Spence Jnr will continue his race to the welterweight summit

It’s now almost eight months since Errol Spence Jnr waltzed into Kell Brook’s Bramall Lane backyard to yank his IBF welterweight title belt away, and the gifted American makes his long-awaited return to the ring this weekend.

Boxing odds expert Adrian Clarke previews a tasty looking first defence against former world champion Lamont Peterson…

Don’t let the baby face fool you.

Across a flawless 22-fight professional career that features 19 KO’s, four rounds has been the average duration of an Errol Spence Jnr fight.

Barely picking up a scratch he remains fresh looking and is therefore thought of by many as the future of the division.

He could be. He probably is. Yet his birth certificate tells us the American is already 28-years old.

That means he’s already in his prime, so to fulfill true greatness Spence Jnr knows he must get a move on, and beat the best around.

For now, Lamont Peterson is a clever match-up for him.

The 33-year-old is a big name former two-weight world champion that adds credibility to his CV but rated as an 8/1 shot, he is also a massive underdog who’s unlikely to shock him.

Should Peterson (35-3-1) replicate the excellence he showed when losing a highly controversial decision to Danny Garcia at this same Barclays Center venue in 2015, this will be a true test for the man who beat Brook.

When you combine his smart boxing skills with a terrific heart, Peterson (who beat Amir Khan in 2011) definitely has what it takes to compete at a very high level.

But can he really beat Spence Jnr at a time when he’s approaching the zenith of his career?

To overcome the younger, stronger, more dynamic man, the only way I see an upset is if he’s able to box and move for 12 slippery rounds.

If Peterson trades blows in the middle of the ring it will be curtains. He won’t hear the final bell.

I think the champion, known as ‘The Truth’, is a class operator.

Walking into lion’s den in Sheffield last spring would have fazed many fighters, but Spence Jnr delivered a supremely polished performance.

Taking his time to warm into that fight, you couldn’t fail to admire his temperament, power or ring craft. He dismantled Kell Brook, a fine champion, spectacularly well.

Yet the skeptics will still say, ‘who else has he beaten?’ and they have a point.

His next best scalps, Chris Algieri and Leonard Bundu, were both brutally destroyed, but neither man belonged in the top echelon at welterweight.

So for now at least we should probably temper our excitement.

Spence Jnr needs to get busier and beat more big names.

In the early hours of Sunday morning in Brooklyn, New York, I do see him climbing the next rung on the ladder with a win that’s priced up at 1/20.

Peterson’s experience may ensure this isn’t as one-sided as the odds suggest, but I sense it’s asking too much to deliver a career-best victory at the age of 33.

I anticipate the early rounds being close, but once Spence Jnr puts his foot down and cuts off the ring space, there will be no escape for his compatriot.

The IBF champion will win this with another KO in the middle to late rounds.

Over the next three years I believe Spence Jnr will mix it exclusively with welterweight boxing’s elite, and is ready to more than hold his own.

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