Being an elite-level boxer, almost universally regarded as the no. 1 fighter in his division, fosters a sense of super confidence. Some may even call it arrogance to a degree. And the “I can’t be beat, I won’t be beat” feeling is part of the attitude an elite-level athlete in any sport needs to achieve greatness.
In the case of Errol Spence Jr., the man is clearly brimming with confidence and has fought with supreme self-belief throughout his rise to the top of the welterweight division. But is he carrying that attitude too far when it comes to his upcoming challenge against Manny Pacquiao?
According to the 31-year-old WBC and IBF 147 lb. champ, his focus is solely on WBO welterweight titlist Terence Crawford after his bout with Pacquiao on August 21. This is despite Crawford’s assertion that he’s done trying to make a unification bout with Spence.
"Once I get that belt, like I told [adviser and Premier Boxing Champions bossman] Al [Haymon], I want that fight with Crawford, but if it doesn"t happen then I’ll probably just move up [to 154 pounds] or something," Spence recently told Barbershop Conversations. "I’m not going to waste my time trying to fight somebody who says they don"t have any interest in me anymore. He doesn"t want to fight me anymore.
"I most likely have two more fights at 147…I’m going to go across the street to [talk with Team Crawford and] see what they"re talking about. If they are not talking about nothing, I"m moving up to 154…After the Pacman fight, hopefully we can make something happen [with Crawford]."
This is all assuming, of course, that Spence beats the multi-division world champ and first ballot Hall of Famer, Pacquiao. That’s a HUGE assumption.
Over the course of the last several years, opponents of the Filipino icon have been inexplicably looking past him, to future endeavors facilitated by adding the Pacquiao name to their resumes. However, with the exception of a screw job decision loss to Jeff Horn in 2017, all have been disappointed in their hopes of conquest.
For the longest time, potential Pacquiao foes have been lusting after that piggyback ride to next-level stardom beating him would give them. And, as Manny has grown older, that goal of being the man to beat the man has grown more intense. Over the last couple of years, especially, there’s been a line forming to get their hands on him and be the right man at the right time to take out a legend on the precipice of a fall.
But, again, those who’ve gotten their crack at doing this have been turned away most disappointed.
Jessie Vargas lacked the fire and fury. Lucas Matthysse lacked the ability. Adrien Broner seemed discourage before the opening bell even rang and never put forth the effort to win. And Keith Thurman, who was a legit undefeated top 3 welterweight at the time he fought Manny, came up short even though he put in a solid, respectable effort.
That Thurman fight, especially, proved to the world that Pacquiao was still very much an elite-level fighter, no worse than no. 3 or 4 in his division.
That was 23 months ago, though.
In the 23 months of inactivity since the Thurman win, the line once again formed to beat the legend at the right time, at the right age and move on to bigger fame, bigger regard, and bigger money.
After some long months of numerous fighters jockeying to be Manny’s comeback opponent, Spence got the call. The decision shocked more than a few knowledgeable boxing people. The 42-year-old Pacquiao would’ve been entitled to a softer touch in his return to the ring, but he picked on, arguably, the biggest dog of the pack.
Spence has every right to be confident coming into this showcase battle. He’s got an 11-year age, 5-inch reach, and 4-inch height advantage. He’s the naturally larger fighter. He’s also got plenty of career momentum going his way, beating Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia in the time Pacquiao’s been inactive.
But Pacquiao is Pacquiao. With a beyond-difficult style to deal with, still prodigious athletic ability, and an indomitable will to win, Manny will be an extreme threat and challenge to anyone, anytime, until the day he finally does decide to hang up his gloves for good.
If Spence is looking past August 21 to size up challenges against Crawford and a run at 154, he might find himself very shocked and disappointed.