Errol Spence has been used as a sparring partner by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Adrien Broner, but believes a victory against Kell Brook on Saturday will be the start of his era as a boxing great.
The unbeaten American can win his first world title by silencing IBF world welterweight champion Brook’s home crowd at the outdoor venue of Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United soccer club.
The southpaw looks back on the sparring sessions with multi-weight world champions Mayweather and Broner as vital in his development and his journey to challenging for his first world title.
“I’ve got this far by getting experience early in my professional career after the 2012 Olympics when I was sparring a lot of big names and learned a lot from it,” Spence told ESPN.
“It helps being in training camps with champions, seeing how they train and handle the build-up to championships fights.
“You get to pick up things from them and learn different things. I was lucky to be in some good gyms early on.
“I trained with Mayweather early on in my career after only three fights. It was a great experience for me, just watching him hitting the bag and watching how hard he trained and worked.
“I sparred with Floyd too, I did great work, it was tit for tat. I never imagined myself sparring with Floyd Mayweather that early on in my career. I’ve also sparred with Adrien Broner and Lamont Peterson, which were great experiences.
“When I sparred Floyd, I earned his respect. Now he will call me on Facetime, he will text me to check up on me and see how I’m doing and stuff like that.”
Mayweather was in London last weekend to see Gervonta Davis, who he promotes, beat Briton Liam Walsh in an IBF world super-featherweight title defence.
And Mayweather said afterwards he fancies his fellow American to take Brook’s crown.
“Errol Spence is a hell of a fighter,” said Mayweather.
“I have to lean towards Errol Spence. But, we’ve never seen him in the late rounds, a lot of fighters fight well in the first six. “He’s a good puncher and boxer. Sometimes we’re put in positions, it brings the best out of us. He can take advantage of what is going to bring the best out of him.”
Victory over Brook would earn Spence the IBF belt and put him in the mix for possible big future match-ups against the likes of WBA-WBC champion Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs), super lightweight champion Terence Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs) and WBO title-holder Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs).
One of boxing’s most competitive divisions also features the likes of Shawn Porter (27-2-1, 17 KOs) and Amir Khan (31-4, 19 KOs), who are both ringside on Saturday, and Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs).
And 2012 Olympian Spence believes he has the potential to become one of boxing’s biggest stars.
“I think so, the names are there for me to fight to become the next great boxer,” Spence told ESPN.
“The weight class is stacked full of great guys, there are a lot of big fights out there for me.
“You have guys coming up from 140pounds and there are so many good champions already in the weight class. I could be the next guy if I keep winning.”
Brook’s last fight against Golovkin was up at middleweight and the Briton considered stepping up a division before signing to fight mandatory challenger Spence in a fourth title defence.
But Spence does not believe weight will be a defining factor.
“I don’t think it’s an issue at all,” Spence told ESPN.
“Everyone has problems making weight. If you are a boxer you don’t fight at your natural weight and I have trouble and everyone has trouble making weight. I don’t think it’s an issue in the fight.”
Brook has recovered from surgery on a broken eye socket suffered in his defeat to Triple G and Spence says the Briton has yet to face a tough test since winning the belt from Porter on points in Carson, California, three years ago.
“People have wanted him to fight other champions or ex champions or bigger names and he hasn’t done that so from a fan’s perspective I get why people say that he’s not fought anyone or the other champions in the division,” Spence told ESPN.
Spence insists he in unconcerned about the hostile reception he will get at Bramall Lane.
“I’ve got a bit of experience fighting in front of hostile crowds from the amateurs, fighting national champions in South America where they had a lot of blow horns,” Spence told ESPN.
“I’m not worried about that at all come fight night. I don’t get caught up in it all. It’s something that just comes natural, I take everything in my stride.