by Cliff Rold
He wouldn’t be the first man to win a featherweight, Jr. lightweight, lightweight, or Jr. welterweight title to go on to be a champion at welterweight.
He wouldn’t even be the first to win some claim to titles in all five of those classes.
That doesn’t make it any less a feat. Let there be no mistake: if Mikey Garcia wins on Saturday night, he’ll join some high-class company. Even in an era where there are more title opportunities, the ranks of one-time featherweight champs who won even any notable claim to welterweight honors is Henry Armstrong and Manny Pacquiao long.
Garcia has to get past Errol Spence this Saturday to join them (Fox PPV, 9 PM EST).
With walk-ups expected to take the crowd at Cowboys Stadium outside Spence’s hometown of Dallas to have more than 40,000 butts in the seats, Spence-Garcia has become a big fight. Can Garcia rise to the occasion and make it a memorable one?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: IBF welterweight (2017-Present, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’9 ½
Weight: 146 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Dallas, Texas
Record: 24-0, 21 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-0, 3 KO
Last Five Opponents: 147-7-3 (.946)
Rankings: #1 (TBRB, Ring, ESPN), #2 (Boxing Monthly, BoxRec)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Chris Algieri TKO5, Kell Brook KO11, Lamont Peterson RTD7
Title: WBC lightweight (2017-Present, 1 Defense); TBRB Jr. Welterweight (2018-Present, 0 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBO featherweight (2013, Lost on the scale); WBO super featherweight (2013-14, 1 Defense); IBF light welterweight (2018); IBF lightweight (2018)
Weight: 145 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Moreno Valley, California
Record: 39-0, 30 KO
Press Rankings: At 135 – #1 (Ring), #2 (TBRB, ESPN, Boxing Monthly, BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 6-0, 3 KO
Last Five Opponents: 113-4 (.966)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Mauricio Pastrana KO2; Orlando Salido TD8; Juan Manuel Lopez TKO4; Roman Martinez KO8; Juan Carlos Burgos UD12; Elio Rojas TKO5; Dejan Zlaticanin KO3; Adrien Broner UD12; Sergey Lipinets UD12; Robert Easter UD12
The Case for Spence: Spence looks the part but with only 24 fights, still early in his run as a titlist, Spence is still a little bit of a what could be than what is. There is a reason the 2012 US Olympian fuels assumptions about his ceiling. An aggressive southpaw, he typically fights flat footed behind a hard right jab. Spence is one of the best body punchers around and he moves up and down fluidly in close quarters. If Spence has vulnerability, it might be a lack of head movement. Against Garcia, Spence will likely be fighting his best fight if he doesn’t get greedy inside. Spence is both taller and longer. Garcia is a fantastic counter puncher but he’ll need Spence to stay in range to make it work for him. If Spence remembers to take a step back, pop the jab, and continue to control space between assaults, Garcia could be hard pressed for opportunities to find him.
The Case for Garcia: Garcia can punch. He might not have proven welterweight power but he’s dropped men as high as 140 lbs. and that’s not so huge a gap. With an efficiency and patience that could compare favorably to Juan Manuel Marquez, Garcia also knows how to create impactful combinations when opening arise. For Garcia, chances to win will rest largely on his timing. If he can catch Spence coming forward early and with authority, and make his own excellent jab a factor, it might make Spence think. Garcia is the more experienced professional, has grown up in the sport, and the confidence he’s shown in wanting this fight for quite some time indicates he might really see something to exploit. Garcia is as thoughtful a pro as there is right now. His ring intelligence alone makes him a factor in any fight he thinks he can win.
The Pick: Garcia is one of the best fighters in the world, and overall is the more proven commodity. He hasn’t proven to be a welterweight just yet. They’ve done a good job selling Garcia’s chances but the event still seems to be more about Spence than the challenger. It’s near Spence’s hometown, at a time when the PBC is looking for someone to take the lead at welterweight in the post-Mayweather era; put another way, it feels like a high profile showcase opportunity. It will be competitive but the body punching, height, speed, and welterweight power of Spence is too much to ignore. This feels like a match of prime men that have near equal talent. When talent is equal, size matters. Spence is the pick.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]