Spence vs. Garcia: ‘Superfight’ or an ill-conceived mismatch?
Errol Spence Jr vs. Mikey Garcia may be a champ vs. champ “superfight,” but it’s also one that has been met with ambivalence.
This weekend’s biggest combat sports event will see IBF welterweight (147 lbs) champion Errol Spence Jr (24-0, 21 KOs) take on WBC lightweight (135 lbs) champion Mikey Garcia in the main event of a PBC on FOX pay-per-view at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. It is indeed a champ vs. champ boxing “superfight,” at a time when MMA fans are all too familiar with the UFC’s sudden interest in frequently booking them in recent years.
Garcia has had his eyes on Spence dating back to last July, prior to his lightweight title unification win over Robert Easter Jr. Even throughout this week’s build-up, much of the promotion has been based on the premise that Mikey is “daring to be great” (a phrase I’m now thoroughly sick of hearing). Mikey has captured major world titles in four weight classes, has an impressive list of opponents he’s conquered, but he wants to go the extra mile.
With all of that said, is this really a superfight?
In theory, the answer is yes. Both men are widely considered to be top-ten pound-for-pound boxers (Garcia more so than Spence), and you can make an argument that Garcia is the #1 lightweight and Spence is the #1 welterweight. Personally, I wouldn’t completely vouch for Spence as #1 at WW until he beefs up his resume against other actual welterweights, whereas either Garcia or Vasiliy Lomachenko is top dog at 135 lbs. Is this not a case of the best fighting the best?
The elephant in the room, of course, is the fact that Spence is a lifelong welterweight who admits to walking around 168 lbs, whereas Mikey has as many welterweight boxing matches as I do. He started his career at featherweight (126 lbs) — Garcia was still competing at featherweight at the time when Spence made his pro debut in November 2012 — and the highest he’s ever gone was 140 lbs, beating Adrien Broner in 2017 and then-IBF champion Sergey Lipinets in 2018.
In this instance, Garcia is doing a two-division jump against a fighter who’s already on record as eyeing a move up to 154 lbs as early as 2020. Garcia’s solution for acclimating his body to welterweight was to enroll in a training regimen crafted by Victor Conte (yes, of BALCO infamy). He’ll also be facing a three-inch height disparity and a four-inch reach disadvantage.
Cynicism from a segment of boxing fans is largely driven by the inevitable and glaring size discrepancy. There is no denying that Garcia is an exceptionally skilled fighter, but so is Spence, and even if Garcia does have the superior skillset (which me might not have), he’s destined to be physically overmatched and won’t have the edge in punching power. Unless he shows otherwise, Roberto Duran he is not.
The other point of contention is the realization that Spence has actual welterweights he could (and should) be fighting instead of Garcia — Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, and Danny Garcia are just within the PBC roster, never mind Terence Crawford. And yet, his first real big money fight is against a current lightweight who’s fought almost his entire career 2-4 weight divisions below him. Coming off a 2018 in which he only fought Lamont Peterson and the unheralded Carlos Ocampo, an expected dominant win over Garcia feels like a waste of time for Spence.
Alas, barring something crazy, the fight will be happening two days from now. It’ll be a pro-Garcia crowd with a boisterous Mexican fanbase pulling for their fighter. If Garcia wins, he’ll have sought greatness and achieved it, catapulting himself into legitimate conversation as the best boxer in the world. He’ll have even fully erased doubts from his own brother and trainer Robert Garcia, who had reservations about this fight before it was booked. A Spence wipeout — which would reflect the wide odds in Errol’s favor — would validate the pre-fight beliefs from detractors that this should’ve never been made in the first place.
Long story short: Weight classes exist for a reason. It’s not an impossible task for Garcia, but recent bouts such as Lomachenko vs. Rigondeaux, Golovkin vs. Brook, and Canelo vs. Khan, all admittedly aren’t directly comparable to Garcia vs. Spence, don’t inspire much confidence.
Perhaps it’s Mikey’s boldness that gives this matchup some level of intrigue. He’s struggled to gain a foothold as an actual draw, and this is his golden opportunity. Just don’t be surprised or feel robbed of your $75 in pay-per-view money if he’s bitten off more than he can chew.