Undefeated IBF Welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., nicknamed “The Truth”, defends his title versus unbeaten four-division champion Mikey Garcia Saturday on FOX Sports Pay Per View. A Roc-A-Fella Records enforcer provided the perfect title, and debut album by the same name, back in 2000.
Errol Spence Jr., nearly two years into his reign as the IBF Welterweight champion, continues to still have his greatness questioned by a large number of boxing’s pundits, and for his upcoming matchup with current WBC Lightweight champion Mikey Garcia, even a couple of former fighters among boxing’s royalty.
Spence is an accomplished amateur, winning three straight national championships prior to representing the U.S. in the 2012 Olympics. After turning pro later that winter, boxing’s newest fighter nicknamed “The Truth”, started earning the moniker by earning 10 wins via knockout in his first 13 fights – his current streak of stoppages sits at 11.
Spence’s path to a world title led him across the Atlantic Ocean, in May 2017, to the United Kingdom’s Bramall Lane in Sheffield. The then 27-year-old southpaw gradually overpowered one-loss defending champion Kell Brook, before a fractured orbital bone forced the hometown fighter to take his second and final knee of the fight in the 11th round.
Afterwards, many became optimistic that the combination of Spence’s promotional and network affiliations would soon deliver a long-awaited unification bout between the newly crowned IBF champion and undefeated WBA and WBC champion Keith Thurman. Perhaps Spence’s UK feat, and the straightforward hook from the debut single from Roc-A-Fella Records’ Beanie Sigel, aka South Philadelphia’s “Broad Street Bully”, rang a little too true:
N—- the truth, every time I step in the booth
I speak the truth, y’all know what I’m bringing to you
I bring the truth, you motherf—— know who I be
I be the truth, what I speak shall set you free
N—- the truth
The truth of the matter for the slightly older elite Welterweights quickly became that ostensibly a fight with Spence just wasn’t worth being referred to as a unified world champion.
Philadelphia’s Beanie Sigel was arguably the central figure among Roc-A-Fellas’ signing of a handful of young rappers out of the City of Brotherly Love. Others who made it onto the Def Jam imprint’s once-stellar roster included Freeway, Peedi Crakk, and the Young Gunz.
Starting in 1998 Sigel, né Dwight Grant, began marching his way through rap’s version of the amateur ranks, starting with his impressive verse – squeezed in among street-certified 16s from The Lox and Sauce Money – on “Reservoir Dogs” – a standout collaboration track found on Jay-Z’s Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life. For 1999, Sigel, more often known earlier as Mac, moved up higher in the lineup, only splitting the mic duties with Hov himself on “Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up) – one of the bigger singles from Vol. 3… The Life and Times of S. Carter.
With the Roc’s flagship emcee, Jay-Z, comfortably establishing himself as a bankable multi-platinum selling artist with an increasingly wider appeal, the Roc’s growing fan base began to look for the next rapper from the roster to carry the label’s torch – or flame.
Sigel dropped his debut LP, The Truth, in February 2000, and the project’s lead single, of the same name, arrived with a haunting piano and organ loop that was absent any club anthem influences. “The Truth”, oddly the first song on the album, and its brash lyrics were intended for the streets – and possibly a vacated crown. Mac quickly stepped out of Jay’s shadows, or maybe into the Brooklyn native’s 1996 mode, with three declarative verses including the first’s:
Hit the studio, jars of dro, bars to blow
B. Sigel with that arsenic flow
F— that, don’t hold me back
I roll with crack, y’all cats told Mac to rap
Y’all don’t realize y’all released the beast untame
Speech all flame, streets y’all blame
It should be an honor for y’all to speak my name
In the realm of hip hop, tough talk is a major prerequisite for ascending to the higher slots of fans’ “Top 5 Dead or Alive” lists. Talk about the mythical label often assigned to boxing’s Pound-For-Pound lists. Conversely, in boxing tough talk has never won a fighter a world title, so Spence wastes little time engaging in any, as he’s grown frustrated standing behind podiums the last couple years imploring his fellow 147-pound champions to face him in the ring.
Spence’s opportunities to display his greatness have been sparse to this point in his career, on the outside he looks patient, but hidden down in Texas tucked away from the locales that have long been considered boxing’s major hubs, he works tirelessly at his craft like he’s scheduled to fight every 90 days. Throughout Sigel’s “Truth” he reiterates that rap was an afterthought, his hours spent honing his craft were minimal, and he even exhibited some empathy for unsigned rappers who ate, slept and sh—– rap. He felt more at home amid the action of the South Philly street from which his stage name was borne.
Saturday night at AT&T Stadium Spence will gradually lose his Southern laid back demeanor during his ring walk. And while his warm heart turns cold, as he climbs up those steps to enter the ring, he’ll slip through through the ropes and instinctively stare at 5-foot 6-inch Mikey Garcia while simultaneously adopting the cutthroat mindset expressed in the opening stanza of Sigel’s third and final verse with:
And I still hit you n—- with shots that’s fatal
That bullshit vest can’t save you
I had a doc open you up from chest to navel
See my face on cable, and have flashbacks of that cold ass table
And them hoes I gave you
I’m that n—- that’ll come and pour salt in your wound
At the hospital, while the cops guardin your room
Spence’s opponent Saturday night, Mikey Garcia, is as accomplished as any fighter in the sport today. Amazingly, the undefeated four-division champion – the current owner of the WBC’s 135-pound title – looked at his resume of 39 fights with 30 KO’s, and decided now was the opportune time to challenge himself by facing the most avoided man at 147 pounds. Seeking the truth is one thing, and many men throughout history have found it, but defeating it may be a story untold.
Featured Spence image by Stacey Verbeek
Body photo by Ryan Hafey