Attention to detail, high standards and empathy – why Spence believes in-demand James is the best

Errol Spence has revealed the attention to detail and demanding nature that have made Derrick James the world’s most sought-after trainer.

On Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Spence and James confront their greatest test when he finally fights Terence Crawford in the biggest fight of 2023.

James has become one of their sport’s busiest figures owing to, off the back of his admirable success with Spence and the Charlos, him also being recruited by Anthony Joshua and Ryan Garcia as they attempt to rebuild their careers following high-profile defeats.

Among the observers predicting victory for Spence on Saturday are those doing so in the belief that, in comparison with Brian “BoMac” McIntyre, who works with Crawford, he has the superior trainer.

That the 33-year-old Spence – Crawford is 35 – is an 11-year professional and has worked with him for so long perhaps makes him more knowledgeable than any other about the Texas-based James’ abilities, and asked about the trainer’s greatest strength, he responded: “The details. Details how he always – even if you’re doing it the right way, he’s still going to remind you. 

“Like, ‘Keep your hands up’. A lot of the time I’m like, ‘I am keeping my hands up’. He’s like, ‘I know you’re keeping your hands up – I’m just reminding you, keep your hands up’. He’s very detailed; he works on the small things; the small things can add up to big things. Especially if there’s a lot of them. So we work on the small things. 

“And what’s good about him is he don’t try to change you. He has little bits and pieces he need to change, but he don’t try to change you. Like Naseem Hamed – how crazy he fights – he wouldn’t try and change him and try to make him fight like Marco Antonio Barrera. He’d just add little pieces to his game. But he’d keep it the same ‘cause it works for him.

“He used to be a boxer. So he knows how it is – how you’re feeling. When you’re losing weight, or it’s five weeks [out from fight night] and you’re feeling weak. ‘Alright, that’s enough. We don’t have to do that much today.’ ‘Cause he know you’re feeling sluggish, or you’re feeling down. I feel like he can relate more to a boxer, ‘cause he was an ex-boxer. So he know how it is when you’re losing weight. 

“He know how it is when it’s a sore day in the gym. He know how it is when you had a hard day and the next day you’re feeling kind of down and sluggish. I feel like he relates to the boxer more because he was actually a professional boxer. He done eight, 10 rounds before he fall out of the amateurs. So he come from more of a, ‘I understand’ of first bases because he understands that he was once of us.”

James is also in the process of preparing Joshua for a significant fight with Dillian Whyte, on August 12, working with Garcia for the first time, and overseeing Jermell Charlo’s preparations for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on September 30.

“Derrick hasn’t changed anything for me,” Spence continued. “Everybody get there on time. I see Frank [Martin] in the gym, or I might see Anthony Joshua, but it’s like, through passing. My time’s over; I’m leaving the gym, then I see Frank, or I see Anthony Joshua, or I might see Ryan Garcia. 

“We never train at the same time. I might train with Frank at the same time, or if we have something to do I might train with Anthony at the same time, but everybody has their set time when they come and they train.”