Is the pressure of facing Mikey Garcia finally getting to Errol Spence Jr.?

Kevin IoleCombat columnist

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It’s quite the understatement to say that Errol Spence Jr. is a laid-back kind of a guy.

Not much bothers the IBF welterweight champion, who will face the biggest fight of his young life on Saturday against four-division world champion Mikey Garcia.

Even as he prepared for Garcia, he did so with his two young daughters, ages 3 and 1, gleefully charging around the gym where he was working.

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Errol Spence Jr. is putting his IBF welterweight title and his undefeated record on the line vs. Mikey Garcia on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Jason Janik/Fox Sports)
Errol Spence Jr. is putting his IBF welterweight title and his undefeated record on the line vs. Mikey Garcia on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Jason Janik/Fox Sports)

Spence grew up in the Dallas area and once dreamed of running on the field as a member of the Cowboys. Instead, he became a world champion boxer and hasn’t quite gotten the acclaim that comes with his immense talent. Part of it is because Garcia, who is moving up two weight classes to challenge him for his belt, is his first truly high-profile opponent.

But a large part of the reason for his lack of a profile is because Spence is a homebody who isn’t one to tout himself all that much.

Not much gets a rise out of him, but Garcia has finally managed to do so.

Spence’s voice raised several times during Wednesday’s final news conference at AT&T Stadium. He said he was tired of Garcia talking one way when he wasn’t around and another way when they were face to face.

“It just agitates me is all,” Spence said. “He’ll be there at home with everybody around and he’s talking all big saying he’s doing this and doing that, but he’s different when I’m here sitting a few feet away. I just don’t like fake. Don’t be all respectful and all when we’re face-to-face if that’s not what you’re going to be when I’m not there.”

A trick fighters have tried for years is to rile up their opponent in order to get them to fight angry and away from the game plan. It leads to opportunities for countershots, and makes them more vulnerable.

Robert Garcia, Garcia’s trainer and older brother, believes that Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) may turn out to be the harder puncher. Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) is pound-for-pound one of the hardest punchers in the sport and he has the collection of bodies to prove it.

The key for Spence’s team is to not be lured into a game by Garcia and to wind up fighting angry. Spence trainer Derrick James said he’s not worried about that because Spence’s nature is not to be angry in the first place.

“He’s a calm guy anyway,” James said. “In sparring, we have guys who aren’t really sparring partners but who are actual fighters, and we tell them to go get him. But he’s able to keep his temperament really low, and when it’s time to turn it on, he turns it on.

“I’m tired of all the [media obligations], too. I’m ready to go and that’s all it is with him. He’s done the work, he’s prepared to fight and now he just wants to fight.”

Errol Spence Jr. looks on during Wednesday's news conference. (James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys)
Errol Spence Jr. looks on during Wednesday's news conference. (James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys)

The final 24 hours are the toughest for fighters. All the work is done and the only thing left is to make weight and spend time thinking about the fight.

This is a fight Spence has thought about for years, not necessarily against Garcia but a high-profile bout against one of the best fighters in the world. Saturday’s fight has captured the public’s imagination in such a way that more than 35,000 tickets have already been sold and at least one promoter, Richard Schaefer of Ringstar Sports, believes it could exceed the stadium record of 51,000 for boxing.

Spence realizes this is his moment. He’s not a self-promoter or one to say much about himself, but he couldn’t help himself as the fight draws closer.

“I believe I am the best fighter in the world, but this is my chance to prove it,” Spence said. “All these guys, you can look at my social media, my Instagram, my Twitter, whatever, I’ve been calling them out and none of them would fight me. So I believe I’m the best but I haven’t been getting those fights to be able to prove it. Now, here’s a fight with one of the best in the world and yeah, I want to take that opportunity and do something with you. This is my chance to make my point.”

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