The proposed Errol Spence Jr.-Mikey Garcia bout is nearly done for a February or March 2019 date. Based on their reactions online, this news displeases many hardcore fight fans.
There are two prevailing opinions: One is that the fight doesn’t belong on PPV; the other is that it’s a mismatch.
The first take is understandable. Currently, neither is a mainstream attraction. The second take, however, is up for debate.
Spence-Garcia is a match between two undefeated pound-for-pounders in their respective prime. The 28-year-old Spence, (24-0, 21 KOs), is the IBF world welterweight champion and widely considered the most formidable fighter in the division. The 30-year-old Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs), holds the WBC lightweight strap. He’s won titles at 126, 130, 135 and 140, and flashed power in each division.
Garcia’s skill transcends weight classes. Even so, he’s fought above lightweight only three times and never at 147. That’s primarily why some fans are treating the Spence matchup as if it’s “Baby” Jake Matlala versus Michael Grant.
There was a similar outcry in 2008, when Manny Pacquiao jumped from 135 to 147. Pacquiao pummeled Oscar De La Hoya into retirement. But Oscar was a shell. Spence is entering his prime. The DeSoto, Texas native isn’t just bigger and stronger than Garcia; he’s bigger and stronger than most welterweights — and probably most junior middleweights too.
Spence’s skills are equally dynamic. That hasn’t stopped Garcia from calling him out. Now, he’s on the verge of getting what he wants, for better or worse.
“[Mikey] knows why he’s picking this fight,” said brother and trainer Robert Garcia to Boxingscene.com. “And now that we’ve been talking about this fight, I’ve been watching more of Spence and I think he’s beatable. We’re not going to tell you guys, but there is something that we see in watching the fights. And hopefully after the fight, if it happens, Mikey can tell you what he saw and why exactly he picked this fight two years ago.”
Robert’s comments recall those made by Max Schmeling prior to his June 1936 encounter with Joe Louis. Schmeling, a 10-1 underdog, told anyone who would listen that he had the keys to victory.
When reporters asked why, the German simply replied, “I see something.”
Schmeling repeatedly landed counter rights on Louis until the heavyweight champion succumbed in round 12.
What Schmeling saw was Louis’ habit of dropping his left after throwing a punch. He spotted it six months earlier, when he sat ringside and watched Louis stop Paulino Uzcudun in four.
Maybe Garcia sees something with Spence. Maybe he needs to see a shrink — or maybe he’s crazy like a fox.
Earlier this week, a Twitter post that found its way to my feed caught my eye.
“Errol steps when punching,” said brule aka jgervin. “Doesn’t change rhythm. Errol didn’t probe and control his opponents much until versus Peterson (growth). He’ll lose if he doesn’t feint more, stop step/punch, and add more angles.”
This observer, also an amateur boxer, may be on to something. I reached out to Kevin Cunningham, who trained both Adrien Broner and Robert Easter Jr., when they fought Garcia for his thoughts.
“If I had to bet on it, I’d bet on Errol,” he said. “But if it goes the distance, there’s a good chance he loses. Errol is one hell of a fighter, but Mikey is one of the best fighters in the world, pound-for-pound, man. His ring IQ, his balance, and his control of range and distance are exceptional.”
Cunningham believes the weight difference isn’t as big a factor as some think.
“When that bell rings, it ain’t about weight. It’s a boxing match,” he continued. “Floyd Mayweather was smaller than most of the welterweights he fought. Mikey is one of the smartest, most fundamentally sound fighters in the world today. If you have the skill, technique and fundamentals at the world-class level, you can outbox anybody.”
It’s been reported that Garcia may enlist the help of SNAC Nutrition head Victor Conte for this fight. Conte, the former BALCO head, pled guilty to dealing steroids in 2005. He is now a wholesale distributer of nutritional supplements. He also has a training center where boxers augment their preparation for fights.
Conte assisted long-time featherweight Juan Manuel Marquez when he moved up to welter to face Pacquiao in 2012. Marquez didn’t come close to dropping Pacquiao in 36 previous frames. He accomplished it twice during that fourth encounter; the second knockdown left Manny face first on the canvas, even well after the fight was stopped.
Adding Conte, along with lifting weights — something Garcia says he hasn’t done before — could be a gamechanger. Nevertheless, this writer isn’t predicting an upset. But it isn’t a mismatch and Garcia shouldn’t be disregarded. What he sees may not be good enough to win, but it could raise questions about Spence we hadn’t contemplated and expose flaws we hadn’t noticed.
Most fans would prefer Garcia unify versus Vasyl Lomachenko and Spence take on the other 147-pound world titlists. However, Spence-Garcia doesn’t preclude the former from facing WBC belt-holder Shawn Porter after. Both are still in their prime. Porter might return against Yordenis Ugas in early 2019. If he and Spence are victorious in their respective bouts, a summer showdown could follow.
As for Garcia-Lomachenko, reasonable fans understand it’s a difficult fight to make. Perhaps it happens down the line, but the wounds are still fresh from the two-year court battle between Garcia and Top Rank, Garcia’s former promoter and Lomachenko’s current one.
Earlier this week, Garcia relinquished the IBF world 135-pound title. This paves the way for mandatory challenger Richard Commey, one of the best TV fighters in the sport today, to get a well-deserved second world title shot.
Commey last fought for a strap versus the aforementioned Easter Jr. in September 2016. The Fight of the Year candidate ended in a split decision win for Easter that could have easily gone the other way.
Commey has shown significant improvement under the tutelage of Andre Rozier, who trains newly-crowned IBF 160-pound champ Daniel Jacobs. The two began working together when Commey relocated from Ghana to New York in August 2017.
Little-known Russian Isa Chaniev will be Commey’s opponent for the vacant title. The IBF says negotiations must be finalized by Nov. 30. Commey-Chaniev could take place sometime in January 2019.