Welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. put on a powerful performance Saturday night, punishing Lamont Peterson throughout and dropping the former champion in the fifth round before Peterson’s coach Barry Hunter stopped the fight one second into the eighth round.
Spence remained undefeated and retained his IBF 147-pound belt in the first defense of his title before a partisan crowd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The Texan, who was born on Long Island, N.Y., got the jump on Peterson from the opening bell and greatly outworked the Washington, D.C. fighter throughout. Spence (23-0, 20 KOs) landed 161 of 526 punches thrown, according to CompuBox statistics, while Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KOs) was able to land only 45 of 158 punches. The southpaw established his jab early on and went to work on Peterson’s body with powerful, thudding shots from every angle that eventually wore the 33-year-old down. Peterson’s right eye was nearly swollen shut by the time the fight ended.
“I want to thank Lamont Peterson,” Spence said. “A lot of guys turned down the fight and he took it like a real fighter and I commend him for that.”
Spence credited his trainer, Derrick James for coming up with a winning game plan. “I just followed through with it,” he said. “He told me to keep my distance and use my jab and to keep my composure.”
Spence praised his overmatched opponent. “Lamont is willing to die in there. His coach wanted to stop the fight and he wanted to keep going,” Spence said. “That’s the kind of fighter Lamont is.”
Spence said he still has plenty of work ahead of him. “I still can improve my defense and in other ways in my craft,” he said “I just got to keep perfecting my skills and stay in the gym and keep learning, and you’re going to see a better Errol Spence each time I get in the ring.”
As he has for the last couple of years, Spence called out another undefeated welterweight champion, Keith Thurman. “Everybody knows I’ve been waiting for ‘One-time’ Thurman, since I was 15-0 and he keeps making excuses after excuses,” Spence said. “Let’s get it on, man.”
Peterson said Spence was getting his shots off early and established the jab. “I kind of knew that was going to be the case but I was looking to get inside and start working,” Peterson said. “But he was the better man. … He’s a step ahead of the rest.”
Peterson, who turns 34 on Jan. 24, said he will have to think over the next few weeks about whether he wants to continue fighting.
In the co-main event, Robert Easter remained undefeated and retained his IBF lightweight title with a hard-fought, very close and somewhat controversial split decision victory against former champion Javier Fortuna.
Fortuna had come in overweight and could not have held the title even if he won the fight. At the same time, Easter could not have lost the title, win or lose.
Easter (21-0, 14 KOs), had big advantages in height and reach, but had all he could handle against Fortuna (33-2-1, 23 KOs). Easter, from Toledo, won by scores of 114-113 and 115-112. Fortuna, from the Dominican Republic, won on the third scorecard 114-113.
Fortuna lost a point in the second round for holding and hitting, and that appears to have been the difference in the fight. The decision was booed by many of the fans at Barclays Center.
“It was tough. Javier is a former two-time champion and he made it tough,” Easter said. “He was sitting back trying to hold and counter-punch. He wasn’t throwing anything. Once he felt my power, I knew he was going to run and grab and hold, and that’s what he did.”
Asked if he would give Fortuna a rematch, Easter said, “I like to fight the champions and unify the belts. I’m trying to fight Mikey Garcia and Jorge Linares.
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