Dallas coach Derrick James is just three sleeps from the fight he and his charge Errol Spence have been waiting for.
Spence faces Terence Crawford in a Las Vegas showpiece on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena and James and Spence have all but completed their preparations in a gym just off The Strip.
Spence is looking relaxed and focused, but James is leaving nothing to chance in the final days.
“I’m feeling good, it’s time to go, we’re ready to go,” said James. “It’s been a long time coming, and what we basically got in the business for is this fight in particular – not this fight with this guy – but this fight to become undisputed champion of the world.”
James is referring to the level, to be at the very top of the game. Saturday’s winner will lay a strong claim to be the best boxer on the planet, with one long undefeated run likely to fall by the wayside.
Of course, it was a well-documented phone call between the fighters that finally turned Saturday’s event from dream match to reality. Spence and Crawford thrashed out some significant contractual issues and the fight was made soon after, but James was not involved in the intrinsic details.
“I didn’t know much about it but I’d heard about it,” he said of the call. “I didn’t know what they were talking about but I knew they wanted to fight each other and that’s how you do it, but somebody’s got to come up with the money, that’s the reality of it.”
Sure enough, the money was found and the fight is on. And now James is ready to turn Spence loose. Errol is a multi-faceted fighting machine, and James knows what he has.
“He’s a worker, he’s a hard worker,” James explained. “Tough guy, he’s a fighter and he’s just rough and tough and he’s low key and quiet but when it comes to fight time, he’s a different person.”
And there is always a lot of talk about how much the dramatic Spence car crash of 2019 has altered him physically, but James said Spence has been changed more as a person as a result of it.
Has he witnessed changes in Errol?
“I think I have. He’s always been a great father and great family man, so that’s not the case [that he’s just changed], I just think you see him with his kids more, embracing his kids more, that’s not like he wasn’t doing it before I just think he’s open, and you see him around more.”
James is referring to gratitude, perhaps a love of life and gratefulness that Spence is still here to enjoy it. Spence certainly seemed to be enthused by the welcome he got at yesterday’s Grand Arrivals at the MGM Grand.
But how tight are Spence and James? Are they friends? Is it a father-son-type relationship?
James was matter-of-fact when he said: “We’re pretty tight, as tight as we can be [with him] as a trainer. It doesn’t matter [how close they are], I work for him. I know that, but my job is to put him in check and correct him so regardless of me working for him, that’s what my job title is. I correct you, constantly, if that be the case.”
James is a known taskmaster. He smiles when that’s put to him.
As Spence tapered this week, James could be seen working out alongside his charge, keeping himself physically and mentally ready for what’s the biggest night of his coaching career, too.
James is now one of the go-to coaches in the sport. Former light-heavyweight champion Montell Griffin this week compared James, who also is working with Ryan Garcia, Anthony Joshua, Frank Martin and Jermell Charlo, to Steward, and while James appreciated that, he wanted to praise those who inspired him and were closer to home than the Detroit guru.
“I was an admirer of Emanuel Steward but at the same time we had something going on in Fort Worth, Texas, that was so close to me with Don Curry, Stevie Cruz, Rockin’ Robin Blake, Gene Hatcher… we had like four or five champs 40 miles away from us so we admired [Dave] Gorman’s Gym because that was more tangible, it was real. They had smokers [unlicensed fights] we would go to, so yeah, I admire Emanuel for what he did but I can’t be remiss and mention the [Texas] guys Paul Reyes and Dave Gorman who created five or six champs at the same time.”