There is a welterweight title fight taking place in 2018 to kick off a new year, and it promises to be entertaining. The unbeaten Errol “The Truth” Spence will defend his IBF championship against Lamont Peterson.
The problem, however, is that the fight could be so much bigger, but both fighters are coming off long layoffs, and an opportunity was surely lost to give them more exposure.
Spence (22-0, 19 KO’s), a southpaw from Desoto, Texas, who turns 28 a week before he makes his first defense of his 147-pound world title, only fought once in 2017. It is a disappointment, considering Spence fought 19 times from 2012-2015, and has fought just twice since.
He isn’t the only Al Haymon fighter to get criticized for inactivity recently. Jermall Charlo (26-0, 20 KO’s), a former super welterweight world champion who moved up to middleweight this year, also boxed once in 2017, despite scoring one of the finest knockouts of 2016, a fifth-round demolition of Julian Williams.
Since his days on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, Spence was tabbed by virtually everyone to win a world title and become one of boxing’s elite talents. He made his professional debut on November 9, 2012, and less than five years later, Spence traveled to Sheffield, England, as the mandatory challenger for hometown champion Kell Brook, in his first major fight. Spence made the most of it and broke his orbital bone en route to an impressive 11th-round knockout.
It could be a tall task for Spence to accomplish his goal of unifying the welterweight division in 2018, as undefeated Keith “One Time” Thurman (28-0, 22 KO’s), who holds the WBA and WBC welterweight world titles, has made it clear that Spence is not on his “to-do list” in 2018. Moreover, Jeff Horn, the WBO titleholder, is fighting unknown Gary Corcoran in his first title defense in December, and could face Terence Crawford in March.
If the sanctioning bodies get involved, we could see a Thurman-Spence fight by late 2018 at the earliest. But if Spence can’t get the fights he wants, the least he can do is stay active.
Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KO’s), of Washington, D.C., will be coming off an 11-month layoff and will be in the ring for just the second time since October 2015. He is coming off an impressive performance against Russia’s David Avanesyan to win a secondary title on Feb. 18, but vacated the strap to face Spence.
Soon to be 34 years of age on Jan. 24, Peterson is no spring chicken and can’t afford another long layoff in his career.
Peterson, a former super lightweight champion, lost a somewhat controversial majority decision to former titlist Danny Garcia in a 12-round, non-title welterweight bout in April 2015. Then, he fought 2008 Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz in October, and scored a majority (should have been unanimous) decision. He has also fought a series of top contenders in Amir Khan, Timothy Bradley Jr., and Lucas Matthysse.
Peterson is a good boxer but tends to get careless defensively when his opponent is on the inside. Matthysse knocked him out with a beautiful counter left hook, Diaz hurt him with an uppercut and a combination late in their fight, and Spence excels in this area.
Regardless if the fight could be more significant, it’s going to be an exciting one for the fans come Jan. 20 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.