Welterweight world titleholder Errol Spence Jr. is considered by many to be the most talented fighter in the weight class, a multi-dimensional boxer and a possible future pound-for-pound king. If boxers were stock, pretty much everybody would be loading up on shares of Spence.
He was a 2012 U.S. Olympian, looked unbeatable on his way up the pro ladder and then traveled to Kell Brook's hometown of Sheffield, England in May and ruthlessly disposed of him in the 11th round to win a world title.
After inexplicably not getting a fight for the rest of 2017, Spence is set for his first title defense in the main event of the first major card of 2018, and he is not in easy. He will face former two-division world titleholder Lamont Peterson, who vacated a secondary welterweight world title to facilitate the match, which will take place on Saturday (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Spence can burnish his résumé by notching the second-best win of his career behind the Brook victory, and Peterson, fighting for the first time in 11 months -- and for only the second time since October 2015 -- can force himself back into the conversation for myriad major fights in one of boxing's deepest weight classes.
In the co-feature, lightweight world titleholder Robert Easter Jr. (20-0, 14 KOs), 26, of Toledo, Ohio, will make his third defense when he faces former junior lightweight titlist Javier Fortuna (33-1-1, 23 KOs), a 28-year-old southpaw from the Dominican Republic.
This is your ESPN.com Ringside Seat for the fight:
Errol Spence Jr. (22-0, 19 KOs) vs. Lamont Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KOs)
There are few who think Spence-Peterson will be anything less than an entertaining fight.
The fighters have been friends for several years, have sparred with each other and have fan-friendly styles, but neither plans to let that get in the way of a rough fight.
Spence, a southpaw from DeSoto, Texas, and Peterson, of Washington, D.C., have been gentlemen outside the ring -- no trash talking at all -- but they (and most everyone else) expect a high-level and exciting fight.
"I think it's going to turn into a war," said Spence, who turned 28 last Saturday. "A lot of people have thought this would be an easy fight for me. But if you follow Lamont Peterson, you know this will be tough. He's always in great shape and has a lot of skills. It might be a dogfight, and that's what I wanted. He's the guy who wanted to fight, and I said of course. It's going to be a rugged fight. Later on in the fights, he always gets rough and stands toe-to-toe.
"There might not be a lot of talking and bad blood between us, but you know that the two of us always give a great fight for the fans. Everyone who has seen me fight before knows it won't be a boring fight. Even if it's one-sided, it's always going to be action-packed.
"Lamont and I both have big hearts, and I think everyone will be able to see that in the ring. We're both smart fighters so there might be some feeling out before we get going. But I expect it to be a dogfight."
"I'm excited and looking forward to the skill level that's going to be displayed this weekend," said Peterson, who turns 34 on Wednesday. "It's going to be a rough fight for sure. But I look forward to the technique and skill level. Defense, offense and transitioning between the two. That's the part of boxing that I love.
"Errol Spence is clearly a great fighter. I can see why people revere him in that way. But on Saturday, we're going to give him a fight and he's going to have to prove it. I think the fans are really going to like this one. We may start out feeling each other, but I know from the way we both fight that it's going to turn into a war pretty quickly."
The welterweight division boasts many top fighters and big names. Some fights are not so easy to make because of network and promoter/manager affiliations, which, for the time being at least, means it is unlikely for there to be a Spence fight against the likes of Terence Crawford or Manny Pacquiao or a unification bout against titlist Jeff Horn. But Spence is in the same Al Haymon-managed stable with fighters such as unified titleholder Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter.
"A true champion can't fight everybody who calls them out; it's still a business. But a true champion fights other champions, especially when they're available," Spence said. "You can't avoid questions and try to delay a fight. You fight the next champion that's available; that's what a true champion does."
But Peterson is the one who agreed to face Spence even though his preference is to face Thurman to unify three of the belts as soon as possible.
"I had to wait for my title defense, and then I had a lot of guys not answer the call for this fight," Spence said. "I have a belt and I still have to call these other guys out. Lamont Peterson answered the call like a real fighter. In a perfect world I'd be unifying with Keith Thurman this year. I'm going to fight three times this year though. You don't get time back. I'm ready to strike now.
"There are so many guys in the welterweight division. I want to clean them all out. If I keep beating the top guys, I'll be the last one standing. I'm going to dominate like I've been doing. I'm not going to wait around for unification fights. I want to fight three times this year, and I'll take on the best opponent who steps into the ring."
But Spence surely is not looking past Peterson. He knows what he can do by looking at his record and having sparred with him.
"I'm excited to be fighting a guy like Lamont Peterson," he said. "I'm not fighting a regular no-name fighter. He's going to bring the best out of me because he's a true fighter. It makes the whole experience even better."
While Spence has been ticketed for stardom from Day 1 of his pro career, it's been a long road for Peterson to his various titles and major bouts since turning pro in 2004. He's won some (Amir Khan, Kendall Holt) and lost some (Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse, Timothy Bradley Jr.), but even though he is the underdog against Spence, he still has big goals and dreams.
"When I got into boxing, I had goals," Peterson said. "First, I wanted to be a national (amateur) champion, then a world champion as a professional, but the ultimate goal is to be in the Hall of Fame. With that being my goal, I wouldn't put myself in that conversation yet. With wins over a guy like Errol Spence and the other top welterweights, I think I'm right there in it. That's my goal, and I'll give it my all to get there.
"If you left it to me I'd fight every month. That's how much I love the sport. I know a victory would help me get in the ring even more often. Sometimes if you lose at the top level, other top guys don't want to take a chance against you. I can fix all of that this weekend.
"When you get to the big stages and those big fights, you have to win more than you lose. I think if I can win some big fights these next few years, my career will be in a good place."
Spence and Peterson are trained by two of the best in the business, guys who have known each other for many years and respect each other.
Derrick James, a former pro fighter, trains Spence and is a leading candidate to win 2017 trainer of the year honors from the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Barry Hunter took Peterson and younger brother and fellow pro fighter Anthony Peterson in from the streets of Washington, D.C. when they were kids and also become their father figure.
"Both of these main event fighters are lucky to have trainers who are real teachers," said Lou DiBella, who is promoting the card. "They are old-school and two of the best. Derrick James and Barry Hunter know the game inside and out."
James, who also trains junior middleweight world titleholder Jermell Charlo, has worked with Spence for nearly a decade.
"I started training Errol about nine years ago, but I never really knew just how special he was until about a year or so into our training," James said. "I thought Olympics were definitely possible, because I didn't want to look too far ahead. Now that we're here, I think he can beat any of the top guys. I want him to be undisputed welterweight champion just like he wants to be.
"I have to be the best version of myself too. I try to get better and better each fight and each day in the gym. I know I have to be on top of everything that could happen. Barry Hunter is a tough, intelligent trainer who brings a lot to the table. Lamont has a great team. It's a pleasure and an honor to face them in the ring."
Peterson has trained amateurs and pros for years, but Peterson has been his best fighter.
"Lamont has always been a coach's dream," Hunter said. "He's the type of athlete that you would love to coach. He does everything a coach asks of him. He will train until he passes out. All he wants is to work hard and compete."
Rafael's prediction: Spence by knockout.