This year has been an awful year for many by all accounts, but for Errol Spence Jr 2020 will see him return to the thing he loves: boxing.
Just 14 months ago, Spence was fighting for his life following a horrifying car crash – which came just days after he became a unified welterweight champion following his victory over Shawn Porter to add the WBC world welterweight title to the IBF belt he took from Kell Brook in 2017.
It’s been a long road to recovery for the 30-year-old with his comeback against Danny Garcia on Saturday bound to be a blockbuster affair.
Errol Spence, pictured with his two daughters Ivy and Violet in September, survived a car crash and is miraculously set for his return to the ring as he prepares to fight again in Texas
Spence Jr won the IBF world welterweight title when he beat Kell Brook in Sheffield in 2017
Given the extent of the damage it was remarkable that he survived the near-fatal accident
It will be a challenging bout for Spence who was in the conversation as the No 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world before his traumatic accident.
On Saturday, the American will get scrutinised by a boxing public who are intrigued to see if he is still the same WBC and IBF welterweight champion prior to that almost life-changing moment on October 10.
In the early hours of that night he was on his way home from a nightclub when he crashed and flipped his white Ferrari at around 3am near I-30, Dallas. All of this while not wearing a seat belt.
The impact of the crash is said to have thrown him out of the white, £222,740 ($300,000) Ferrari 488 Spider along Riverfront Boulevard in downtown Dallas.
Spence was rushed to Methodist Dallas Medical Center and immediately was referenced as being in a serious condition.
Dallas Police released a statement later that afternoon reading: ‘At 2:53am a Ferrari traveling at a high rate of speed northbound in the 500 S. Riverfront Blvd… The Ferrari veered left over the centre median onto the southbound lanes and flipped multiple times ejecting the driver who was not wearing a seat belt.
Spence Jr suffered facial lacerations and hurt his teeth in the accident 14 months ago
‘The driver was taken to an area hospital where he is expected to live, but remains in ICU. The driver, a black male 29-years-old, was the only occupant in the vehicle. The name of the driver will be released at a later [time]. The cause of the accident is undetermined at this time.’
Miraculously Spence survived and, more remarkably, without breaking a single bone in his body – with only facial lacerations and damage to his teeth as the outcome of the incident.
Days later he posted on social media (before deleting it due to a backlash): ‘No broken bones, I’m a savage!!’
While everyone was pleased with his outcome, many felt his post was of poor taste as he had been charged with drink driving. Earlier in the evening of that car crash, Spence posted an Instagram story showing a friend dancing in the Sidebar nightclub in Dallas.
The long comeback hasn’t been an all signing and dancing affair for Spence who has admitted there were moments at the start of it when he thought about quitting.
Spence Jr crashed his Ferrari while not wearing a seat belt and didn’t break a bone
He is now preparing to take on Danny Garcia (right) in his comeback contest on Saturday
However, the thoughts of his three children (five-year-old Ivy, three-year-old Violet – and later by the impending birth of his son, Errol III, who was born in November) made him think otherwise.
‘There were a lot of times I wanted to give up, I wanted to quit,’ Spence said during a press conference on Wednesday.
‘But just seeing my loved ones and not wanting to let my kids down, because when they get older, how I’m gonna tell them to keep going, when they wanna quit at something, if I had quit?
‘So when I went to the clinic and went to the doctors, and they told me basically I didn’t have any brain swelling or any blood [on] my brain or anything like that, I decided to continue my career and to get back. And that’s basically what we did.’
The talented boxer is back to his best according to those who have seen him back training
A strong and skilful southpaw, Spence didn’t spar again until September 28 – the one-year anniversary of his split-decision victory over Porter in their 12-round welterweight title unification fight.
And it was in those practice rounds that his long-time trainer Derrick James was convinced that his boxer hadn’t lost any of his devastating skills.
‘When he started sparring, that’s when I knew,’ James told BoxingScene.com.
‘Deep into the training camp, when he started sparring, that’s when I said, “Man, OK.” Everything was going as scheduled, but people can shadowbox and hit the mitts and look phenomenal. It’s routine. They know how to do that.
‘But for him to be able to come into the ring and be able to box and spar, and see his reaction time, that’s when I knew.
‘You’re kind of waiting for whatever, but then when he gets hit, you say, “OK, he’s good to go”.’
The southpaw was regarded by some fans as the No 1 pound-for-pound talent in the world
In his victories over Brook and Porter, Spence underlined his class as he demonstrated he can fight both on the outside and inside. Those natural qualities saw many view him as the No 1 pound-for-pound boxer and salivating at the prospect of a showdown with American welterweight rival Terence Crawford.
Spence is under no illusions that people are doubting his credentials and that’s why he chose to fight Garcia – an elite fighter who has been a two-weight world champion.
‘The only thing I’m gonna prove [is] that I’m still the same,’ he said on Wednesday.
‘And I’m a realist. I’m realistic. I know people have a lot of questions. Am I still the same? Am I a shell of myself? And if I would’ve looked at the accident and somebody [else] would’ve had [it], I would’ve said the same thing, too. And I would’ve had questions, too. So, you know, that’s basically the questions that need to be answered.
‘And I felt like that wouldn’t have been answered if I woulda fought, you know, lighter competition. So, I feel like, you know, a lot of stuff will be answered come December 5, that people have, [people] that haven’t been in the gym need to see.
The 30-year-old fighter is looking forward to proving his doubters wrong and moving on
‘So, you know, I just expect for myself to be a 100 per cent on point, sharp, and, you know, just accurate with my shots.’
The fighter nicknamed ‘The Truth’ will hope to back up his words at the AT&T Stadium in Texas. If he does that then the mouthwatering bout with WBO welterweight champion Crawford could finally be made and settle the debate as to who is the best.
For now though, the 30-year-old isn’t looking past beating Garcia.
‘It’ll definitely be gratifying, answering those questions and all the naysayers that are so sure that I won’t be the same,’ he told BoxingScene.com.
‘It definitely motivates me to keep grinding, to focus and to keep training hard and stay on my game and stay on my grind because I know that people are waiting on me to say, “I told you so. I told you I was right,” and this and that. So, you know, I’m anxious just to prove a lot of people wrong.’
After surviving that near-fatal crash, Spence has tunnel vision of solely reasserting himself at the top of the welterweight division, starting Saturday.
Kell Brook felt the ability of Spence Jr first hand and it was too much for him to handle