Before Errol Spence Jr. unified two welterweight world titles and became a stalwart of the top 10 pound-for-pound rankings and one of boxing’s biggest draws, he was a blue-chip prospect.
He was a 2012 U.S. Olympian and was tabbed for stardom by many from the moment he turned pro. During his rise, he spent time sparring and becoming friendly with now-retired pound-for-pound great Floyd Mayweather.
Mayweather, of course, hung a loss on fellow legend Manny Pacquiao, convincingly outpointing him in their 2015 welterweight title unification mega-fight that crowned the king of the era. The long-awaited showdown set every conceivable revenue record in boxing history, including generating $600 million in gross revenue and setting the all-time pay-per-view mark of 4.6 million buys in the United States.
There was never any particular love between Mayweather and Pacquiao, so it came as no surprise that now that Spence is scheduled to defend his belts against fellow southpaw Pacquiao in the biggest fight of the summer in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card on Aug. 21 (Fox Sports PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Floyd Mayweather has thrown his support behind Spence.
"Errol Spence doesn't need to have advice from Floyd Mayweather because I believe that Errol is better than Mayweather. I think he'd teach Mayweather how to fight toe-to-toe."
— @MannyPacquiao#PacquiaoSpence | AUGUST 21 | FOX PPV pic.twitter.com/dvRJOP3HSr
— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) July 11, 2021
“I wish both guys nothing but the best. But Errol Spence, I want to see him win,” Mayweather recently told Fighthype. “I’m pushing for Errol Spence to win, absolutely. That’s my people.
“Actually, I’m going to call him and give him some pointers.”
When Pacquiao and Spence came face to face on Sunday afternoon at the Fox studios in Los Angeles for their kickoff news conference, which was televised live in the United States on Fox, news conference moderator Heidi Androl of Fox, asked Spence if Mayweather had gotten in touch with him yet to offer his advice on how to fight Pacquiao.
“No, he hasn’t reached out to me yet. He reaches out sometimes and talks to me (before fights),” Spence said. “If he says he’s going to reach out, he probably will.”
At that point, Pacquiao threw shade at Mayweather in response to Androl’s question.
“Errol doesn’t need advice from Floyd Mayweather because I believe Errol is better than Floyd Mayweather,” Pacquiao said. “I think he could teach Floyd Mayweather how to fight toe to toe.”
While Spence said he appreciated Pacquiao’s praise, he was not about to be fooled by it.
“It is a great compliment, but Manny Pacquiao is the kind of guy who will lull you to sleep,” Spence said. “He’ll say a lot of compliments (and show) gratitude and things like that, and as soon as the bell rings, he’ll be jumping all over you.”
— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) July 11, 2021
Pacquiao’s comment about Spence being better than Floyd Mayweather was about the most controversial and ear-catching comment of their 20-minute question-and-answer session with Androl.
Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs), 42, now in the 26th year of a legendary career that has seen him become the only boxer in history to win world titles in eight weight divisions, and Spence, who will be making his sixth title defense, have never been trash talkers. They kept things calm and professional, speaking on their desire to fight the best opposition and give fans a quality fight as their reasons for agreeing to face each other.
Pacquiao, who is also a senator in his native Philippines, will be coming off a 25-month layoff, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic, for his first bout since knocking down Keith Thurman, who is 10 years younger than him, in the first round and winning a decision in July 2019 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Pacquiao took Thurman’s version of the welterweight title and made history as the oldest fighter to win a 147-pound world title at age 40.
Pacquiao, who has since been unceremoniously stripped of the belt by the WBA, could have returned against whomever he wanted and, in fact, there were discussions about him fighting various other opponents, including former four-division titlist Mikey Garcia, young star Ryan Garcia and welterweight titlist Terence Crawford, who he had made a deal with before it fell apart over the Middle Eastern funding falling through.
“There’s a lot of opportunities to pick, not an easy fight, but a much easier fight than compared to Errol Spence,” Pacquiao said. “But I decided to pick Errol Spence because I want to give a good fight to the fans.
“I want a real fight. I’m a fighter, and boxing is my passion. It’s the kind of fight people want.
“Errol Spence is an aggressive fighter. He’s undefeated, young, and dedicated to his career. Errol Spence is not an easy opponent. He’s the kind of fighter that you never underestimate.”
Spence (27-0, 21 KOs), a 31-year-old southpaw from Desoto, Texas, shut out Mikey Garcia in a March 2019 title defense and six months later narrowly outpointed Shawn Porter by split decision to unify two titles in a fight of the year contender. Three weeks after beating Porter, in the early morning hours of Oct. 10, 2019, Spence was involved in a horrific high-speed, one-car crash in Dallas that was caught on video. Spence’s Ferrari flipped multiple times, and he was thrown from the vehicle. He was lucky to survive without serious injuries.
When he returned 15 months later to defend against former two-division titleholder Danny Garcia, Spence did not look like he had missed a beat in a convincing unanimous decision.
He eventually got the call he had hoped for – an offer to face Pacquiao.
“It’s a great opportunity especially coming from my accident, to fight Danny Garcia, and then I get the fight with Manny Pacquiao,” Spence said. “You had a lot of different guys saying that they were going to fight him next. To get that call asking if I want to fight a legend like Manny Pacquiao, I said, ‘Of course. Why not?’ I didn’t give it a second thought.”