By: Ste Rowen
It feels that ever since the fight was announced, Errol Spence, IBF welterweight champion vs. Mikey Garcia, WBC lightweight champion has been laughed at in many corners of the boxing world, but as time has gone by, and experts have run the roost over each fighter’s prospects, the weight of opinion has shifted ever so slightly towards Mikey, making it a more competitive bout than initially thought and, just perhaps, leaning towards a Garcia victory.
Pundits predicting a Mikey win aren’t chancers hoping to shout about a call only an ‘insider’ would’ve been able to make – well, not all of them anyway – The four-weight world champion, Garcia has a legitimate chance, but only if he meets Spence on a bad day that the Texan has yet to have in the pro ranks.
In the build-up towards the mega-bout, Spence’s amateur experience has been too often overlooked. His style and performances earnt him a stand out position in the US boxing squad for amateur world championships and Olympics. ‘The Truth’ won numerous Nationals and qualified for both the 2011 worlds and 2012 Olympics; losing in the 2012 quarter-finals to the man who lost to the man, who eventually claimed gold. It was the same man who defeated Errol in the 2011 World Championship quarters, Serik Sapiyev.
Spence, 24-0 (20KOs) is the much bigger man by conventional welterweight vs. welterweight standards but it’s time for fans to stop overlooking the elite level that Errol has boxed and continues to box at. He has obvious power and it seems inevitable that he will, one day soon, find himself fighting at middleweight but Errol isn’t recognised as a pound-for-pound player by accident. The American southpaw fights off, what almost appears as, a hesitant jab; as if he’s attempting to lull his opponent into a false of security. But it’s the left-hand lurking, always ready in the background, that does the real damage. Against Brook, Spence’s left punished the home fighter to the body early on, and it told in the later rounds.
When ‘The Truth’ stopped Peterson in his latest bout, the jabs weren’t so hesitant, but the left hands brutalised the former world champion.
As a professional, Errol has reduced Bundu and Chris Algieri to journey men-esque opponents and forced Kell Brook to quit in front of a packed-out home crowd. Legit challenger, Lamont Peterson was swept aside without a second thought; you’d have struggled to find a single person giving Peterson a hope before that fight. It’s more the measure of the boxer that Errol is, than the level of his opposition.
Of course these are all thing Mikey and trainer Robert Garcia would’ve analysed and worked on themselves, but it doesn’t mean they will stop the Texan from implementing them.
Mikey has a solid chin, proven solid enough too in bouts with some of the best names, but then again, and there’s no nuanced way to put this, Slick-Mike does have an unusually large head. Does that help? Evidently. Will it be an advantage against the force of Spence’s punches, past evidence formed from Errol’s pro-bouts suggests not.
But Mikey sits in the top 3 – top five at least – of the pound-for-pound list for reasons that stretch beyond the fact that he can take a punch. Much like his opponent this Saturday, Garcia has magnetism to the way he fights. Both Mikey and Errol have constantly looked a cut or two above their opposition but at times it’s felt as if they’ve phoned in their offense. An accusation that could also be labelled at the shadow lurking in the background of this article, WBO champ, Terence Crawford.
Take the example of Garcia vs. Broner. Six months after crushing Zlaticanin, Mikey crushed Adrien Broner, but this time only on the scorecards, throwing the heaviest of punches early before seeing the bout out at a canter.
For Terence; the WBO king has taken the foot off the pedal on numerous occasions. Look again at his dominant showings over Viktor Postol to unify at lightweight, or his complete domination of Ricky Burns. The bully came out on both occasions, but the bully enjoyed his own work a little too much.
And in Spence’s case it wa-…actually, maybe that’s why Spence is seen as the top of 147lb, and why he’s the overwhelming favourite heading into this weekend. When was the last time he laid off his opponent after taking control?
Okay, cards on the table. I like Mikey Garcia. I really like Mikey Garcia. He’s seemingly always aimed for legacy over profit (not to say he hasn’t earned well from the sport), especially since returning in 2016 from, his almost three-year layoff.
He’s 39-0 (30KOs) heading into this weekend’s bout, and that’s no manufactured record. Mikey’s victims, just to name a few, include; Salido, Juanma Lopez, Broner, Sergey Lipinets and most recently, Robert Easter Jr – whilst constantly fluctuating between different weight limits.
And don’t forget that beautiful – many would say brutal – knockout of Dejan Zlaticanin in 2017.
His record is proof enough that the Mexican-American has it in him to possibly defeat Spence, but victory over Errol, though it might guarantee temporary P-4-P number one status, does not guarantee supremacy over the latest division he’s decided to fight in.
If Mikey defies the odds and defeats Errol, it makes him the IBF welterweight champion, but it doesn’t make him the universally recognised 147lb boss.
Whilst Terence Crawford, a champion of three divisions, remains undefeated, any welterweight that claims supremacy, including Spence himself, leaves themselves open to questioning. And being part of a separate promotional team just won’t cut it as an excuse.
For the winner of Spence-Garcia, true legacy-defining glory awaits in the bouts of the future.