DALLAS - Maple Avenue Boxing Gym is home to DeSoto's Errol Spence. He is one step away from making the 2012 Olympic team, and that's a goal he's had for a long time.

Oh, I ve thought about it since I ve been boxing, Spence said. That's all my coaches and everybody else has talked about since 2008.

Last week, Spence won the welterweight division at the U.S. Olympic trials in Mobile, Alabama. When you include other competitions such as the Golden Gloves, by his count, he's won seven national championships, which makes him a seasoned veteran at the tender age of 21.

The next step for Spence is to compete at the world championships in Azerbaijan, in the former Soviet Union. But he must finish in the top 10 to make the 2012 Olympics. That makes this trip the most important trip of his life.

It means everything, Spence said. The world championships are all about the greatest fighters from the world, all the best fighters. It kind of lets you see where you're at coming into the Olympics.

Only the top 10 finishers from the World Championships will be able to compete in the Olympics next year. That means winning the U.S. Olympic trials, which he has already done, doesn't guarantee a spot in 2012.

I'm thinking that there were too many people there, said Spence's trainer Derrick James. Every country wanted to bring somebody, which made the tournament last too long, I m thinking. This is a way to limit the amount of people there.

Spence used to play cornerback, so he went from one contact sport to another.

Oh yeah, there's a lot of contact playing football; I think it's rougher than boxing, Spence said. I just love the mental game and everything about it. It's like a chess game.

But this is a chess game with some serious contact.


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