How Errol Spence Jr. brilliantly schooled Mikey Garcia in the sweet science

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Errol Spence Jr. fights Mikey Garcia for the IBF welterweight championship at AT&T Stadium on March 16, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Frank Micelotta/Fox Sports)
Errol Spence Jr. fights Mikey Garcia for the IBF welterweight championship at AT&T Stadium on March 16, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Frank Micelotta/Fox Sports)

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Errol Spence Jr. was the bigger man on Saturday, but it wasn’t his size that won this fight over Mikey Garcia before a crowd of 47,525 at AT&T Stadium.

Garcia was by far the best opponent that Spence ever faced, yet the tale of the tape will duly note that Spence had four inches of height and reach on the four-division world champion.

Anyone, though, who thinks this was simply the case of a bigger man using his size to impose his will is wrong.

Dead wrong.

Yeah, size was a factor, because Spence used a brilliant jab that he mixed up and used repeatedly, to control the distance. Garcia fought probably 32 of the bout’s 36 minutes outside of his punching range, and paid a dear price every time he attempted to get inside.

Spence won in a shutout, retaining the IBF welterweight title by scores of 120-108 twice and 120-107, vaulting him to the highest reaches of the sport.

It’s too early to say he has hit the level of legends like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, who were both seated at ringside, but he took a huge step in moving in that direction. The reason he’s not there yet is that his opposition has generally been second rate.

Garcia is by far the best opponent of his career, and he made this event by noting he’d seen something in Spence and called him out. He was moving up from lightweight to do it and simply didn’t have the reach, or the quickness, to do what he needed.

Spence never let Garcia change the distance and it was a wipeout as a result. Spence landed 345 of 1,082 punches, many of them clean, hard shots to the head. Garcia landed just 75 of 406 shots.

“Throughout training camp, a lot of commentators thought he was too smart and I couldn't box as well as him,” Spence said. “I showed I can box and I can move my head if i want to. The game is to be smart. It’s the sweet science. I had the size and reach advantage, so why not use it to take away the jab? It's a weapon for me and it takes away one of his weapons.”

Errol Spence Jr. fights Mikey Garcia for the IBF welterweight title at AT&T Stadium on Saturday. (Frank Micelotta/Fox Sports)
Errol Spence Jr. fights Mikey Garcia for the IBF welterweight title at AT&T Stadium on Saturday. (Frank Micelotta/Fox Sports)

Promoter Richard Schaefer was correct when he said it was Spence’s boxing skills which dictated the outcome.

The conventional wisdom was if Spence were to win, he’d impose his size and strength upon Garcia.

While Spence stung Garcia numerous times, he didn’t necessarily go for the home run at any point. Garcia was stuck on the outside eating Spence’s fists.

“I think it was an issue,” Schaefer said of Spence’s reach. “I think it was more so an issue than the weight, but I think the reach [was a problem for Garcia]. We saw tonight how technically sound Errol Spence is as well. He has a beautiful style and can do everything. His punches, the combinations, the ring generalship, everything was amazing. This is important, in my opinion: He didn’t win that fight tonight because of his size or his power. He won this fight tonight because of his skills.”

Schaefer regularly referred to Spence as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world at the post-fight news conference, and while it’s not an outrageous opinion, WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford is also in that race, as is WBA lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko.

Is Manny Pacquiao next for Errol Spence Jr.?

Sadly, we’re about to see a rerun of the dragged out negotiations between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, who first spoke about fighting in 2009 but didn’t get into the ring with each other until 2015.

Pacquiao climbed into the ring on Saturday and showed some interest in fighting Spence next. Asked if he’d do it, he didn’t jump at the chance, but nor did he decline.

“Yes, why not?” Pacquiao said of fighting Spence. “We'll give the fans a good fight.”

But far the more intriguing fight, and the one that would likely decide the sport’s best fighter, is Spence against Crawford. But Schaefer said it’s unlikely to happen until 2020, and mentioned WBA champion Keith Thurman, WBC champion Shawn Porter and former champion Danny Garcia as possible alternatives to Pacquiao.

Spence-Crawford isn’t necessarily a huge pay-per-view fight yet, and the fact that Spence fights for the Premier Boxing Champions and Crawford is with Top Rank is the biggest issue. The two don’t have a great history of working well together, even though promoters on each side pay lip service to the public and insist they’re open to working with the other. But when it comes time to cut a deal, they more often than not go in other directions.

That’s going to be a story for the rest of 2019 and until they quit battling and do what is best for the fighters and for the sport, it’s going to continue.

Hopefully that tiring chatter won’t diminish Spence’s performance. This is a guy who had the look of a generational fighter when he turned pro after the 2012 Olympics, and he’s finally living up to that hype.

He has a ways to go and fights to still win, but there’s no denying that Saturday’s performance sets him well apart from the pack.

“He came out here with a good game plan and kept the distance in his favor,” Garcia said in tribute. “I couldn't get my rhythm going and he did what he had to do. I tried to make adjustments and he kept executing.”

Spence made Garcia, one of the elite boxers in the world, look like just another guy.

Spence is special, and getting better quickly.

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