By Jake Donovan
From the moment he advanced from prospect to contender and eventual welterweight titlist, Errol Spence quickly figured out his toughest challenge doesn’t reside in the ring.
At least not until he’s able to convince his divisional peers to join him there.
Despite fighting under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner which has long boasted most of the best welterweights, Spence (24-0, 21KOs) has for the most part found himself on the outside looking in. Not even the allure of a major title—which he acquired on the road in a May ’17 knockout of Kell Brook in England—has been enough to entice such PBC stars as Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter or Danny Garcia into the ring.
By his own admission, he was nearly guilty of doing the same as has been done to him when he was initially called out by Mikey Garcia, a four-division titlist willing to move up in weight. The more he thought about it, the less crazy he considered the idea, which leads to their forthcoming March 16 Fox Pay-Per-View battle at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“At first, I didn’t put much thought in fighting him, to tell you the truth,” confessed Spence during a recent media conference call. “Not until stayed taking about it a lot more and when I realized all of the other welterweights were tied up. Keith Thurman had a fight scheduled (versus Josesito Lopez, whom he outpointed in his January ring return after two years).
“Shawn Porter, he’s got his fight (with Yordenis Ugas this Saturday in Carson, Calif.); Danny Garcia has a fight scheduled (April 20 versus Adrian Granados) and even Manny Pacquiao had the Adrien Broner fight. Then when I found out I could be fighting at Cowboys Stadium (just outside of Spence’s Desoto hometown), it made perfect sense.”
All out of options—at least within the realm of PBC—Spence turns to Mikey Garcia, who has collected major titles from featherweight (126 pounds) through super lightweight (140 pounds). However, the 31-year old from Oxnard, Calif. is coming off of a 12-round win over Robert Easter in their lightweight title unification bout last July and will be moving up two divisions for his first career fight at welterweight.
Still, the legacy boxer—whose older brother and head trainer Robert is a former 130-pound titlist—has yet to lose and has emerged as a legitimate top tier pound-for-pound entrant ever since returning to the ring in July ’16 following a two-year hiatus. The fact that he’s willing to further test himself versus a fighter of Spence’s pedigree says enough about his quest for greatness—and was enough to secure this event.
The fact that Garcia was willing to travel to Spence’s backyard only sweetened the deal.
“I respect him. I’ve always respected Mikey’s skills and talent and as a parent,” Spence says of Garcia. Besides all that, I’ll still respect him after the fight. He challenged me and moved up to take the fight. I don’t know who I’d be fighting next if he didn’t call me out.
“Shawn has a big fight this weekend but not (an event like March 16). Danny has a fight but it’s looked upon as a tune-up and not of any sort of magnitude. Keith had a fight but not of any magnitude. Shawn, Keith and Danny never fought a fight of this magnitude and they’ve been fighting for a much longer time. I was excited as soon as I found out where we were going to be at. Bassically it was an easy fight to make. I was excited to be fighting at home again, fighting here at Cowboys Stadium.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter @JakeNDaBox