By: Sean Crose
Back, way back, in 1897, Bob Fitzimmons, a former middleweight champion, fought heavyweight champion James J Corbett for the title Corbett had won by knocking out bare knuckle great John L Sullivan. A single body shot landed under the Reno sun put Corbett down and led to Fitzimmons being crowned heavyweight champion. Many boxers – some might argue too many – have aimed for the kind of greatness Fitzimmons earned that long ago day. Some have done so organically, by steadily moving up in weight classes as time moves on, while others have engaged in considerable weight jumps.
For instance, Amir Khan jumped up from welterweight to middleweight in order to try to best Canelo Alvarez back in 2016. Although Khan did quite well for himself, a thunderous fifth round shot from the red haired star put the Englishman down and out in frightening style. A few months later, Kahn’s countryman, Kell Brook, also decided to jump two weight classes in order to face then middleweight king Gennady Golovkin. Like Khan, Brook did very well for himself. He did not, however, do well enough. Like Khan before him, Brook found he couldn’t get past the fifth round.
The most famous modern case of a known fighter jumping up in weight in order to attain greatness occurred in 1987 when Sugar Ray Leonard shot up to middleweight after almost three years out of the ring to outpoint iconic champ Marvin Hagler in highly controversial fashion. Mikey Garcia clearly wants to follow Leonard’s lead, albeit without the controversy, when he faces welterweight star Errol Spence Jr this weekend at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas for Spence’s IBF welterweight title. The 39-0 Garcia is jumping up from lightweight to welterweight in order to face the 24-0 Spence, who, at nearly 5’10, is big for a welterweight to begin with.
Stepping into the ring with a man close to four inches taller than him is clearly a daunting task for Garcia. The fact that Spence is exceedingly talented, with a murderous body attack, and a high knockout ratio to boot, also stacks the odds against the California native. Yet Garcia is nothing if not an exceedingly deliberate person. Just watching him eat meals on YouTube videos is a study in deliberation. In other words, Garcia most likely wouldn’t have chosen to go after Spence unless he had solid, highly convincing reasons to do so. To paraphrase Max Schmeling, Garcia most likely sees something.
It’s also worth noting that Garcia, ever the professional, has teamed up with Victor Conte, to train at the nutritionist’s Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning complex in California. The results certainly pass the eye test, as Garcia looks large and impressive in recent media photos. The real test, however, will occur in the ring this coming Saturday night. Fans will either witness history in the making…or witness history simply repeating itself.