WBC and IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence has expressed his relief that a retinal detachment in his left eye was discovered before it potentially ended his career.
Spence had been due to face eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao last weekend in Las Vegas before feeling the injury in sparring at the World Class Boxing Gym in Dallas, immediately stopping the session after exclaiming, “My eye, my eye”.
After sparring again two days later, the issue was picked up the following day in a pre-fight check-up in Dallas with the doctor saying Spence’s eye looked like “dark clouds”. After flying to Las Vegas, an eye specialist confirmed Spence was not fit to fight 12 days ahead of the clash with Pacquiao. Texan southpaw Spence was duly forced to withdraw from the biggest fight of his career, paving the way for Yordenis Ugas to step in and handily outpoint the Filipino legend.
But Spence’s mindstate is one of relief with the injury caught before he possibly lost the sight in his eye, having immediately undergone surgery on his return to Dallas.
“I’m grateful that I caught it. It’s a career-ending injury for a lot of other boxers,” Spence (27-0, 21 KOs) told Mike Coppinger of ESPN.com. “A lot of them don’t get checked up. Even if this would have happened early in training camp, I would have still tried to spar and things like that. And it probably would have damaged it permanently. I’m just grateful it happened when it happened, I caught it sooner than later, and I have another chance at what I love doing.”
In October 2019, Spence crashed his Ferrari 488 Spider in a single-car accident that saw him hospitalised in intensive care for six days and his doctor believes the eye injury could be a result of that incident.
Spence subsequently outpointed Danny Garcia in Texas in December 2020, but that state requires a less exhaustive optometrist test rather than the ophthalmologist exam needed in Nevada. The world welterweight champion could well have fought with the early signs of injury undetected.
“I did have a little curtain, not in my eyesight but in my peripheral, like a shadow. I was seeing that after sparring and things like that,” Spence told Coppinger. “Me just being a boxer, being young, I didn’t wanna say anything about that, but then the doctor asked me if something was wrong with my vision on the left side because my left eye look like a shadow. If it gets to the centre of your eye, it will get a lot worse.
“My doctors tell me take it easy or just chill; that’s what I’m going to do. Not going to push it or think I’m Superman and something go wrong. I’m going to listen to the doctor. And hopefully I make a full recovery.
“I can’t do nothing but walk. I gotta sleep on my left side. I gotta put eye drops in. I know I can’t spar for probably like two months. But I’m optimistic about when I can start jogging. Hopefully, that will be next three weeks or so.”
Main image: Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions.