Eroll Spence Jr. wants all the smoke. This Saturday (April 16), the undefeated boxer will fight for the WBC, IBF and WBA welterweight championships against Yordenis Ugas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In advance of the bout, Errol has been embracing every second leading up to this point. “You know, it's been a long layoff since my eye injury," he tells XXL on his off-day of preparation. "I'm just ready to get back in the ring in front of my hometown fans and put on a great show and a great event."
The world-renowned southpaw has been prepping for this performance for months now. During that time, hip-hop has provided the soundtrack to his grind, per usual. He notes that as of late, the voices of artists like Jay-Z, Yella Beezy, Trapboy Freddy, Yo Gotti, Moneybagg Yo and Lil Baby—who he’d love to walk out to the ring with one day—have been ringing through the gym. But Spence’s history with rap music goes back to his childhood, when his father would make him listen to LL Cool J and KRS-One.
By the time Errol Spence began sprouting into a young man and one of the country’s best boxers, he took a liking to artists like Hov (his favorite rapper of all time), Nas, Biggie and J. Cole. Specifically, Cole’s The Come Up and The Warm Up tapes hit home. “When he was coming up, he was talking more about grinding and how he couldn’t wait to be on top. So I was on that too,” Spence says of his connection to Cole’s music. When asked about a project that would define his career so far and be featured in a documentary on his life, he went on to stamp 50 Cent’s gangsta classic Get Rich or Die Tryin’ as the fitting mood music.
Though drastically different in terms of artistry, one thing every rapper above has in common is their ability to sell a character. According to Spence, whose love for the genre clearly runs deep, that’s where the lines of hip-hop and boxing merge the most. “What Floyd [Mayweather] did was more of a hip-hop type thing where he was trying to basically make himself into a star," Spence explains. "So, he used cars, jewelry and money. And that's basically what rappers do. A lot of boxers try to get their image from rappers.”
On the contrary, hip-hop heads have familiarized themselves with Errol’s profession as well. Over the last few years, more artists have put their gloves on and hit the gym to train. The clips surface every other week at this point. And some talents, take for example DDG and Blueface, have already made their semi-professional bouts in the ring. With others like Lil Tjay and YK Osiris turning their backyards into one. But who really has hands though? There’s no one better fit to judge that than the current unified welterweight champion and undefeated talent in Eroll Spence Jr., who currently holds a record of 27-0 (21 knockouts).
Here, the Dallas-bred athlete gives his unfiltered commentary on which rapper could actually thrive in the sport and who needs to put in more work. Here, the rating system is out of five gloves, with one being the worst and five being the best. See how everyone from Drake to Kendrick Lamar fared below and watch Errol Spence’s pay-per-view showdown this weekend on Showtime.
"He's screaming with it, too. He looks like he got a lil pop. He's got a nice stance. He's got a good right hand, too. And he's gotta keep that chin down. That's how a lot of people get clipped, keeping that chin area like that. He looks like he has good power. He's gotta keep that left hand up though, man. That's trouble. That's how you get put to sleep.
He’s not protecting himself. Everybody tries to be like Mayweather and keep that low guard like that. You can tell he's been training. Let me find out. He's probably been training at J Prince Jr.'s boxing gym in Houston. He's definitely not trash. I done seen worse."
Coi LerayRating: 2.5 Gloves
“Man, that bag weighs more than her. She's about 110 pounds. Her stance is alright, but I mean, she needs to turn more of her punches. She needs a coach, for sure, but her stance is cool though. The way she's throwing and the way she's standing, she's standing better than a lot of these other rappers.
Nah, she ain't gonna be hitting [when it comes to her punches connecting]. She ain't hurting nobody with that. She look like she's playing. But that ain't bad. She got a nice lil post up game."
“Ah man, yeah. That's why they be picking up guns right there. I don't know what that is. I listened to his whole album, but he don't be talking about fighting and stuff or shooting. I'm glad because nah, that ain't it. But that's the thing though, they gotta stop people from recording and posting this stuff.
Record it, go home and watch it and critique yourself. And yo partner ain't really yo partner if they're letting you post that. If that was my partner, I'd be like, ‘Nah, bruh. We're gonna practice some more and then we'll post it.’ ’Cause that ain't it. He can't even sneak anybody and knock him out with that.”
Rick RossRating: 4 Gloves
“I seen Rozay do his stuff. He had a whole bunch of clips of him doing that. His one-two seems solid, too. Like, if he hits you, he'll put you down. Especially [in] other clips. It looks like he's kinda tired in this one. But them other ones when he be throwing that one-two, them boys be hard. He's sounding off. He be going. His footwork needs improvement and he needs to calm down a little bit. He's a little bit too hype. But yeah I definitely see some improvement.”
Maxo KreamRating: 2 Gloves
“This boy has some hand speed. I seen a video where he was street fighting somebody and he beat him up. So, it seems like he's got a lil something. I don't know why he posted that though. He should've posted [himself] hitting the bag. That just looks all types of wrong. Them ain't gonna land. He ain't gonna hit anybody but himself. But the straight punches would land. You can tell he was just playing, though. I gotta see him hitting the bag or something.”
Meek MillRating: 1.5 Gloves
“I hope Meek got better because I seen him a while ago. I don't know, he just probably isn't physically strong or whatever. He ain't gonna hurt nobody either with them. But he's probably like 6 feet, 3 inches and a buck 40. He ain't got no power. And he's keeping his chin area open and all of that.
I respect him for continuing to try though and putting it on camera. But he looks way better than the first one I ever seen. I think he was hitting the bag or something like that. He improved. He looks way better because that other one was bad.”
BluefaceRating: 3.5 Gloves
“His stance is cool. He's gotta keep his hands up. He's a little wild. He's a lot of wild. He's one of them skinny people that be in shape like a muthafucka. He's squared up. You're supposed to be at a stance, at an angle. He's doing it wrong the way he's standing. His stomach is wide open because his left shoulder is standing in front of his right. And he's not at an angle at all.
So, somebody with somebody with some type of know-how experience would hit him right in his stomach. For his size, it seems like he's got some good pop. He looks like he weighs all of 150 pounds, too. He's skin and bone, but it looks like he don't get tired. I see he be in the boxing gym a lot, too. I'd like to see him fight another rapper or something."
Lil Uzi VertRating: 2 Gloves
“He's throwing hard, but he's wild. The lil dudes be having energy like crazy. He don't really have any fundamentals. He's just throwing punches. I know people that fight just like him and they be winning. ’Cause they're so awkward. They throw punches from weird angles and they be hitting you with all types of stuff. But some dudes you can't change.
If you watch this dude named Naseem Hamed, he fought so awkward and so crazy. He [Lil Uzi Vert] kinda fights like him. But he made it work for him. And if you change him, you're gonna mess him up. So, he's gonna have to keep fighting like that. He's super hyper. Yeah, you want him in the club when you fight. A club or a bar.”
Kendrick LamarRating: 4 Gloves
“He seems like he's one of them lil hyper guys. He seems like he's going to be throwing a whole bunch of punches. He's got a decent stance though. I like that. He's moving around, bouncing around. Yeah, he's got a lot of energy. Most rappers be gassed out by now.
His hand speed is pretty decent from what I see. And he's not telegraphing his punches either. He's letting them go and you can't tell that he's throwing it. He ain't pulling all the way back when he punches. But he's definitely in a little bit of shape from the lil clip I saw. He's definitely got potential.”
Slim JxmmiRating: 2.5 Gloves
"I can see him doing that celebrity shit, not going professional or anything like that. He's got the shoes. He's doing a good job of keeping his hands up. [He has to] keep his chin down, especially when he throws punches. Put that chin down. That's how you get knocked out, people leaving it open like that. He looks alright. And it's hard to tell.
You gotta see how somebody is going to react when they get hit. Everybody be cool when they're hitting on you, but how are you gonna act when somebody hits you back on the head? Or on the chin or anywhere? He's decent. You can tell he's been training."
Sauce WalkaRating: 4 Gloves
“He's super hyper, too. He's throwing good hooks. And he's keeping his chin down. Crazy lil overhand. He's got some footwork—how he's moving back and forth. He just needs to calm down or he's gonna get tired super quick. But nah, he's got a lil something. I think he used to box. I remember him saying something like that. He's doing way better than a lot of these rappers. I've seen other clips of him, too.”