Spence to make first defense against Peterson

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NEW YORK — Welterweight world titleholder Errol Spence Jr. will make his first defense against former titlist Lamont Peterson in January on Showtime.

The date and site have not been determined. Spence was on hand Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the Showtime-televised junior middleweight world title triple-header. He addressed the media before the card began and announced the fight along with promoter Lou DiBella and Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza.

Barclays Center, which would like to host the fight, is one of the venues under consideration for the fight. The date is likely either Jan. 13 or Jan. 20. If the fight is on Jan. 13, it will fall on Spence’s 28th birthday.

Spence (22-0, 19 KOs), a 27-year-old southpaw from DeSoto, Texas, hoped to fight before the end of the year and will finish 2017 with just one bout, but what a fight it was. Spence traveled to Sheffield, England, as the mandatory challenger for hometown titleholder Kell Brook and broke his orbital bone en route to an impressive 11th-round knockout to win a 147-pound title.

Spence, who was the 2015 ESPN.com prospect of the year, said he hopes to get in three fights in 2018 and will begin with Peterson, a former junior welterweight titleholder who gave up a secondary welterweight title sanctioned by another organization earlier this month in order to be eligible to fight for Spence’s belt. Spence has known Peterson for years, and they’ve had a good relationship.

“He’s somebody I looked up to in the amateurs and I learned a lot from,” Spence said. “I had a training camp with him at the Olympic training center. He gave me different advice on how to punch, how to slow down my punches, how to speed ’em up. So he’s a guy I really look up to. He’s one of my favorite fighters.

“He’ll fight anybody. I’ve never known him to duck a fight, say no to a fight. I’m looking forward to it. He’s got true grit. He’s a real fighter. He’s a guy who gives it his all and has a big heart.”

Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KOs), 33, of Washington, D.C., has been quite inactive. He fought only once in 2015, a controversial decision win against Felix Diaz, did not fight at all in 2016 and had just one fight in 2017, a unanimous decision against Russia’s David Avanesyan to win a secondary title on Feb. 18.

Spence, who is a promotional free agent, elected to go with the Peterson fight as set up by adviser Al Haymon rather than accept an offer to sign with Golden Boy Promotions, which promoted his first 15 fights and has been after him. Golden Boy offered him $2.5 million to challenge junior middleweight world titleholder Miguel Cotto (41-5, 33 KOs) on Dec. 2 at Madison Square Garden in New York in an HBO fight Cotto has said will be his final bout. Spence turned down the deal that would have also included a longer-term promotional agreement with Golden Boy and an exclusive contract with HBO, according to sources with knowledge of the offer.

However, according to one of the sources, Spence was promised $3.5 million by Haymon for his next fight to stay with him. Spence didn’t get into the specifics of the offer but said he was indeed offered a deal by Golden Boy and simply was not interested.

“The offer was made from Golden Boy. I mean, everybody’s been trying to get me if you’re a promoter since I turned pro. And I just declined,” Spence said. “I don’t want a promoter right now. I feel like I’m starting my own promotional company, probably later next year and do my own thing. I’m already fighting on network [television], I’m already the main event, and I’m already getting great money. So I don’t see what a promoter can offer me.”

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