of making someone take stock of who and what he not only was, but still can be.
“I’d been struggling to make weight,” Spence said. “I was killing myself with a sauna bag on and running twice a day. Things like that. But this training camp has been great. I’m actually having fun. I haven’t had fun in training camp for a long time.”
Getting back to the fun part of a career that, at the age of 32, still figures to include several more years of prime performances was easier said than done. When Spence was released from the hospital and returned to the high-rise where he would be staying, he opted not to take the elevator up to the 24th floor or to use the wheelchair that had been provided for him if needed. His comeback back for elite ring status would start with flights and flights of stairs.
“ Whatever Ugas brings to the table, I’m ready for it. ” Undefeated Unified Welterweight World Champion - Errol Spence Jr.
“No physical therapy, just the will of my mind and my body and my spirit,” Spence said of that grueling stairway back to the lofty perch he had been occupying in this world’s boxing heaven. “I pushed through all the pain to become a winner again.”
It hasn’t all been an unimpeded expressway to where Spence wants to return. He had been scheduled to face Manny Pacquiao in a high-visibility, financially lucrative matchup with the living legend from the Philippines in August of last year, but the bout was scrapped when Spence suffered a detached retina in training, an injury that required surgery.
Ugas then stepped in on just 11 days notice. The Miami-based Cuban wrested PacMan’s WBA title on a clear-cut unanimous decision, in the process sending Pacquiao into retirement and a new life as a full-time politician.
Spence considers the Ugas fight, his first since the retina reattachment, his third chance at boxing, the first two being the arduous recovery from the car crash and the second his comeback bout against the dangerous Danny Garcia.
“It’s my time to show the world that I can win another belt,” Spence said of his master plan that might have been delayed a couple of times, but won’t – can’t – be denied. “At the end of the day, I want to be undisputed welterweight champion of the world. This is another step forward for myself.”
Spence credits the 35-year-old Ugas, who has won 12 of his last 13 fights dating back to 2016, with being “a tough competitor who comes to fight,” but he is confident his wide advantage in talent will soon become apparent. He is convinced that, had it been he who swapped punches with Pacquiao, then 43, he would have won much more convincingly.
“I respect Pacquiao, but I’m a way different fighter than Pacquiao,” Spence said. “(Ugas beating Pacquiao) was like Larry Holmes beating Muhammad Ali or Terry Norris beating Sugar Ray Leonard. Pacquiao was way past his prime. That (would have been) the passing of the torch for myself, but I missed the opportunity.”
Ugas’ trainer, Ismael Salas, counters with the contention that maybe the wear and tear on Spence’s body, in and out of the ring, also has rendered him vulnerable. He believes his guy, a 4½-1 underdog, is ready to prove he, too, belongs on the short list of elite welterweights.
“I watched Errol Spence fight Shawn Porter and I watched Errol Spence fight Danny Garcia, after Spence had his accident,” Salas said. “It was not the same Errol Spence Jr. I do believe he lost something between the Porter and Garcia fights.”
Spence respectfully rejects the notion he has slipped, even a little. “Even half of me would beat most of these guys at the top level. I feel great now and I’m 100%. I have everything in my arsenal. Whatever Ugas brings to the table, I’m ready for it. Ugas is going to push me to another level and that’s what I want.”
For a closer look at Errol Spence Jr., check out his fighter page.
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