Opening Bell: Daring to be great
ARLINGTON, Texas — The boxing world was treated to something rare on Saturday night when welterweight world titleholder Errol Spence Jr. squared off with Mikey Garcia: a fight between undefeated, in-their-prime titleholders who both ranked among the elite pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
In the end, it was Spence, the bigger, stronger man, who used his physical advantages not to mention his own underrated boxing skills to run roughshod over Garcia before an excited crowd of 47,525 at majestic AT&T Stadium.
By the time Spence had finished pounding Garcia in a fight that Robert Garcia, Mikey’s older brother and trainer, considered stopping in the late rounds because of the punishment his fighter was absorbing, the scorecards were academic. It was a shutout of 120-107, 120-108 and 120-108, with judge Glenn Feldman scoring the 11th round 10-8 for Spence because it was so one-sided even without a knockdown.
But nobody should belittle Garcia for his overwhelming loss. He has won world titles at featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight and, as a reigning lightweight belt holder was moving up two divisions to fight Spence, a man he vociferously called out because he wanted to win a title in a fifth weight class and because he dared to be great.
Without Garcia’s desire to challenge himself against an elite opponent, we wouldn’t have had such a big event. It may have turned into a one-sided fight — no surprise to me, as I had predicted that — but Garcia deserves credit for willing the fight into existence.
“Sometimes you reach for the stars, you dare to be great,” Ringstar Sports promoter Richard Schaefer, Garcia’s promoter for the fight, said at the postfight news conference. “Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. But what is important is that you tried, because if you don’t try, you won’t get it. That’s not just in boxing, that’s in any walk of life.”
Indeed, Garcia reached for the stars. He was willing to put his perfect record on the line against the most formidable opponent he could have picked at a time in boxing when few fighters are willing to take on such a risky assignment in order to protect the almighty “0.”
Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs), 31, of Moreno Valley, California, had no regrets after the fight, for which both fighters earned official purses of $3 million but with millions more guaranteed plus the prospect of even more money depending on the success of the Fox pay-per-view event.
“In order to leave a lasting impression, to cement your name, you have to go after the biggest challenges and the biggest fights,” Garcia said. “If I want to protect the record and just fight contenders, make a quick paycheck and keep racking up wins, that’s not going to be something to be remembered. I don’t want that. I made it a goal to fight the biggest fights and take the biggest challenges so that people can appreciate who I am as a fighter, and that’s why I took on this fight.
“I wanted to establish that legacy. I was trying to be great. That’s what a world champion needs to be doing, giving the greatest fights available.”
Spence (25-0, 21 KOs), 29, from the Dallas suburb of DeSoto, Texas, was thrilled to have had such a big fight at home. Afterward, he showed full respect for Garcia, as he should have.
“Mikey’s still good. He’s a great fighter,” Spence said. “He showed a lot of heart just to take this fight and to stay in the fight, too. So it’s nothing but respect for Mikey Garcia.”
It may not have worked out for Garcia, but he should be applauded for the effort. Spence, of course, accepted the challenge because he is also a real fighter willing to fight top guys. Yes, he was a big favorite against Garcia, but he had had no luck getting the other top Premier Boxing Champions welterweights — all politically makeable fights — to face him, including titleholders Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter and former titleholder Danny Garcia. Those three have all fought each other, but none have in any serious manner asked to fight Spence.
So Garcia stepped up and gave his best, even if it was not good enough.
“I fought hard; I tried to make history; I tried to move up in weight,” he said. “I thought I was going to be able to pull it off. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my way. I got to give credit to Errol. He had a great game plan. He used that jab, that distance and controlled it very well. I tried to make adjustments, and he had something in return. So he showed great boxing. We fought the best welterweight, the baddest man in the division. We just couldn’t pull it off.
“I tried to do everything I could — just couldn’t do it. I tried my best, and we worked hard for this. We really wanted to win it. I just couldn’t pull it off. Errol Spence is a terrific champion. I’m glad we were able to put this fight together. It’s what boxing needs — two of the best pound-for-pound fighters fighting each other. That doesn’t happen often.”