It’s rare for Errol Spence Jr.’s fights to go the distance. But his latest ring appearance resulted in one of those circumstances.
The 24-year-old welterweight from Dallas couldn’t stop veteran Ronald Cruz of Puerto Rico inside 10 rounds in the main event Friday night at the Hard Rock Hotel, only the third time in 13 fights he failed to defeat his opponent early.
But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for Spence (13-0). He won the fight by unanimous decision — 100-90 on all three scorecards — and gained valuable ring experience against a stubborn opponent who roughed him up at times and tried to take away his speed and his space.
“I wanted this fight,” Spence said. “I want to fight better fighters, and he was a tough guy. He fought a lot of good fighters, so I came in with a lot of respect for him.
“But I learned a lot from this fight. I proved I can go 10 rounds at a fast pace. I also showed I can handle myself on the inside and keep my composure. A lot of good things came out of this fight for me.”
Spence, a U.S. Olympian in the 2012 London Games, never had gone further than eight rounds, so going 10 was an opportunity to test his stamina. He passed the test with no problem, remaining strong and dominant through the late rounds, same as at the start when he was landing an effective left hook off a solid right jab.
In the sixth round, Spence opened a cut over Cruz’s right eye that clearly bothered him. Cruz tried to protect the eye from further damage, only to leave himself open elsewhere. Spence seized the opportunity to attack those openings and widened his lead.
“I knew I had him hurt with the hook to the body, and I think that cut did cause him to lose some concentration,” Spence said. “I just kept doing what I needed to, which is box him and not get myself in trouble.”
Cruz (20-4) never has gone down in his career, and to his credit, he stayed upright. But he never was a threat to hurt Spence, much less beat him. Spence dominated the punch stats with a 335-71 edge in total punches landed and 282-65 edge in power punches landed.
“These are the kind of fights I need more of,” said Spence, who hopes to be back in the ring by early September. “If I’m going to get better, I need to have tough fights like this.”
In the co-feature, middleweight Dominic Wade won a 10-round unanimous decision over Nick Brinson to improve to 16-0. The judges scored the fight 97-93, 97-93 and 96-94.
“He was a little awkward to fight, but I adjusted and I thought I did fine,” Wade said.
Wade appeared to have Brinson (16-2-2) in trouble late in the third round, landing a hard right to his chin. Brinson stayed on his feet and survived the round, but couldn’t land enough effective punches over the course of the fight.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.