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Errol Spence Jr trainer Derrick James doesn’t see need for tune-up return fight

Errol Spence is working through more than just a layoff, but trainer Derrick James is confident he can get right back into the big fights.

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Errol Spence Jr holds the WBC and IBF welterweight titles, and is still considered the top dog at 147 by many, following a 2019 where he dominated Mikey Garcia and unified the two belts by winning a great fight with Shawn Porter.

But the 30-year-old Spence (26-0, 21 KO) isn’t simply looking at a return from a long break due to the COVID-19 shutdown of boxing. He’s also coming back from serious injuries suffered in a one-car accident last autumn, and there has been a lot of speculation about what kind of fighter he’ll be coming back, and how much he might be affected.

As such, the early expectation is that Spence would return in 2020 with a tune-up fight, but the fighter himself has said he’s not looking to do that, and trainer Derrick James tells our colleagues at Fight Hub TV that he doesn’t see the need for one, either.

Instead, James says he’s comfortable with Spence going in right away against Danny Garcia — who seems to be the lead candidate — or Manny Pacquiao or Keith Thurman or even Terence Crawford. (The last one probably isn’t happening yet.)

James says part of it is just Spence feeling very motivated to prove himself again.

“I didn’t have to do much, he’s a motivated individual. He feels like he has a lot to prove, and a lot of people counting him out,” James said. “He’s a guy who’s always going to step up to the test, so he’s going to do that and show the world.”

The trainer continued, saying he’s watched Spence in training and sees enough to go out there at Spence’s side against anyone.

“I think that, first of all, I want what he wants. But at the same time I’m grading him every day, looking at him, his reaction times, his technique, his skill set. We’re gradually getting better, so I don’t think we need that tune-up fight.

“Everybody’s been off now, nobody’s been fighting. So he’ll get a fight, and whoever it is, I don’t think it matters. They’re all great fighters. I just think it’s all about strategy, it’s all about game plan. That’s what it is for every fight. Everybody knows what they can’t do in a fight, what their inadequacies are. You have to work around those things and boost the things that you can do great. So that’s the key element, show what you can do great, and that’s it.”

Only in-ring evidence will be enough to convince everyone that Spence is going to be the same fighter he was when we last saw him, and that will only come with a fight. And even then, if he did a tune-up and “got some rounds in” against a lesser opponent but still won convincingly, there would be talk about how he’d do against better opposition.

For Spence and James, it seems the goal is to just get all that out of the way immediately.

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