Errol Spence Jr. is the reigning IBF welterweight titleholder, undefeated in 24 fights and with 21 knockouts to his name—a record that makes him the heavy favorite for his March 16 bout, even against the also-undefeated Mikey Garcia at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. But even in the lead-up to the biggest matchup of his career in front of a hometown crowd, he wants to talk about another skill in his repertoire: cooking. Spence Jr. is an eager learner in the kitchen, a habit he picked up from watching his parents and now develops by perusing the Cooking Channel and various Instagram accounts.
Of course, there’s only so much a professional boxer can eat before a fight, when the name of the game is hitting a specific weight. That doesn’t stop him from doing a little experimenting with basic dishes, though, or from carefully considering different restaurants to post up at once he can pack on the pounds again. We asked Spence Jr. to talk through some of his favorite meals—some more unorthodox than others—as well as just how strict his diet gets before a fight. We failed, however, to get him to reconsider his slanderous In-N-Out takes.
GQ: I was reading a 2016 Reddit AMA in which you said your walking-around weight is 168 pounds. How long does it take you to get to 147 pounds?
Errol Spence Jr.: Usually 9 or 10 weeks. I’m cutting out meals and changing my diet. My diet is bad when I’m not training.
In the lead-up to the fight, when you’re in the thick of training, is there typically a specific week or day when you hit a mental wall? Like, This sucks?
It varies—it’s kind of hard on the weekends not to eat any junk food. I’m eating healthy all throughout the week, and usually on Friday and Saturday I want to have a burger or go out to eat. I can’t really do that, though. I love barbecue, so I try to change it up a little bit and barbecue some chicken or a turkey burger, just to get that different type of flavor.
What’s your weekly workout routine?
On Monday mornings, I run sprints, and then go to the gym and work out. Later in the day, I do a five- or six-mile jog. Wednesdays or Thursdays, depending on how my body feels, I go through strength and conditioning. I do that in the morning instead of running sprints, and then I go to the gym and get a light jog in.
How careful do you have to be with weight training when you’re prepping for a fight?
For the most part, I push forward with my normal routine. But I have to listen to my body, too. Early in my career, I was training seven days a week with no rest. I was burning myself out. Now, if it’s squat day or a day where I do strength and conditioning, and I wake up not feeling it, I’m not going to do it. I’ll move it to another day. I’m taking more precautions.
What’s one thing about training for a fight that most outsiders don’t think about?
A lot of guys who box have a hard time maintaining their strength and endurance as their weight drops—especially when they get down to the last three or four pounds. Like, 147 is not my walking-around weight. It’s more like 170. It gets hard to maintain that type of endurance and still have the same speed, power, and quickness you would have at 170. It takes a lot of discipline and top-level conditioning. I think there’s a science to it that a lot of people take for granted. The closer to the fight, the smaller your portions of food get.
So what’s your diet right now?
When I wake up, I’m eating either oatmeal, or eggs with avocado and a side of spinach. If it’s not that, it’s a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich with almond milk on the side. Then I go to the gym, work out, and come back to the house for a salad—a plain, spinach-kale salad with organic Italian dressing. Then I rest up and take a nap.
Later on at night, I might have a sweet potato with red snapper. I put my red snapper in the oven or on the grill. It’s the whole red snapper, with the head on and everything. I might also have salmon or brown rice. That’s pretty much it.
What’s your favorite part of the fish that grosses other people out?
People get grossed out because I still have the head on it. They’re like, “Ew, that’s nasty!” I tell people all the time: You don’t know if it’s real fish until you see the head. I’m Jamaican, too, so that’s how I grew up seeing my dad grill fish.
You’ve got some food-related tweets that we’ve got to cover. First off, how long has the PB&J been part of your routine?
Since I was an amateur. I used to put egg whites on my peanut butter-and-jelly, right there in the middle of the sandwich. I’d eat it every morning. It was good for me because I would stay full for five or six hours and not have to eat anything else. I was eating twice a day, rather than three times. People say a PB&J makes you gain weight, but it never did for me because I burned off so many calories off in the gym.
So that’s not daily anymore, but it’s still pretty often?
Yeah. I’m getting a little older now, so I can’t eat all the things I used to. I used to eat candy all the time, through the whole training camp. But now, it’s just SmartSweets. Organic candy. I eat a lot of that, since it only has like three grams of sugar.
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We have to go back for a minute: You put an egg in your PB&J? What’s the origin story there?
Ha, yeah. I was just hungry. One time I was making an egg white sandwich, and then I saw some peanut butter and was like, “Let me try this.” My dad tried it, and it was good to him, too. A lot of people are surprised—if they try it, I guarantee they'll say it’s good, especially when you’re training and have to go work out. It’s healthy! Just not traditional.
When did you go from dairy to almond milk?
I started because my daughter is lactose intolerant, so we got her almond milk. Once I tried it, I thought it was good, so I switched over. It tastes better, and it’s healthier.
I have to press you on something controversial. You tweeted that Burger King and Checkers are better than In-N-Out. I get the Texas pride—I also grew up in the Dallas area, which means we have to vouch for Whataburger over In-N-Out—but Burger King? Checkers? I don’t believe you.
First of all, I’m a big fries guy. In-N-Out fries have no seasoning on them—no sauce, no nothing. I eat their fries right now during training camp because they’re so healthy. If I go to a burger spot, I expect the fries to be unhealthy enough that I can’t eat them while I’m training.
And I grew up on Burger King. I love a Whopper. They also have some bomb chicken fries. Whataburger is just the best, hands down. I love their patty melts. Their fries are bomb too. It might take a while, and it might have a long line, but you’re going to get fresh food every time, hot and ready for you. In-N-Out is just overrated.
Okay, I agree on the In-N-Out fries. What about their burgers, though?
The burger is pretty good. I got it animal-style. But after the way In-N-Out came to Texas—all the publicity and hype it was getting—when I finally ate it, I wasn’t impressed at all. I was like, “I can make this at home.”
So you’re a good cook?
Yeah, I can cook. My dad can cook, and my mom used to cook a lot, too, so I used to be in the kitchen watching them. Growing up, my dad would always say, “A good chef has good imagination.” You try different things out. Now, I get on YouTube and watch how somebody does something, and I can do it right then and there in the kitchen. I’m a natural.
Is it torture for you to talk about tasty food when you’re in the thick of training? Or is therapeutic, because you can think about eating it again soon?
It’s really therapeutic. During training camp, I follow a lot of cooking pages on Instagram. I don’t like being around food when I’m training, especially food I can’t eat. But as far as watching food shows, going on Instagram, following restaurants I’m going to check out after I fight—I do that a lot.
What’s the restaurant going to be this time?
Are you going to do a celebrity cooking show at some point?
You know, I watch that a lot. I love the Cooking Channel. I watch Bobby Flay, and Cooks vs. Cons. The only thing I would have a problem with is the presentation. You know how they have to set up the dish and make it look fancy?
Well, if the food tastes good enough, it doesn’t matter. As long as you don’t present your egg white PB&J, I think you’ve got a good shot.
You’d be surprised! They’d love it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.