By: Kirk Jackson
Some fighters are built, and some are developed.
Both types of fighters can reach certain levels of success, of course the success of every fighter is different, as every journey respectively is different.
Highly esteemed trainer Derrick James has a philosophy on fighters, on how some are built, while others are developed.
Before we explore this philosophy, it’s important to acknowledge James and to have somewhat of an understanding of who he is.
The 2022 BWAA trainer of the year, James is presently the trainer for Errol Spence Jr., Jermell Charlo, Frank Martin, Anthony Joshua, Burley Brooks, and now Ryan Garcia.
And for further context, we it pertains to the resume and experience of James, he is a former professional fighter himself.
James’ boxing record was (21-7,12 KO’s). He is a two-time winner of Texas State Golden Gloves and won a Bronze Medal at the U.S. Olympic Festival.
“The development of Errol Spence says he can endure anything he [Terence Crawford] has to bring. The development aspect of it, what I mean, is some fighters and built and others are developed. There was a fight, where he [Spence] was hit by Emmanuel Lartie Lartey and they didn’t pull back, they kept building and building and building, facing better and better competition.”
“That’s development. Not putting him in there with guys he should beat, that’s building. So we’ve developed.”
Continuing the concept of “Built” vs. “Developed” with a good summary of analysis from Fannon, to develop a fighter, the fighter must be tested.
Pitted against high quality opposition; opponents who will test and even exploits certain weaknesses of the fighter, how does one adapt to achieve victory? When the opponent can negate your greatest strength, what do you do as a competitor?
Is there a measure of adaptability you go through to execute the mission at hand? Is there a level of mental and physical toughness, along with a level of concentration and focus, to either stick to the gameplan or make adjustments to secure victory?
To James’ point, his fighter Spence, was developed.
World Champions Spence defeated:
- Chris Algieri
- Lamont Peterson
- Mikey Garcia
- Danny Garcia
- Yordenis Ugas
- Shawn Porter
- Kell Brook
Entering the biggest stage, the biggest fight of his career, Errol Spence Jr. (28-0, 22 KO’s) is a “Developed” fighter.
Ranging from the wars he participated in Mexican gyms out in Texas during his adolescent years, to his further development as an amateur representing the United States in at the 2012 Olympics, to now as a professional.
Even against fighters not listed or recognized as world champions, Phil Lo Greco, Chris van Heerden, Samuel Vargas, Leonard Bundu, there’s some measures of development.
At the world championship level, facing a former world champion (Algieri), known for his boxing ability and lateral movement was a good test.
That helped prepare Spence for a tough challenge in Kell Brook. The long-time reigning IBF welterweight champion, who moved back down to the division after an unsuccessful bid for middleweight championship glory against Gennady Golovkin.
Going to Brook’s home turf and stopping the champion in that environment, is a sign of development.
Making his first title defense against a former champion in Lamont Peterson is more development. And the list goes on from Shawn Porter to Danny Garcia, Yordenis Ugas, etc.
These aspects of determination and development especially apply, while looking at the circumstances surrounding the respective bouts.
Spence’s tribulations well documented, some self-inflicted, he had to work through, to accomplish the mission of victory. Recovering from a horrific car crash and fighting Garcia after in his return bout. Taking on Ugas after recovering from a serious eye injury that required surgery, various issues worked through to get to where he is.
An important concept to acknowledge is context. The context of which, when the fights occur. When Fighter A goes up against Fighter B.
What are the conditions and circumstances behind each fight and fighter. What are the variables that do not necessarily get discussed or listed across paper?
World Champions Crawford defeated:
- Ricky Burns
- Amir Khan
- Ray Beltran
- Julius Indongo
- Viktor Postol
- Jeff Horn
- Shawn Porter
- Yuriorkis Gamboa
- Kell Brook
Context is important, when discussing the resume of Terence Crawford (39-0, 30 KO’s) and expanding on the concept of “Built” fighters according to James.
Crawford faced and defeated 9 world champions, along with other fighter’s notable in name, but paraphrasing from what James mentioned in interviews, these were fights he was supposed to win. These were fighters past their expiration date, and not the best versions of those respective fighters.
Some may argue Kell Brook wasn’t the same fighter after suffering broken ribs and another orbital bone fracture from Spence during their clash years earlier, in addition to Brook moving back up in weight, and dropping down to welterweight, a division he hadn’t fought at in 3 years prior to challenging Crawford.
Or some may state Shawn Porter, who admitted as such, wasn’t the best version of himself as he challenged Crawford for the WBO welterweight title in November of 2021. A few years removed from the classic battle he waged against Spence.
As it pertains to the biggest fight in several years, James doesn’t believe Crawford has been developed to the point where he can contend with his fighter Spence.
“It’s about fortitude. We’re going to see a fighter [Crawford] that has never been pushed before in a fight,” James said in a previous interview.
“We want to chop him down. That’s the key element. Keep breaking him down, and that’s all he’s going to do,” has he fought? What are you talking about? Who are those guys?”
“Everybody can punch. “He beat the guy from Australia [Jeff Horn] and beat Benavidez Jr. Come on, man.”
Spence surely isn’t Horn, Benavidez or any other fighter Crawford has faced. Crawford isn’t Porter, Bundu or any other fighter Spence has faced either.
So, to James’ point, the difference may boil down to development. Who is developed enough, experienced enough, determined enough to get the job done at the biggest stage in boxing.
Both men are unbeaten, top-tier fighters and seeking undisputed status at welterweight, in an unprecedented event.