From the Kitchen to the Ring: Spence Making all the Right Moves

By Christian Giudice on December 9, 2016
From the Kitchen to the Ring: Spence Making all the Right Moves
“One advantage that Brad has is that he has a compassion for all fighters.” (Aaron Lucas)

The beauty of the ring is that it mesmerizes you and forces you to see—and accept—your mental and physical strengths and weaknesses…

“Like all fighters, Brad has a little craziness in him.”—Sam Teah

Leaving something that you love to make more time for another passion is never an easy endeavor. For Haddonfield, NJ native Brad Spence that meant sacrificing the camaraderie and feel of the kitchen in order to properly devote time to his newfound loves: boxing and giving back.

The corollary of this new commitment is a fascinating mixture of food, boxing and an unwavering support for veterans under the guise of Fatback Boxing, which is based out of Joe Hand’s Gym in Northern Liberties. Currently, Spence brings veterans in as trainers and uses charity events such as pig roasts to help offset the costs.

If everything works as planned, Spence envisions the veterans working with at-risk youth in his own non-profit gym fully equipped with a kitchen.

“I have always had a huge respect and interest for soldiers,” said Spence, who currently manages Philadelphia boxer, Sam Teah. “I always gravitated to hear their stories. Charity-wise I wanted to chisel out my own little thing. I love boxing, cooking, and I love working with veterans.”

It seems like the perfect fit, but in order to understand that part of the journey, it is essential to travel back to his original haven—the kitchen.

Few can argue that what Spence has accomplished by this point as a chef is anything less than extraordinary. One only has to look at the huge success of his restaurants such as Amis in Center City Philadelphia where he became Executive Chef in 2010 to understand the dedication and deep passion he has for his craft. Since then, Spence’s stock has risen, and, now as a partner of Vetri Family Amis, he has time to balance both worlds.

That wasn’t always the case.

“When I started boxing, I was working six nights a week at Amis,” said Spence, who still manages the kitchen at the restaurant. “I would be at the gym to work out at 6 am.”

However, as much success as Spence has had with his career as a chef, he’s had more success with the relationships he’s created along the way. Talk to anyone who has worked alongside Spence, and it’s clear why the admiration runs so deep. 

Spence is still in the kitchen—just in a different role: an overseer.

If the kitchen reflected who Spence used to be, Joe Hand’s Gym is the place where he can observe his flaws and strengths, but also allows for him to find a clear balance in his life. Time spent working with respected trainer Wade Hinnant is so valuable to Spence’s growth as a fighter and a father.

“When I am boxing, I do everything else better,” said Spence. “I have more energy, focus and discipline. I am a better father and better husband. I knew that if I kept boxing, everything else will fall into place.”

To Spence, it has always been about living with a selflessness that dictates his every action. Before he makes a life-changing decision, Spence always considers how everyone else will be impacted.

Living with this selflessness is contrary to the skills that make a great boxer, so it was ironic that Spence was drawn to the ring: a haven where fighters often go to escape from something. When the ring came calling, Spence wasn’t searching for anything.

“Both being a chef and boxing are totally relatable,” said Spence, who trains with respected Philadelphia trainer, Wade Hinnant. “In boxing you need to stay calm and stay relaxed because you’re burning so much energy. It’s the same thing when I am cooking. If we have a busy Saturday night and I am not relaxed and confident, it’s not going to work. In boxing you get hit with the punch you don’t see coming; in the kitchen, if the fryer breaks, it’s like, ‘What do I do now?’”

When the sights, sounds and smells of the kitchen collide, it’s magical for Spence. In the same vein trying to avoid a combination or trying to ignite an attack or get inside, Spence finds that same exhilaration.

“I don’t know where his passion stems from. Like all fighters, he has a little craziness in him,” said Teah, who campaigns as a super lightweight. “You know, if he could be a fighter, I think he would.”

The beauty of the ring is that it mesmerizes you and forces you to see—and accept—your mental and physical strengths and weaknesses. All of the pain, the sting of the right hand, and the sweat from hours upon hours of training build you up only to break you down again. The ring forces you to view yourself and identify with yourself in a way you didn’t know existed. What reflects back to you may be something you love or despise, but you must accept it. Most people believe that the ring allows you a space to run away from yourself and your problems, but the ring functions only to illuminate them in a different light.

“One advantage that Brad has is that he has a compassion for all fighters. He knows what boxers go through on a daily basis and what it’s like to be in the ring,” said Teah. “There are managers out there who have been in the game for years and they’ve never thrown a punch or gasped for air. So Brad has a better understanding of the fighters, and he has my best interest at all times. He’s not just in it for the money.”

When Spence started to progress in the ring, he saw the change, and he didn’t just accept it—he embraced it. And as Spence continues along this boxing journey, he will continue to realize that the reason fighters like Teah will continue to put their faith in him, and why veterans will keep coming come back to put their bodies to the ultimate test has little to do with the ring and so much to do with the person Spence has become. 

And that’s what really matters.

Christian Giudice
Author: A Fire Burns Within: The Miraculous Journey of Wilfredo Gomez
Author: The Rise and Fall of Alexis Argüello
Author: Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran


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  1. Moon-man 10:01am, 12/10/2016

    Irish…The MSM aka The Irrelevant Corporate Media calling something “Fake News.” haha. Now that’s rich. This PizzaGate thingie has been goin’ on for decades. Do a search on the Franklin Cover-Up or Franklin Scandal. This was back during the late 80’s.

  2. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:35am, 12/10/2016

    On first skim at 3:00AM I thought this was an article about Errol Spence and my first reaction was that this was the first case of Fake News on Boxing.Com. Like the bullshit I picked up on another site about Referee Byrd sayin’ the Judges got it wrong and Ward actually got his ass beat (something he’d never say in a million friggin’ years). When the Johnny Walker faded away this morning I re-checked and my faith in Boxing.Com was restored once again.

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