Errol Spence Jr. vs. Mikey Garcia preview: Title fight figures to be all about the champ

Kevin IoleCombat columnist

DALLAS — This fight promotion, which suddenly has a promoter saying it could attract a crowd of more than 51,000 and sell upward of 1 million pay-per-views, has been all about Mikey Garcia.

The four-division champion created this event in which he’ll challenge IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. on Saturday at AT&T Stadium by saying he saw something in Spence’s game. By daring himself to be great and picking out the one guy to fight that few believed he would ever go near, let alone beat, Garcia put himself in the center of the one of the year’s most fascinating fights.

Garcia has weighed 130 or under in 33 of his 39 pro fights. He’s going up two divisions to face one of the biggest and sturdiest 147-pounders in the modern era.

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The intrigue in the fight comes from the fact that Spence has no apparent weakness. He’s one of the most powerful pound-for-pound punchers in the game, and is one of the few who has legitimate one-punch knockout power in either hand.

He’s not a speed demon like Floyd Mayweather, but he’s not a slow and plodding fighter either. Spence is above average, or better, at everything, and he’s got near-perfect fundamentals.

So there is no weakness that Garcia can exploit, like a lack of speed or a poor defense. If Garcia is going to beat Spence, he’s going to have to be the best he’s ever been.

Mikey Garcia steps up two weight classes to challenge IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. on Saturday. (Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
Mikey Garcia steps up two weight classes to challenge IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. on Saturday. (Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

Garcia has had a sly grin creasing his face whenever he’s met the media to discuss this fight. It’s as if he knows something we don’t know.

He said he believes he’s a better boxer than Spence, but hasn’t had the kind of competition that would allow him to display the full breadth and depth of his abilities.

“Despite what everybody else thinks, I know what I’m capable of,” Garcia said. “If you’d have seen the best out of me, you guys would all be picking me. But you still haven’t seen the best out of me. Saturday night, you will.”

That, of course, begs the question of why. Garcia is 39-0 with 30 knockouts and hasn’t struggled in any of them. He’s faced a higher level of opposition than Spence has, as well.

But Garcia said he’s not been forced to show his wares.

“I haven’t had the opponent to bring it out of me,” Garcia said. “I’ve been kind of on cruise control with my opponents. I fought some very good champions, undefeated champions, but I make the fight look easy and you haven’t seen the best. This fight will show everybody that I’m much better than they ever expected.”

There is little question that Garcia can win the fight. He’s one of the game’s brightest fighters, and has the ability to adjust in the middle of a fight better than anyone in recent vintage other than Mayweather.

He’s an extremely accurate puncher, and he has a solid work rate, so he keeps his hands on his opponents and is able to slow their pace dramatically as the fight unfolds.

But while the promotion has been all about Garcia, the fight figures to be all about Spence.

He, too, hasn’t had the opponent to show how great he is, and he’s a genuinely great talent.

He’s cool under fire and he’s able to think in high-stress situations.

Errol Spence and Mikey Garcia pose for the crowd during a news conference in Los Angeles in February. (Getty Images)
Errol Spence and Mikey Garcia pose for the crowd during a news conference in Los Angeles in February. (Getty Images)

Though Garcia’s brother/trainer, Robert Garcia, suggested that Mikey would be the stronger of the two fighters, that seems like quite a bit of a stretch and more wishful thinking than fact.

Whatever slight advantages Garcia may have in speed and quickness will be negated as Spence’s power takes its toll on Garcia as the fight wears on.

Garcia will have to walk the tightrope and fight a nearly perfect fight. He can’t afford a mistake but if he makes one, Spence has the kind of power to end it in a split second.

Spence has the luxury of making a mistake and still being able to win. He’s a versatile and well-rounded fighter who isn’t going to be surprised by anything Garcia does.

Garcia is as mentally tough as they come, and he’s going to will himself to the finish line. If Spence hurts him, Garcia will know what to do to limit the damage and survive the round.

But there are too many ways for Spence to win this fight to not go with him. Spence’s height, reach and power are tremendous advantages for him.

Garcia said he can raise his game, but so, too, can Spence. He’s too big, too smart and too motivated to let this opportunity slip through his hands.

Garcia is a future Hall of Famer, but this is the night that Spence will take his first step down the road to boxing immortality.

Expect a Spence win by decision over Garcia in a memorable fight in which Garcia goes out ahead early and the champ makes a run down the stretch to retain his belt.

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