/Errol Spence looks to complete his road to recovery from near-fatal accident with a win over Danny Garcia
Errol Spence looks to complete his road to recovery from near-fatal accident with a win over Danny Garcia

Errol Spence looks to complete his road to recovery from near-fatal accident with a win over Danny Garcia

When thinking back to the last time he was in a boxing ring some 14 months ago, Errol Spence Jr. doesn’t mince words when tasked to describe where his life was at the time.

Feeling like he was “on top of the world,” the unbeaten welterweight champion had just defied his own trainer’s game plan to box Shawn Porter and went on to out brawl him in one of 2019’s best fights to edge their pay-per-view matchup by split decision. What followed immediately after for the 30-year-old star was constant partying and an immediate trip to Miami with his closest friends.

Spence (26-0, 21 KOs), who had cemented himself among boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters, even had a PPV blockbuster already scheduled to follow up the big win when it was announced he would face former two-division champion Danny Garcia in January.

Just two weeks after the Porter win, however, Spence endured a life-changing scare that he claims has forever changed his life when, on his way home from partying at a club, he drove drunk at high speeds and flipped his Ferrari 488 Spider multiple times in Dallas before being ejected from the vehicle.

Saying months later he felt as if angels were protecting him on the night of Oct. 10, 2019, Spence survived the crash with a few scrapes and bruises, no broken bones and, from a surgical standpoint, simply in need of a new set of teeth.

“I should have lost my life that night,” Spence, a father of three, has echoed multiple times in the aftermath while using terms like “miracle” to describe why he feels, spiritually, as if he was given a second chance at life.

The fight with Garcia didn’t go on as planned after the accident and the subsequent coronavirus pandemic allowed Spence, who was later convicted of DWI charges, more time to take stock of his life and make sure, both physically and mentally, he’s truly ready for a return to boxing.

Without a tuneup fight of any kind, Spence will put all of the concerns surrounding him to the test on Saturday when his IBF and WBC titles are at stake against Garcia (Fox PPV, 9 p.m. ET) in the main event of Premier Boxing Champions PPV card from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Not surprisingly, most of the questions Spence has fielded ahead of this fight — outside the never-ending ones asking when he will finally square off with WBO champion Terence Crawford — has surrounded whether he can still be the same fighter post-accident that he was before.

If actions often do a better job answering a question than words, Spence has seemingly done everything right to give himself the best possible chance. That has included not only curtailing his self-described “reckless” life of partying for a more traditional family approach by moving his home from Dallas out to the country, it has involved putting his health first by not allowing himself to get out of shape between fights.

“The biggest change is going back to basically when I got started and just focused exclusively on boxing,” Spence told “Morning Kombat” last week. “I just moved back into a ranch house and I have cattle and horses with more land. I can go outside without living in the high rises and hearing noise at 7 a.m. in the morning with cranes and construction. Basically, it’s taking it back to square one where it’s just nothing but gym work and staying ready rather than just getting ready when it’s time to fight.”

When it comes to his accident, Spence doesn’t remember any of it, including anything that happened in the hours leading up. In fact, Spence additionally has zero memory of the subsequent three weeks he spent in the hospital recovering.

Whether it turns out to be a blessing in disguise or not from the standpoint of helping him move past the life-threatening moment emotionally, Spence’s first memory is when he woke up at home nearly one month after the crash took place. To make sure everything was fine in terms of his brain, he went on to take numerous tests at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and was cleared to begin training again.

In order to heal from the multiple surgeries on his teeth, Spence wasn’t allowed to begin sparring for the first time until late spring, which brought with it a bit of a judgement day scenario where those close to Spence’s camp, including trainer Derrick James and his father, Errol Spence Sr., had a chance to see firsthand whether the fighter was ready.

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“I didn’t have any concerns at all. The only concern was the questions that I knew my coach or my dad had,” Spence said. “Basically, it was answering those questions. They never said it but I just knew [their questions were] could I still take a punch and were my reflexes still good. If it wasn’t like that, they would never let me step foot back in the ring. Everything went well and they basically told me what I was doing right instead of things I needed to work on. It didn’t feel awkward.”

James echoed those thoughts during an appearance last month on the “Last Stand” podcast with Brian Custer when he talked about specifically focusing on Spence’s timing and how quickly he was able to slip punches.

“There was never any doubt because I know what kind of guy he is,” James said. “He’s a competitor and if there are any deficiencies, by fight time there won’t be any. I haven’t seen any thus far because I know he is a competitor and he has pushed himself to be great.

“I believe [the Garcia fight] will show that Errol was the same guy he was before and the accident was just a small hiccup and now he’s back. The point will be proven that he is the guy who wants to be here for the long haul.”

The fact that Spence insisted on being matched tough for his return without a comeback fight also spoke to his competitiveness. The 32-year-old Garcia (36-2, 21 KOs) remains at the peak of his prime having only lost disputed decisions in fun fights against Porter and Keith Thurman.

But Garcia seems to be the only person who isn’t interested at all as to which version of Spence might show up this weekend and has chosen to focus exclusively on what he brings to the table.

“Right now, I’m just focusing on Danny Garcia and am making sure that I’m ready,” Garcia told “Morning Kombat” last week. “I can’t worry about whether he is ready, I have to make sure that I’m ready and I’m doing everything I can do to be ready for this fight.

“I’ve got to him hard and I think the truth shall be told once he takes my hit.”

Because of Garcia’s resume and the danger he brings, Spence believes this fight is among the most important of his career and imagines a victory would taste particularly sweet given everything he has endured.

“With everything that happened and me coming back to work to get back to this spot, it will definitely be special,” Spence said. “It will probably be my second most meaningful victory besides the Kell Brook fight and fighting in someone else’s hometown.

“Coming off my accident and fighting at home, this is my return fight and fighting a great fighter like Danny Garcia where nobody has blown him out of the water. If it’s not the first than it’s definitely the second [most important fight]. It’s huge.”