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Spence vs Garcia: Unfortunately, size matters

Mikey Garcia deserves respect in making the leap up to welterweight, but the odds are stacked against him.

Mikey Garcia v Robert Easter Jr Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has been a contributor at Bad Left Hook since 2018.

Last week Errol Spence Jr and Mikey Garcia announced their blockbuster fight for Spence’s IBF welterweight title on March 16. Landing at the AT&T Stadium in Texas - as well as on FOX pay-per-view - this super-fight is the first of many expected in 2019, however, the caveat is too big to ignore.

The old adage goes “a good biggun always beats a good littl’un”, and in this case, Spence looks like a big ‘biggun’.

The jump may not be as big as it looks on paper. The leap from 135-pounds to 147 will be cushioned by Garcia’s victory over Sergey Lipinets at the junior welterweight limit. Making 140-pounds for this fight was a one-off, sure, but the 30-year-old will have a taste for life in the bigger ponds and will be confident in his physique at welterweight.

The biggest problem lies in Spence’s size. The IBF welterweight titlist is big for the 147-pounds limit; he demonstrated this in his dissection of a drained Kell Brook where he pummeled the “Special One’s” skull in at the home of his victim’s beloved football club Sheffield United.

This victory in May 2017 is still arguably the biggest and best name on the Spence résumé. With room to grow up the divisions, it’s easy to see “The Truth” moving to light-middle later in his career, once the welterweight marbles have been collected by one name.

Speaking of the 147-pounders, this is where some criticism is thrown towards this fight. A blossoming division including “champions” of sorts Keith Thurman, Manny Pacquiao, Shawn Porter and Terence Crawford, Spence should be looking at unification rather than lightweights; granted, these fights can’t just be made overnight.

There’s plenty for Mikey to get teeth stuck into as well. Vasyl Lomachenko has made no secret of his desire to fight the four-weight world champion, however, Bob Arum’s fractured relationship with Garcia and his team has derailed any chance of this fight happening in the near future.

This fight deserves the column inches it will receive in the coming months and rightly so. Two world champions with their 0s intact, putting it on the line in front of a potential 80,000 fans. The problem is, we’ve seen the blueprint before.

Kell Brook vs. Gennady Golovkin - TKO 5. Amir Khan vs. Saul Alvarez - KO 6. Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Vasyl Lomachenko - RTD 6: none of these recent examples of fighters clambering up two weight classes has made it into the second half of the fight. What can Garcia do differently?

If Mikey can draw Spence close, make him miss and counter with quick flurries, the challenger has a chance in Texas. Forcing Spence to make these mistakes, however, will be a gamble in the tactics from Garcia. The eye-test gives Garcia the edge technically and with the superior experience, the 30-year-old will need to use these assets to his advantage if he is to have any success against the IBF champ. One mistake from Mikey will leave openings for Spence to utilise his powerful left hand; the last time Spence went the distance was in June 2014.

If Spence was a small welterweight then this fight would gather more traction as a pay-per-view event. The reality is, Spence looks huge. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that Mikey thinks he can win this fight - if he didn’t, he would have chosen Pacquiao or even Lomachenko as a “cashout” title bid, but if Spence is close to as good as we think he is, he should be able to stop Garcia within the distance.

As we get closer to March 16 the narrative surrounding this fight will escalate, the odds will come closer and the wave of support and belief in Garcia will no doubt surface. This is boxing’s script. As I took my seat in the Theater at Madison Square Garden last Christmas I thought the same of Rigondeaux: could he close the distance? Could his footwork frustrate Lomachenko into the later rounds? Could he box on the back foot?

The answers were no. In fact, they have all been no in the most recent heroic attempts by fighters climbing up two weights. Good luck to Mikey, but weight classes are designed for a reason, and on March 16 we will once again see why.

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