The Breakdown: Why Mikey Garcia Has No Shot Against Errol Spence

The three biggest fights that could be made in boxing are Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder, with the undisputed heavyweight title on the line; Terence Crawford vs. Errol Spence, since both hold a title at welterweight and a clash between them would be epic; and Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Mikey Garcia.

But with the way fighters are represented today on different networks, it’s hard to make the bouts that should be made. Garcia-Lomachenko would be a blockbuster. The problem is Lomachenko is with promoter Bob Arum, who used to promote Garcia until Garcia sued him and left. Now Garcia is a PBC fighter and Arum will not work with Garcia. So Garcia may fight IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence, 24-0 (21), instead. And by suggesting that, Garcia is doing what Floyd Mayweather did better than any fighter: starve the public for the fight they want so they want it even more.

There’s a good chance that Garcia doesn’t intend to tangle with Spence and is using his name as a smokescreen. And if they never fight that will basically prove that was his only intent; but if they do meet, it very well could be that Garcia couldn’t get the financial deal he desired and figures he’d rather risk his undefeated record against Spence than Lomachenko. And in the eyes of many observers, Spence will steamroll Garcia.

Some are citing how it was believed Sugar Ray Leonard had no chance to beat Marvin Hagler, Michael Spinks was a sure bet to be defeated by Larry Holmes, and Roy Jones, Jr. was overmatched when he challenged John Ruiz. So the idea Garcia has no shot versus Spence shouldn’t be assumed. Wrong! In all three of these fights, the smaller and quicker fighter moving up in weight won a decision. In the cases of Leonard and Spinks, they were used to picking up their feet and fighting in retreat while pivoting in the corners. On top of that, both Hagler and Holmes were least effective when they were forced to fight as the aggressor and go on the attack. In the case of Jones, he was clearly a greater fighter than Ruiz but was aided greatly because Ruiz wasn’t good at cutting off the ring and couldn’t land anything without first establishing his jab. Jones continually beat him to the punch and disrupted his aggression with his own jab.

As recently as last week RingTV had an article suggesting that Spence vs. Garcia is going to come to fruition in February of 2019, although nothing has been announced yet. And if the fight between them is eventually made, Errol Spence will be an overwhelming betting favorite, and the arguments stressing that will be centered mostly on the size disparity between the welterweight Spence and the lightweight Garcia, but it goes beyond that. It’s been a long time since a great lightweight beat a great welterweight at or near his prime. To find an example, you have to go back to the night of June 20th, 1980, when Roberto Duran as a 9-5 underdog beat WBC welterweight champ Sugar Ray Leonard. What’s never mentioned, however, is that Duran fought nine times above lightweight before he challenged Leonard. In the case of Mikey Garcia, he would be fighting Spence after last fighting as a lightweight.

It is hard to envision Garcia, 30, beating Spence, 28, and that has just as much to do with their fighting styles as it does their size. Granted, Garcia is a complete fighter and perhaps the best in the sport fundamentally. But unlike the examples above, it’s doubtful that Garcia has quicker hands than Spence, and that’s a monumental disadvantage for the smaller and weaker puncher Garcia. But it’s more than that. Mikey Garcia is an aggressive counter-puncher. Fighting at 126, 130, 135 and twice at 140, he was able to inch forward and force his opponents to punch first, as he often punched in between their shots and landed the cleaner and more telling blows. That’s his style and by inching forward he sets up his finishing shots. Along with that, Garcia doesn’t let his hands go unless everything is right and the table is set almost perfectly, and that won’t be a luxury he’ll be afforded against Spence.

As for Spence, he may be vulnerable to a fighter like Terence Crawford, who is capable of fighting him at range and nullifying his power while on the move. The problem for Garcia is that he doesn’t fight like Crawford; and if he’s forced to pick up his feet and emulate a mover, he’ll get even less on his punches and that will embolden the ever-pressing Spence.

The other problem for Garcia fighting Spence is his lack of finishing power fighting above lightweight. In his two fights at 140 against championship-caliber opposition (Adrien Broner and Sergey Lipinets) Garcia never shook Broner once, although he did drop Lipinets, Sergey got right up and finished the fight without another close call. And in both fights, Garcia was moving in and getting everything on his shots. Without guns big enough to cause him any trepidation or to force him back, Spence will make Garcia fight with the mindset of punching and getting out because it won’t take him long to conclude he can’t trade with Spence under any conditions. In order for Garcia to apply his fundamentals and hope to outbox Spence, he’ll need to somehow gain Spence’s respect and cause him to fight a little more measured than he normally does. Garcia is just not capable of pulling that off due to his lack of physicality.

Yes, Garcia’s lack of size and strength is a major obstacle for him against Spence. If he could fight on the move (as Leonard did against Hagler), he would perhaps have a chance to score against him—and if that were the case, then hurting him wouldn’t be such a big deal. But Garcia has never had to fight while in retreat before, and it’s a pipe dream to believe he can change his style completely for one fight against a particular opponent. In a Spence vs. Garcia clash, Garcia has one advantage, and that is his basics and fundamentals are better. But Spence’s power, body punching, and methodical aggression—along with the belief going in that Garcia can’t hurt him—will be apparent from the onset of the fight.

Once Garcia realizes he isn’t strong enough to outbox Spence (and it takes strength to outbox your opponent) he’ll fight to survive and hope to keep it close. When Spence senses that, he’ll turn it up even more. Once that unfolds and Garcia tires, his lack of hand-speed will become more pronounced and Spence will land more punches with each passing round. At that point, either Garcia will succumb or his corner will throw in the towel and save him from career-altering damage.

In most cases, when the smaller fighter moves up to challenge the bigger fighter, he usually holds an edge in hand speed and is capable of fighting on the move and in retreat against the pressing bigger fighter. Unfortunately, Garcia doesn’t hold those advantages over Spence. The higher in weight Garcia goes, the slower and less likely to move he becomes.

Spence is a terrible stylistic matchup for Mikey Garcia. There can only be one winner and that’s Spence. The only question here is, does Mikey go the distance or is he stopped for the first time in his career? Spence is all wrong for Garcia and it has much more to do with Garcia’s style than Spence’s advantage in size and power.