Spence stops Peterson in 1st welterweight title defense

Errol Spence Jr., right, hits Lamont Peterson during the second round of an IBF welterweight championship boxing match Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in New York. Spence stopped Peterson in the eighth round. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Errol Spence Jr. easily defended his welterweight title for the first time, beating Lamont Peterson when the fight was stopped just after the bell sounded to begin the eighth round

NEW YORK — Errol Spence Jr. was even more dazzling in defending his title than he was while winning it.

Spence battered Lamont Peterson until the fight was stopped a second into the eighth round Saturday night in the first defense of the welterweight title he won last year.

Spence had controlled the fight and both of Peterson's eyes appeared swollen as doctors checked him after the seventh round. The bell rang to start the eighth, and Peterson moved toward the center of the ring before his corner told the referee to call it.

"I didn't know I would dominate like that," Spence said. "I expected to get the knockout, but this was a great performance."

Spence (23-0, 20 KOs) pitched a shutout in his first attempt defending the IBF 147-pound crown he won last May when he went to Sheffield, England, and stopped Kell Brook in his hometown, breaking the champion's orbital bone and knocking him down in the 10th round before Brook went to a knee in the 11th and the fight was stopped.

Spence won every round on all three scorecards in a performance that easily backed up the accolades he earned in his title-winning victory.

He knocked Peterson (35-4-1) down in the fifth and hurt him in many other rounds, ripping punches into his ribs to set up hard shots to the head.

Spence landed more punches (161) than Peterson threw (158) according to final CompuBox stats and connected with over 100 more power punches — landing 35 alone in the fifth round.

"I could tell Lamont was wobbling before I got him down," Spence said. "It was just a great feeling to put on a strong performance."

Spence confidently threw his jab to get warmed up in the first, and then hurt Peterson with a body shot along the ropes in the second. They traded hard shots in the third with Spence continuing to go to the body and Peterson getting him upstairs.

The 2012 U.S. Olympian knocked Peterson down in the fifth when a right hand set up a solid left to the head. Peterson fought back gamely later in the round, easily the best one of the fight, but his right eye was closing by the sixth, making it even harder to stop the punches that had been pummeling him.

"He was getting the shots on me early. He was the better man tonight," Peterson said.

He wanted to keep going but trainer Barry Hunter decided otherwise.

"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."

Peterson, a 33-year-old former champion at 140 and 147 pounds, hoped a victory could get him into the mix for a couple more big fights to help further a boxing Hall of Fame case that he acknowledged this week isn't strong enough.

But he was in against a fighter who's already regarded as one of boxing's best and eager to keep proving it. Spence again called for a match against Keith Thurman, who holds two welterweight titles.

"Since I was 15-0 I've been calling this guy out and he keeps making excuses," Spence said. "Let's get it on."

In the previous match, IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter Jr. remained unbeaten by pulling out a split-decision victory over Javier Fortuna.

Though six inches taller than Fortuna, the 5-foot-11 Easter (21-0, 14 KOs) spent the majority of the match mixing it up inside, where he was caught frequently by Fortuna's short punches. Fortuna was deducted a point in the second round for holding behind Easter's head, which kept him from tying one of the cards he lost and making the fight a split draw.

Easter would have kept his title even with a loss, because Fortuna was about 1 ½ pounds over the lightweight limit of 135 pounds Friday and ineligible to win the belt. But the heavily booed victory probably didn't help his goal of a unification match in his division.

"I want to fight the champions and unify this belt," Easter said. "Fights like these aren't in my game plan. I'm ready for Mikey Garcia and Jorge Linares to sign the contract."

But Fortuna (33-2-1) called for another chance before Easter looks elsewhere.

"If he's a man, let's fight again at 135 pounds," the Dominican said. "I will definitely make the weight. I didn't give myself enough time to train."

Also on the undercard, unbeaten light heavyweight Marcus Browne (21-0, 16 KOs) stopped Francy Ntetu (17-2) in the first round, and heavyweight Adam Kownacki (17-0, 14 KOs), a Poland native fighting out of Brooklyn, thrilled his crowd of fans who filled a small section of Barclays Center with a sixth-round knockout of Iago Kiladze.

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