Errol Spence vs Mikey Garcia prediction: Plenty on the line in year-defining fight

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Martin Hines
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Two undefeated boxing sensations go head-to-head tonight at the mammoth AT&T Stadium in Texas as welterweight king Errol Spence Jr defends his world title against four-weight world champion Mikey Garcia.

24-0 Spence is the home fighter, and the IBF champion will be fighting in front of his home fans in Texas. The 29-year-old had eyes on his progress from his prodigious amateur career, while successful sparring sessions with Floyd Mayweather gave fans and critics belief that he would make it in the professional game.

That he certainly has. After beating a succession of increasingly tough gatekeepers, Spence came of age in Sheffield of all places when he dismantled Kell Brook at Bramall Lane in May 2017 to win his first world title. Spence’s calmness after a shaky start in Yorkshire was a revelation to say the least. For the first time he didn’t have things his own way in the ring and he reacted superbly by taking control of the bout in the middle rounds and stopping Brook late.

Despite that career-defining win, Spence has stagnated in over the past two years, fighting just twice and not against the bigger names in his division. Whether he has been avoided or done the avoiding, at nearly 30, he now needs another significant victory to bolster his pound-for-pound claims and sees Mikey Garcia as that opponent.

But while Garcia is undoubtebly a world class talent, there is a caveat to this fight. 39-0 across a 13-year professional career, Garcia has been a maestro of the ring for many years. Currently a world champion at lightweight, Garcia has previously won world titles at featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight and has adapted well as he has moved up the weights.

Only two fighters in boxing history have previously won world titles at featherweight and welterweight, and for Garcia to join Henry Armstrong and Manny Pacquiao in that list he will be praying that this isn’t a step too far. Garcia weighed in at a career-heavy 145½ pounds on the scales, six pounds heavier than his last highest weight. Spence, a true welterweight, weighed in a pound heavier.

It’s that weight differential and welterweight experience which makes this fight slightly less exciting. While there is zero doubt that Garcia has the skills, nous and desire to succeed, there is every chance he will simply be too small. Moving up the weights can accentuate certain advantages but also create weaknesses that didn’t exist before. Garcia’s punches may be heavier here, but his speed and stamina could be zapped. And though his strength may improve, is that going to be enough against a man who has fought at welterweight his entire career?

There is no doubt that Garcia can bamboozle Spence early with his timing, slick shots and clever use of angles. He may even win the first half of the fight based on his energy and ring control that has seen him defeat every previous opponent he’s been in the ring with. But this is boxing, and the effort and concentration required for a smaller fighter to maintain dominance of a bout with a bigger opponent is almost impossible to maintain throughout 12 rounds.

The two go toe to toe in Dallas (AP)
The two go toe to toe in Dallas (AP)

Think Amir Khan vs Canelo Alvarez or Kell Brook vs Gennedy Golovkin. In both fights, the smaller fighter started well, using speed and timing to bamboozle their bigger opponents. But as the opening rounds faded away, sheer power and physicality began to emerge from the bigger men, and the bouts both ended at a similar time, with devastating consequences for both Khan and Brook.

Garcia is a better fighter than both however, and he has zero pressure going into the fight. Even considering his world class reputation, very few people in boxing are backing him for the win. The bookmakers have him at a vast 3/1 underdog. When nobody believes, freedom can become the greatest attribute of all. A noble loss would still be a victory for Garcia, while Spence will be in catch-22 situation. Blast Garcia out early, and people will just say he knocked out a smaller man. Struggle to a points win? Then his coveted pound-for-pound ranking desires will really be in question.

Putting aside the weight saga, this is still a fight to look forward to. Firstly, it’s free-to-air in the UK on ITV4, which makes a welcome change from subscription and pay-per-view costs. Secondly, this is an event fight, one of those year-defining contests between two of the best fighters on the planet. While the overall result may be without doubt for many, there is a still a beauty in the unknown, and in this sport itself.