NEW YORK — Errol Spence Jr. could not be stopped.
Already regarded by many as one of the best fighters in the world, Spence put on a sensational performance in a one-sided destruction of Lamont Peterson, stopping him in the eighth round to retain his welterweight world title for the first time Saturday night before 12,107 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
It was a Spence house, and they saw him brutalize Peterson, a highly regarded former two-division world titleholder. But he was no match for the Spence freight train many believe will someday ride to the top of the pound-for-pound list.
Spence (23-0, 20 KOs) was making the first defense of the 147-pound world title he won so impressively last May. That’s when Spence, the 2012 U.S. Olympian and 2015 ESPN.com prospect of the year, traveled to Kell Brook’s hometown of Sheffield, England, and stopped him in the 11th round.
Although Spence inexplicably did not fight the rest of the 2017, the layoff did not appear to impact him in the least,.
“I want to thank Lamont. A lot guys turned down the fight, and he took like a real warrior, and I commend him for that,” Spence said. “My coach [Derrick James] came with a great game plan, and I just followed through with it. Keep my range, keep my composure.
“I still can improve a lot on my defense. I just have to keep perfecting my skills and keep progressing. You’re going to see a better Errol Spence next time I get in the ring.”
Spence established his jab from the opening bell, sticking it in Peterson’s face and coming behind it with a right hand and body shots to get off to a good start.
Spence, a southpaw from DeSoto, Texas, who turned 28 last week, did not let up in the second round, when he seemed to hurt Peterson with a series of body shots. But he also continued to land his jab and right hands against an opponent who did virtually nothing.
Spence continued to lay leather on Peterson in the fourth round and had him reeling a bit from a left hand to the head. Spence was in total control, and it looked like it might just be a matter of time until he at least scored a knockdown.
And then it happened in the fifth round. Spence slammed Peterson with a right and a left, and Peterson went down to his rear end. Spence spent the rest of the round battering Peterson, whose face showed the wear of a brutal round. He tried to punch back in the final seconds of the round but had nothing as Spence continued to punish him.
“I could tell Lamont was wobbling before I got him down. It was just a great feeling to put on a strong performance,” Spence said.
Spence continued to dominate in the sixth round, when Peterson’s right eye was nearly closed from swelling. Just after the bell rang to start the seventh round, referee Harvey Dock called time for the ringside doctor to further examine Peterson.
Spence continued to punish Washington, D.C.’s Peterson, who turns 34 on Wednesday, in the seventh round. And then, one second into the eighth round, Dock waved the fight off when Peterson trainer and father-figure Barry Hunter asked for it to be stopped.
“It was really hard [to stop the fight], but if you know Lamont, you know he was not going to give up,” Hunter said. “So I had to stop it. At the end of the day this is my son right here. And there’s nothing more valuable than his well being. If it comes to him or winning, I pick him. I care about him.”
Peterson did not question Hunter’s decision.
“He was getting the shots on me early. He was the better man tonight,” Peterson said. “I always respect Barry’s decision. If he asks me to fight a million people, I will. If he asks me to stop, I will stop. I will never question his decision. I know he has my best interests at heart.”
Spence, whose official purse was $1.2 million, was ahead by shutout scores of 70-62 on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
“I know Lamont — he’s a tough fighter. He’s willing to die in there,” Spence said. “You saw his coach had to stop the fight because he wanted to keep fighting. I didn’t know I would dominate like that. I expected to get the knockout, but this was a great performance. We were facing a great fighter like Lamont Peterson and we did well in there.”
That was an understatement. Spence utterly dominated the CompuBox punch statistics. He landed 161 of 526 blows (31 percent), and Peterson landed only 45 of 158 (28 percent). In the fifth round, Spence landed 35 power shots, the most landed against Peterson in a single round in any of the 18 Peterson fights that CompuBox has tracked.
Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KOs), who knew how good his friend Spence was from sparring with him a few years ago, gave up the secondary welterweight world title he won from David Avanesyan by decision in a strong performance last February in order to facilitate making the fight with Spence. But Peterson, whose purse was $600,000, was also fighting for the first time since that bout and for only the second time since October 2015. He said he would considering retirement.
“That’s something that I would have to think about in the next few weeks,” Peterson said.
The welterweight division is deep, but what Spence wants is a unification fight with two-belt titleholder Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs). He has been out of action since outpointing Danny Garcia to unify two title belts last March, also at Barclays Center, because of elbow surgery. He is due to return in April, so a fight with Spence wouldn’t take place until late this year at the earliest. Thurman has said he didn’t think it would happen until at least 2019.
“Everybody knows I’ve been waiting on ‘Sometimes’ Thurman,” Spence said, alluding to Thurman’s “One Time” nickname. “Since I was 15-0 I’ve been calling this guy out, and he keeps making excuses. Let’s get it on.
“I want Keith Thurman. He has two of the belts, and we both have big names. It’s an easy fight to make, and I want it.”