Errol Spence vs Mikey Garcia: Pursuit of greatness pushes Garcia to dangerous heights

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Jack Rathborn
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Quiet, unassuming and with polished skills, Mikey Garcia’s quest for greatness could see him shake up boxing like a snow globe on Saturday.

In a sport where most at the top are braggadocious, Garcia's best promotion has been in the ring in a career where politics have often hidden his exceptional gifts from the wider public. Saturday's daunting challenge for Errol Spence Jr's IBF world welterweight title puts him on the brink of near-immortality.

Should he emerge with his hand clasped by the referee, pointing towards the roof of the spaceship that is Cowboys Stadium, Garcia will have conquered a third successive unbeaten champion in a third weight division in 12 months.

After Floyd Mayweather Jr begrudgingly vacated his place on the throne, instead pursuing circus-like fights, the sport has lacked a true, undisputed No 1 in the mythical pound-for-pound rankings. And debate continues to rage as to whether Canelo Alvarez, Vasyl Lomachenko or somebody else merits their place on the throne.

Garcia, maligned for snubbing Lomachenko for this fight, is playing with fire by attempting to emulate the legendary Manny Pacquiao by surging through the weight divisions. It is usually an inauspicious strategy to claim fame and fortune in such a dangerous sport – ask Kell Brook, who suffered a broken orbital bone following his reckless jaunt at middleweight against Gennady Golovkin. But succeed and victory will catapult him into superstardom.

In the other corner in Dallas on Saturday will stand a champion arguably reluctant to grasp his own stardom: approaching two years since an emphatic breakout performance and victory over Brook, Spence Jr has been largely kept on the sideline.

Dispatching Lamont Peterson and Carlos Ocampos inside the distance has left fans hungry for more against tougher opposition. The baffling decision to not pair Spence Jr with Shawn Porter, the WBC champion, who staggered towards a defence against Yordenis Ugas last week, means the former Olympian must seize the moment at home in Dallas.

The manner of victory is all important when you consider critics will likely attribute a title defence to his superior size and weight, making the decision to fight Garcia curious. Is Spence Jr walking into a trap? Is Garcia high on his own powers, or conscious of a flaw in his larger opponent’s game that he can expose?

“I think Spence will sit in front of Mikey Garcia,” Luke Campbell, who is mandatory for Garcia’s WBC lightweight strap, told The Independent.

“I think he (Garcia) likes people who sit in front of him. But he (Spence Jr) is a big strong guy.

Errol Spence Jr beat Lamont Peterson with an eighth round stoppage (AP)
Errol Spence Jr beat Lamont Peterson with an eighth round stoppage (AP)

“They say he (Garcia) has jumped up two weights, but he’s won a world title at 140 as well, so technically it’s only one weight class.

“He’s a boxer-puncher; he likes to hit and move and box. I think it will be very interesting, I think Mikey can do it. I think he can pull it off.”

Campbell may privately be willing on Garcia, safe in the knowledge that there is little prospect of him dropping back down to lightweight for a summer showdown, and therefore leaving the belt vacant.

Mikey Garcia outclassed Robert Easter Jr (Getty)
Mikey Garcia outclassed Robert Easter Jr (Getty)

But the key to this fight looks destined to be Garcia’s power and more specifically whether he can dissuade Spence Jr from charging forward. Bravery, too, looks set to emerge as a significant factor in his quest. Denying Spence Jr the space to tee off is a bold strategy, but one he might be forced to pursue, even if it brings him into range of those sickening body punches that gradually ground down Brook.

The champion’s power and size may prove too much, though Garcia himself will enter the ring above the weight limit at around 150 pounds. But crisp, arrow-like punches and a smart game plan from his brother and famed trainer Robert Garcia, could herald the breakout of a new superstar in the sport.