By Lem Satterfield
Long before southpaw Errol Spence began drawing comparisons to Hall of Fame boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, “The Truth” sought to sign with the former five-division champion to be an advisor to his professional career after competing for the United States in the 2012 Olympics.
“Right before I first turned pro I sent a video tape to Sugar Ray Leonard. My coach [Derrick James] had the idea first to send some tapes to him,” said Spence to BoxingScene.com.
“I wanted him to be my advisor. I wanted to go his route. It was one of my amateur tapes to show [Leonard] that I could fight and wondering if he would advise my career. I don’t think they ever got back to me.”
Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) ultimately signed with powerful advisor Al Haymon and will be after his third defense and 12th straight knockout against rising four-division champion Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) on Fox at 9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. ET on March 16 in potentially hostile territory at The Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, near Spence’s home in DeSoto, Texas.
“You can let him know that I’ll check with my assistant on what happened [chuckles,] because normally I respond, particularly to young fighters,” said Leonard, 62, who has called Spence “a rare, special fighter and a man who could be successful in any era.”
“There could have been a multitude of things that could have happened [to the video tape.] But I’m glad Errol signed with [Haymon,] because I love the way he fights, his style and what he’s done to have such a great career.”
James wanted to assure that Spence followed a similar path to Leonard, whose staunch advisor was Michael Gene Trainer.
A Silver Spring, Maryland-based attorney who died in 2013 after being the driving force behind “Sugar Ray’s” career, Trainer stood up against promoters despite his reluctance for attention and preference to work in the shadows.
“I didn’t know much about Al [Haymon] at the time, and I knew Ray Leonard basically seemed like he promoted himself but with great management,” said James. “I knew that was a smart way to do it, but as it turns out, being with Al was the way to go.”
A year after the Olympics, Spence made an impression on Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a sparring session the following year at Mayweather’s gym in Las Vegas in 2013.
Spence was preparing for just his fifth pro fight, a first-round TKO of Brandon Hoskins in May 2013, when he sparred with the undefeated Mayweather in advance of the champion’s unanimous decision victory over left-handed Robert Guerrero that same month.
“Looking back, I would have missed out on a great opportunity of signing with Mr. Haymon,” said Spence.
“So everything happens for a reason, but I’ve got a bone to pick with Sugar Ray Leonard. He’s still got one of my tapes somewhere in his office.”