Spence vs. Garcia: Truth or Dare

A classic battle between unbeaten pound for pound elites occurs Saturday night when IBF World Welterweight Champion Errol Spence Jr. faces four-division titlist Mikey Garcia in a blockbuster PBC on FOX PPV.

Those who dare to reach for greatness sometimes encounter the truth that they’ve gone, maybe, one step too far in their pursuit.

Four-division world champ Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) will find out whether this applies to his own quest for legendary status when he moves up in weight to challenge elite knockout artist Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. (24-0, 21 KOs) for Spence’s IBF world welterweight title.

On Saturday, March 16, this Premier Boxing Champions battle of undefeated pound-for-pound greats headlines a four-fight FOX Sports Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT) from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

In a modern boxing world that can be weighed down by cynicism, Spence-Garcia is a throwback to those days when champions not only spoke of legacies, but actively pursued challenges to build those legacies. Garcia, moving up two divisions from his last bout and, arguably, well above his ideal weight, called out the biggest, baddest welterweight for a shot at a fifth divisional title. And Spence, avoided by most of the big names at 147, enthusiastically answered Garcia’s challenge.

Spence, a native of nearby DeSoto, Texas, is viewing this PPV debut at the home of the Dallas Cowboys as a chance to crossover to next-level stardom and become the kind of bankable name that lures other top welters into the ring.

Physically strong, technically sound, and smartly aggressive, the 2012 Olympian is almost the perfect offensive fighter. The 28-year-old southpaw is always in position to punch and gets great leverage on his shots. His body work, an overlooked aspect of his game, is especially effective.

Coming into this fight with a streak of 11 consecutive victories inside the distance, Spence’s high-water mark win came in May 2017 via eleventh-round KO against Kell Brook in Brook’s UK backyard to take the IBF belt. In his last bout, last June, he blew away mandatory challenger Carlos Ocampo in one round.

Based on size and strength alone, Spence is the betting favorite for this upcoming bout, but while embracing that clear edge, he’s eager to showcase his other assets in pursuit of the stoppage win.

“Size always matters, but when you get in there, at the end of the day, it’s about skills and intelligence,” Spence said. “I’m not going to rely on size. I’m going to focus on my talent. If I can roll through him, then I’ll show my killer instinct and try to get him out of there. I’m going to use my ability to break him down.”

On the other side of this matchup, Garcia knows the odds are stacked against him, but he’s counting on skill and peerless prep work to lead him to victory.

"If people say Errol is bigger, that's just obvious,” Garcia said. “But who's faster? Who has better timing? There's a lot more that goes into this sport and who's going to win this particular fight.

"This has been one of the toughest camps I've ever had. We're working on a lot of different methods and techniques to be at our very best. He's going to be bigger than me on fight night, but that's part of the challenge.”

As a featherweight, super featherweight, and lightweight, Garcia fought tall, using his height and reach to perfection, employing a picture-perfect jab and a lethal right hand coming off that jab. At 140, the Moreno Valley, California native looked solid in wins over Adrien Broner in 2017 and IBF junior welterweight titlist Sergey Lipinets in 2018.

In his most recent bout-- a return to lightweight against IBF champ Robert Easter Jr. – Garcia gave up five inches in height to the lanky titlist but handled it well in working towards a twelve-round unanimous decision.

The 31-year-old Garcia is cool, calm and efficient in the ring, with supreme focus and an unflappable demeanor. He uses distance well, demonstrating tremendous technique and balance, something which gets him great leverage on his shots while always keeping him in position to punch.

The question for this upcoming challenge, however, is whether these things that made Garcia great at lower weights will still apply when facing someone much larger and physically stronger like Spence. He’s been sparring with middleweights in preparation for March 16 and has added some bulk to help him out, but as he himself pointed out, his ability to take Spence’s power will remain a question mark until fight night.

The physical realities of this match-up suggest that Garcia will be the one who needs to change the most when it comes to style and strategy. An offense-minded fighter by nature, he’ll have to add some movement and nuance to his game, hitting and running, scoring points, and picking Spence apart from angles. In a straight-up firefight, he simply won’t have much of a chance, but if anyone has the ring IQ and focus to become a different fighter for this one evening, it’s Garcia.

Spence won’t have to change all that much from his usual approach, but he will have to adapt on the fly against a fighter who will likely create some major disruptions to his preferred pace and space. For all his well-earned accolades, Spence has never met someone as smart, as focused, or as utterly serious about winning as Garcia.

The winner of Spence-Garcia will be the one who can impose his will on the other—no small feat when it comes to a bout featuring two prime, elite-level fighters with lots to lose and tons to gain. But that is what makes this such a “must-see” event.

On Saturday, we’ll see whether Mikey Garcia’s dare to reach for greatness can withstand the truth that is Errol Spence Jr.

For a closer look at Spence vs Garcia, check out our fight night page.

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