By: Aziel Karthak
Mikey Garcia has cojones. Or he just has a massive ego. In interviews he comes off as a decent, level-headed person. So, let’s go with cojones.
Garcia, whose most recent fight was at 135 lbs, has a lot to lose when he steps into the ring with Errol Spence Jr., the IBF king at 147 lbs. Forget the flawed narrative that the smaller man will walk away a winner no matter the outcome of such contests. No, he doesn’t. This is combat sports where weight divisions exist so fights are fairly contested. A person going up two weight classes risks more than just a loss. There is a chance that he takes a beating bad enough to dent not just bones but confidence going forward. Further, Garcia is putting an undefeated record on the line.
Of course, he is not the first boxer to go up in weight and challenge a big name. Others have done it before, successfully – Spinks versus Holmes, Leonard versus Hagler, and Pacquiao versus De La Hoya, to name three. But, this seems different. Holmes was 35 years old with 48 fights behind him and skills clearly on the wane. Hagler was coming off an unforgettable war with Mugabi that will take years off a fighter, even those built with iron like the Newark native. De La Hoya simply should not have fought at welterweight at the time. However, Mikey Garcia is taking on someone bigger, younger and, like him, a champion in his prime.
If he pulls it off, how highly would it rank among boxing achievements? Very high indeed. In this context, perhaps just below Henry Armstrong leaving the comfortable shores of featherweight and outclassing, some say carrying for the last few rounds, welterweight champion Barney Ross in 1938.
Garcia’s last fight was in July 2018. Eight months is a lot of time to pack in 12 pounds and have the strength and conditioning experts get you comfortable at that weight. Right? Conventional boxing wisdom suggests there is no substitute for in-ring acclimatization, especially against an individual who has been fighting at that weight and happens to be the best in the pool. Even Andre Ward tested the waters at 175 lbs before he felt comfortable enough to take on Kovalev. Garcia is going in cold.
So, who will win? Garcia’s father and brother have been so confident since the fight was announced that it is clear they have seen something in the welterweight champion’s arsenal that they feel plays right into Mikey’s strengths. Conversely, betting houses give the challenger little chance. Still, the exciting aspect of a prize fight is that it is filled with endless possibilities. Garcia will have the speed advantage to complement possibly the best timing in boxing. And you know what they say about speed and timing. Here, however, the size of the opposition may cancel out the advantages.
Prediction: Spence will retain in a hard-fought battle. The best body hunter in the division will wear out the smaller challenger who will find it difficult to carry the extra weight by the middle rounds and will succumb to a late round stoppage.
As for Garcia, the “0” will go and the casuals will be disappointed but boxing history will record his effort as a deed worthy of greatness. Unlike most sports, the win-loss record in the fight game can be misleading. Statistics matter, of course they do, but boxing greatness is more than mere numbers. It’s also about the heart and the will to test oneself against the very best, to welcome risk and danger as the only paths to real glory. And make no mistake, regardless of what happens on Saturday night, Mikey Garcia has taken a step on the highway to greatness.