Welterweight Champ Errol Spence Will Keep Boxing Til He Starts Getting Hit

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My dad grew up in Hanover, Jamaica. They didn’t have any electricity and running water. They used to have to boil water to get the parasites and things like that out of it so they could drink it. He told me that as a kid, they used to get dewormed. They’d take this pill and then all the worms would come out of them. I can’t imagine living like that.

He came to New York with his nine brothers and sisters. They came separately because they couldn’t pay for everybody to come at one time. My grandma and my grandfather, they worked very hard. My grandma is 96 and still lives in the house in New York where my dad grew up.

My dad met my mom in New York and we moved to Dallas when I was probably two years old. I always loved sports. I basically played everything — soccer, softball, basketball. But football was my first love. As a little kid, I had dreams of becoming an NFL player. I was a big Emmitt Smith fan. I loved Deion Sanders.

My first fight where I made 100 grand, I was thinking about everything I was gonna buy.

My dad is real frugal. He is a real, I would say, cheap person. He’d knock on the door and tell us we were showering too long. I don’t know how he'd know, but if we weren't in the shower and the water was running, he’d get mad and tell us to get in the shower or he’d cut it off. And he’d never let us turn the heat or the AC way up. I guess now that I'm older I realise that you could hear the shower water hit the floor, so he'd know we weren’t in there.

When I was five or six, we used to go to the barbershop down on Pleasant Road and watch all the big-time heavyweight fights. That was when the heavyweights were really doing their thing. Lennox Lewis is from Jamaica so my dad would support him. And Roy Jones was like Superman at the time. But I didn’t get involved physically with boxing until I was 15 years old. I was in love with football and didn’t know much about boxing. I never envisioned becoming a professional boxer. I thought I was just going to do it in the summertime to stay in shape and because my dad didn’t want me to have idle time on my hands.

At first I wanted to quit because the friends who used to ride with me to the gym all quit. It was hard. Hundred-degree weather in the summertime. Running before you work out. I would tell my dad I didn’t want to box anymore. He’d say, “You can't be a follower. You quit on this, you'll quit anything that you do. So I'm not gonna allow you to quit.”

The thing about growing up in a so-called middle-class family is that you don’t get that much time together. My mom was working at the post office eight, nine hours a day, sometimes the night shift. When I first started boxing, my dad was working every day of the week, doing cross-country runs on delivery trucks. Then he’d do more local runs, and then once I got better and started fighting in tournaments, we were together almost 24/7. It was basically just me and him, focused on boxing. It did probably take away from my little sister and older sister and the things they needed.

We were getting paid to be on the Olympic team. It was a thousand dollars a month. That’s all I was making. I was still living with my parents.

We started talking about the Olympics first. But at that point, I was thinking maybe I could make a career out of it cause I was winning fights. I was beating a lot of guys who’d been boxing since they’d been little kids. And my dad was all-in. He was more in than me, I think. My mom was a bit skeptical about it at first, but she was just looking out for my best interests, because it’s hard to make it in boxing.

We were getting paid to be on the Olympic team. It was a thousand dollars a month. That’s all I was making. I was still living with my parents. Guys in other countries, they can make a career out of being an amateur boxer. But USA Boxing doesn’t get government funding. I knew, as soon as the Olympics were over, I was gonna turn pro and make more money.

My manager, Al Haymon, didn’t offer me a huge signing bonus. He was more genuine than everybody else. Me being a young guy, without any guidance, I'm automatically going over to the guy who's offering me a $300,000 or $400,000 signing bonus. I only had about five grand in my bank account at that point. I'm like, “I’m gonna get that money now,” not knowing that I'm gonna have to pay that money back. But my dad made that clear. He said, “You can’t look at the now. You gotta look at the later.” That's why you hear about guys getting screwed over so much, cause they don't have anybody in their life who's giving them the right guidance.

There's a different satisfaction of knowing you provide for your parents, that you can provide for your mother and father, your siblings.

My first fight in 2012, I got paid $4,500. It felt good. I was like, “Man, I can't wait till I fight again.” That was the most money I had ever had at one time. I bought shoes and some clothes and things but I was more excited about seeing my bank account rise.

My first fight where I made 100 grand, I was thinking about everything I was gonna buy. I think it might have been against Ronald Cruz. I was ecstatic. I was like, “Yo, I’ll fight again tomorrow.” The first car I bought was a 2013 Dodge Challenger. I upgraded to a Range Rover recently but now I’m looking at old-school cars, ‘70s Chevelles and things like that.

My parents have a house in DeSoto (near Dallas) and I just paid it all off. There's a different satisfaction of knowing you provide for your parents, that you can provide for your mother and father, your siblings. Anybody needs anything, you know there's the possibility they can come to you. Take the weight off my mom's shoulders. She doesn't have to worry about a mortgage and things like that.

I have two kids, three and two years old. They’ve had trust funds since they were born. For the most part, I try to give them a normal life where I'm not spoiling them and spoiling them and spoiling them. Or they just want, want, want, and then become rotten. I try to make their lives as normal as possible. I won’t raise monsters.

Me personally, I’ve never had a job in my life, except for boxing. I’d like for my kids to play tennis, track, and soccer. Especially tennis. They can work if they want to. But I want to make sure they're real business savvy. Once they reach the ages of 15, 16 years old, I'll have businesses and things they can take over.

I want to invest in a fitness gym. There’s a place called Turkey Leg Hut in Houston. This place is crazy. Dude just got out jail, he started his business, and he makes like $400,000 a week. I’m telling you, the place is packed. Huge line. And I’ve been talking to him about opening one in Dallas, cause we don’t have anything like that.

When I first turned professional, my manager was talking to me about retirement. I never really got it. I'm 20 years old, he's talking to me about what I'm gonna do after retirement, saving my money, and things like that. I'm like, “What is he talking about?” But now I'm older, I'm like, “OK, now I see what he's talking about.” That's how he got my dad's attention and my attention, cause he was talking about securing yourself after boxing. A lot of guys have made millions of dollars and when they retire, they have no income left. I’m always asking questions. Going on Google, researching, asking questions of my advisor.

My dad told me I should only fight for three more years but I think he’s crazy. I’m 29, and I’d probably say I’ll go until I’m 36. Once it’s hard for me to get out of bed and fight and train, and I got younger guys beating me, or I'm getting hit with punches that I shouldn't get hit with, then I'll know it's time to hang it up and retire. In the meantime, I'll just try to make sure I get hit as little as possible.

As told to Brett Martin exclusively for Wealthsimple; transcript edited and condensed for clarity. Illustration by Jenny Mörtsell.

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