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Errol Spence Jr. (photo from Instagram)
Errol Spence Jr. (photo from Instagram)

By Bob Velin

In the fateful early-morning hours of October 10, 2019, Errol Spence Jr.’s life changed in a flash.

Driving his $300,000 Ferrari 488 Spider at frighteningly high speeds in downtown Dallas, Texas, his hometown – he'd been drinking and wasn't wearing a seatbelt -- Spence, then 29 and in the prime of his undefeated boxing career, lost control of his car when he hit a median and was ejected through the windshield as the Ferrari cartwheeled multiple times and was totally destroyed. The entire crash was caught on tape by a nearby security camera, ironically called Knockout.

Miraculously, Spence, nicknamed “The Truth,” not only survived but suffered no broken bones and only some facial cuts and the loss of a couple teeth. Just a few weeks removed from successfully defending his welterweight titles against Shawn Porter, Spence quickly realized he had cheated death and lived to talk about it.

“I don’t know how or why I got saved, but thank God,” he later wrote on Instagram. “The thought of leaving my (three) little girls and them growing up without me still (messes) with me, but I’m triple blessed and must be here for a reason . . . My accident slowed me down and gave me a different perspective on (things) I was taking for granted.”

Armed with a new lease on life, Spence found that new perspective in a 60-acre ranch he purchased in DeSoto, Texas, just south of Dallas.

“I was just trying to find answers, you know? I needed to go somewhere new and start over and get out of that dark cloud that was downtown,” he said by phone recently, “and be in a better element, because I’m already like an introvert; I don’t like being around people that much anyway.

“The ranch life is way better for me because people can’t just hop upon me like in the city. So if you want to see me you really have to come out to see me. I’m enjoying the peace and quiet and being with my family. So yeah, I was looking for something different.”

While he may not like being around people that much, he discovered he very much liked being around horses. So much so that he eventually bought 10 of them. He also had some cattle that came with the ranch.

“I really can’t tell you why I bought (the ranch), it just came upon me to do it,” Spence said. “Once I did, I started buying horses and I bought more cattle and fixed the place up. It gave me a peace of mind after living downtown. And the serenity of being out there in my back yard . . . nobody bothered me. It was a beautiful thing after being in a high-rise where you always run into people in the elevator and you hear the cranes going in the morning.

“I feel I’ve got hyper kids, and they wanted to go outside and run around and play. And I got a (swimming) pool. Basically, it was a second chance at life and I wasn’t going to let it pass.”

Spence’s interest in horses was piqued through a friend who owns horses.

“He told me to get into it because riding horses gives you a peace of mind,” Spence says. “So I got on his horse one day and was just riding around, and I realized that riding horses gives you a different kind of peace.

“I just fell in love with them, so I started buying horses, and now I have 10. It’s therapeutic riding them, especially when you’re by yourself riding around in the field, just you and the horse. You’re not thinking of anything else. It was very therapeutic for me, especially after my accident, just buying the animals, and being out there on the ranch, enjoying myself and giving me a different peace of mind.”

Spence reluctantly admits he has a favorite. “I named her Little Mama, because she’s kind of smaller, and I have one named Big Mama,” the boxer explains. “I feel like horses have a personality, and Little Mama’s more affectionate than the other horses. She wants to be petted, and she wants all the attention.

“When the other horses get next to me, she snaps her nose at ‘em and acts like she’s going to kick, just so she can get all of my attention. We kind of bonded differently and I sit on the fence and feed her apples and stuff. I think I spoiled her.”

Spence believes horses can sense how you feel when you’re riding them. “Oh, that’s definitely true,” he says. “When I first got on horses, I had to learn how to relax. Animals can sense your feelings and emotions.”

Errol Spence Jr (photo from Instagram)
Errol Spence Jr (photo from Instagram)

His feelings and emotions are running high these days as Spence (27-0, 21 KOs), the WBC and IBF welterweight titlist, prepares for his April 16 unification bout against WBA welter champ Yordenis Ugas at AT&T Stadium on Showtime pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). It is Spence’s third fight at the Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys and only his second since the accident.

Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs) is coming off an upset victory over Manny Pacquiao that sent the Filipino legend into retirement.

Spence was supposed to fight Pacquiao before pulling out of the fight two weeks before the highly anticipated, August 21 unified welterweight title bout due to a retinal tear in his left eye. He has recovered from the eye injury but has not fought in 17 months.

“We’ve come back from worse,” he said, a not-so-subtle reminder of his car wreck.

When his fight is over, win or lose, Spence will return to the quiet, simple life on the ranch with family and, of course, his beloved horses. He says he will eventually tear down the old wooden barn on the property and replace it with a metal barn, in which he hopes to build a gym. He has his father and another ranch hand around to help.

“Someone told me that true happiness is basically being content,” he explains. “If you’re not content with life, and are like, ‘I need more and more, I need more money, more money . . . You know, yes, I do want more for my kids and more for my family. But I’m content with my life . . . That’s true happiness, tending to your family and the things you have.

“Of course, I want to accomplish more in boxing, but it’s not an overwhelming necessity.”

There are more interesting stories in our section on Recreation & Lifestyle.

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