<
>

Unbeaten Spence aiming for knockout against Algieri

Unbeaten welterweight prospect Errol Spence Jr. will face his toughest challenge to date when he meets Chris Algieri on April 16. Ed Diller/DiBella Entertainment

Welterweight Errol Spence Jr. was a 2012 U.S. Olympian, the 2015 ESPN.com prospect of the year and is regarded by many as the finest young fighter in boxing. But like any young boxer who has not yet faced a serious opponent, it is hard to truly assess his potential.

That is where Chris Algieri comes in. The former junior welterweight titleholder is expected to give Spence his toughest test but he still has his own plans for future accomplishments in the sport, so something has got to give when they hook up in a 10-round welterweight fight that will headline a Premier Boxing Champions card on April 16 (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Spence has been flawless so far as a pro but has faced nobody near the quality of fighter as Algieri.

"A lot of people have been asking me when I was going to fight top competition," Spence said Wednesday during a news conference to promote the fight. "When you look good in the ring, nobody wants to fight you. Established guys don't want to fight you, so I want to thank Chris Algieri for taking this fight.

"It would be a major statement if I could stop Chris Algieri. He has been in there with hard-punchers, so I'm looking to make a statement about my power. Especially for me being a young contender, it would just show everything I have in my arsenal and where I'm going in my career."

The televised portion of the card will also include two other bouts: cruiserweight titleholder Krzysztof Glowacki (25-0, 16 KOs), of Poland, making his first defense against former two-time titleholder Steve Cunningham (28-7-1, 13 KOs), of Philadelphia, and blue-chip light heavyweight prospect Marcus Browne (17-0, 13 KOs), a 2012 U.S. Olympian from Staten Island, New York, against Radivoje "Hot Rod" Kalajdzic (21-0, 14 KOs), a native of Bosnia and Herzegovina living in Saint Petersburg, Fla., in a 10-round bout.

Lou DiBella, who is promoting the card, said he expects Algieri to give Spence his first legitimate test.

"Errol Spence Jr. is as talented of a kid as I've seen come on the scene in 10 years or so. That's how much talent I believe he has," DiBella said. "That being said, he hasn't faced a guy like Chris Algieri, who is a guy who can do anything in the ring and is a former world champion.

"The fact that Errol is stepping up and that Chris is willing to face Errol says a lot about both guys. These are two confident [fighters]. The winner of this fight will make big money very quickly."

If Spence, a 26-year-old southpaw from the Dallas suburb of DeSoto, Texas, has his way he will be on his way to a shot at a world title before the end of the year. An impressive win over Algieri would go a long way to making that a strong possibility.

"I want a world title this year," Spence said. "I want the winner of the Kell Brook versus Kevin Bizier fight. I would definitely go to the U.K. I'd fight any of the champions, but I can't look past Chris Algieri. I'm 100 percent focused on him."

Brook (35-0, 24 KOs) is scheduled to make his mandatory defense against Canada's Bizier (25-2, 17 KOs) on March 26 in Sheffield, England, Brook's hometown. Spence (19-0, 16 KOs) is close to the mandatory position for the winner.

"This is a very important fight. Chris Algieri is a tough fighter," Spence said. "All of his fights have been exciting and we're looking to make it exciting and one-sided. I'm looking to dominate the whole fight.

"From watching Algieri, I know he has good footwork and likes to box. Recently it seems like he has become more aggressive and standing his ground a bit more. I'm ready for either style. I don't really care if I get tested. I want to perform and show my skill set. I'm going to answer a lot of questions people have in the ring. I know I'll be the next big star in boxing. I just have to stay grounded, do what I've been doing and listen to my team. The sky is the limit."

The 32-year-old Algieri (21-2, 8 KOs), who is from Huntington, New York, on Long Island and will be the crowd favorite, is coming off a hard-fought decision win against Erick Bone on Dec. 5 at the Barclays Center but is only 1-2 since he upset Ruslan Provodnikov by controversial split decision (also at the Barclays Center) to win a junior welterweight belt.

Algieri never defended the title, instead accepting an offer to challenge then-welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao in Macau, China. Algieri got dominated and dropped six times in a one-sided decision loss, which he followed with a closer decision loss to Amir Khan at the Barclays Center last May before the victory against Bone.

"It's exciting to be back in the main event on the world stage," Algieri said. "I take every fight very seriously and I prepare my best each time. It's just another day at the office. I'm looking forward to working extremely hard and being as prepared as possible. I've never picked who I step in the ring with. My job is to prepare, fight and win. On April 16 that is exactly what I'm going to do."

Like Spence, Algieri's goal is also to earn a world the opportunity.

"Every fight going forward is about winning and moving towards a welterweight title," Algieri said. "Every fight is one step closer to getting my opportunity. This win over Errol Spence Jr. will propel me into fights with the biggest names. I have to beat everybody who is in front of me. That's what this fight is.

"Spence is just another guy in the welterweight division. I've always said I'm willing to fight the top guys in my weight class and whether he's the top guy now or will be one day, it doesn't matter."

Algieri said Spence is getting a lot of hype without having proven himself against a quality opponent such as himself.

"Spence hasn't fought anyone. I don't think he has fought a guy who has tried to win," Algieri said. "To label me as a gatekeeper against someone who hasn't made real fights isn't really a fair distinction.

"He has done all his work against guys who were tailor made for him to beat up. He hasn't fought a guy with footwork or a guy who can box. He hasn't fought many guys who were in there to win. It will be a really eye-opening experience for him and a lot of people on April 16."