Spence, Tepora: Missed opportunity

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

Errol Spence Jr.  has been cleared to fight again, and his potential opponents are pouncing on his vulnerability. In August, Spence was diagnosed with a retinal detachment or break in his left eye. This caused him to miss what would have been a brilliant opportunity to fight in what became Manny Pacquiao’s last foray into the ring. The undefeated Spence (27 wins, 21 knockouts), who holds the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation world welterweight championships, was the fighter replaced by Yordenis Ugas, who has since been catapulted to the greatest recognition he has ever had.

Now that he is back as a force and a threat, his rivals are hoping that Spence’s confidence has taken a hit, and are knocking him down a notch on social media. After being knocked out for the first time in his career by World Boxing Organization welterweight champ Terence Crawford, Shawn Porter says that Crawford is better than Spence Jr.  Porter lost a fight for the IBF and WBC belts to Spence by split decision in 2019. Both fighters are among the names being mentioned in a potential unification series involving Spence while the World Boxing Association is still going through a four-man tournament (including Ugas) to determine its true welterweight king.

Unlike other injuries like broken bones,  the eyes are part of the face. Any injury can effect your equilibrium, coordination, balance, peripheral vision, estimation of distance, depth perception, and so on. Anything that adversely affects a boxer’s field of vision leaves one vulnerable. You may not see punches until they’re too close to block or duck. Worse, it may make one self-conscious. It’s something that will be a constant distraction. (World flyweight champion Pancho Villa lost his very last fight, because he had to keep one hand up to protect his jaw, as he had a tooth infection going into the ring. In the back of his mind, Spence may have the risk of permanent damage to his eye. Focus would be crucial in a possible unification match with the similarly undefeated Crawford. Spence was also injured in 2019, when he got thrown from his Ferrari as it tumbled along a Texas highway. Spence was at ringside for Porter-Crawford, shaking his head disparagingly at the fight before leaving early.

Meanwhile, former WBA interim world featherweight champion Jhack Tepora is getting back into the ring two years after suffering his first loss. Tepora (21 wins, 1 loss with 17 KOs), announced in October that he was fighting in Bohol in December. The 26-year old was in the news two months ago for ragging on world featherweight title contender Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo. The two quickly patched things up.

In December of 2019, Tepora was knocked out by Oscar Escandon, the latter’s only victory in his last five fights. Unfortunately, Tepora’s bout is only local, against a replacement fighter, and may not get him the international attention he needs. Also, he is fighting in a higher weight class, where he has to prove himself all over again. Hopefully, he can make the transition back to world contender while he still has time.

For Spence and Tepora, their greatest adversary may just be the one between their ears.

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