SAN DIEGO, Calif. March 16, 2019 – In front of 47,525 fans at the AT&T Stadium in Arlignton, Texas, IBF welterweight champion Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. (25-0, 21 KOs), dealt four division champion Mikey Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs) his first loss in a dominating unanimous decision. Scores were 120-107, and 120-108 X 2.
“The motivation, fighting in front of my hometown crowd. This is where I started from a pup, from the amateurs all the way up,” said Spence Jr. after the fight. “This is my core fan base. I wanted to put on a good performance.” Spence Jr. said he wanted to prove those wrong who said Garcia was too smart and Spence Jr. couldn’t box. He succeeded.
Spence Jr. wins through skills, not size
Garcia can’t blame his loss on his decision to come up two weight divisions from lightweight to welterweight to fight a much bigger man in Spence Jr. Spence Jr. was the faster, more accurate fighter, using his jab and longer reach to completely neutralize Garcia’s offense. Never known as a power puncher, Garcia’s best bet was to use speed and stay busy. He wasn’t able to do either one against Spence Jr.
Both men tested each other in the first few rounds. On some observer’s cards, Garcia won the second round, but it was the only round where he did enough to be worthy of getting the nod on the scorecards. As Garcia cautiously closed the distance and started finding limited success with his left hood, Spence Jr.’s jab gave Garcia too much trouble to follow up with any combinations. Trainer and older brother Robert Garcia told Mikey Garcia to be patient.
Spence Jr. began finding the right distance, taking advantage of his size through his longer reach, landing solid left hooks to body and head while easily staying clear of Garcia’s counterpunches. The template for the rest of the fight was already becoming clear.
As the rounds ticked off, Spence Jr. started landing harder shots. Garcia can take credit for having a tough chin, but it’s not going to win you a fight. Would Garcia be able to take a chance and turn the fight around?
Meanwhile, trainer Derrick James reminded Spence Jr. to keep his composure. In contrast to Garcia, Spence Jr. didn’t need to rush or press. He could fight from the outside all night long. Garcia couldn’t get around Spence Jr.’s long reach and busy jab. Spence Jr. had Garcia standing still.
Garcia fights for pride and retains his respect in the loss
By the end of the ninth round, Garcia was in danger of looking like Kell Brook at the hands of Gennady Golovkin. He was in knockout territory, and there was only one reason to stay in the fight: pride. Robert Garcia told his brother he’d give him one more round. After 10 rounds, Garcia asked Mikey if he was done. “No, I’ve still got six minutes,” he replied. “Listen to me nice and close,” said the elder Garcia. “Get close and start working the body too. You’ve got to keep more busy. You want to do it, you want to go? Let’s do it. You’ve got to fight small, nice and low. Six minutes left.”
With this, Spence Jr. continued to his Garcia at will, punishing him to the body. Garcia showed his determination in getting the moral victory and ending the fight on his feet, doing just enough to prevent either his brother or referee Jon Schorle from stopping the fight. Spence Jr. did what he could to get the stoppage in the 12th round, but it wasn’t really necessary.
“Of course, the game is to be smart, it’s the Sweet Science,” said Spence Jr. “I had the size advantage and I had the reach. So why not use the jab and take something away from him, because he likes to use the jab too.
“I give Mikey Garcia a lot of credit just taking this fight,” added Spence Jr. “Like I said, Shawn Porter can’t sell out a family dinner,” taking a shot at his fellow welterweight title holder working ringside as part of the broadcast team. “For him to give me the opportunity to fight at Cowboys Stadium, we put on a great performance, and a great show in front of these lovely fans, and I respect him so much.”
Garcia remains IBF and WBC lightweight champion
Garcia thanked all the fans for coming to the fight. “All credit to Errol Spence. He’s a great champion. He is the truth, he’s for real. He put up a great fight and executed the game plan very well. He came out here with the game plan, kept the distance at his favor. I wasn’t able to get my rhythm going. He was able to keep executing in his favor.”
Garcia says his brother did want to stop the fight, and didn’t want him to get hit anymore. “I said no, let me show I can pull this off. I thought I could have landed one good shot and I was able to take a punch.”
Garcia says he believes Spence Jr. has the most power in the welterweight division. “We went 12 rounds with a great welterweight champion, a feat no one else has done recently. As a lightweight it’s something I was proud to be able do. I’ll probably come back down to the lighter divisions … We’re still champions, and we’re still going to make history.”
Garcia still holds two lightweight division titles, and he can drop back to lightweight where he still holds two titles, or super lightweight where he also briefly held the IBF title now in the possession of Ivan Baranchyk.
Will Manny Pacquiao be Spence Jr.’s next opponent?
As for Spence Jr., he wasted no time calling Manny Pacquiao up to the ring from his ringside seat. “Manny, come over here man. Come over brother. He’s a legend of the sport. It would be my honor to fight him next,” said Spence Jr.
What does the eight division champion think about the matchup? In his customary noncommittal way, Pacquiao replied, “Yeah, why not? I mean, we’d give the fans a good fight. I’m so happy to be here in Dallas and I’m hoping I will be back here soon.”
Pacquiao holds the record fight attendance in Texas, and he could pack the stands along with Spence Jr. The more challenging matchup is Terence Crawford, but the Pacquiao fight is a legitimate match up in the welterweight division. Should it fall through, Spence Jr. said at the post fight news conference he’d be willing to fight WBC champion Shawn Porter.
David Benavidez takes out frustrations on J’Leon Love in two rounds
Former super middleweight world titleholder David Benavidez (21-0, 20 KOs) returned to the ring with something to prove. He took out his frustration at losing his title 13 months ago due to a dirty drug test on an overwhelmed J’Leon Love of Las Vegas (24-3-1, 13 KOs), stopping Love at 1:14 of Round 2. Benavidez thanked the supportive Texas fans, saying after the fight “It’s a dream come true, man. I can’t do it without these people, they give me the motivation to wake up every day and do what I do. I knew what was going to happen. I had the fire and I did it.”
When Benavidez lost his title due to being popped for cocaine use, Anthony Dirrell stepped in to win the vacant title. Now Benavidez wants his belt back, and called out Dirrell who was ringside. “I’ve seen Anthony Dirrell with that WBC title. He can’t be the champion until he comes and sees me. I’m going to go get my belt back, that’s mine!”
Benavidez, who is just 22 year old, has all the skill and charisma it takes to put himself at the top of the pound for pound list if he keeps on the right path. He has tremendous speed and power, and can easily move up to light heavyweight should he wipe out the super middleweight division.
Luis Nery makes a statement in American debut
Luis Nery of Tijuana, Mexico (29-0, 22 KOs) made the right impression in his U.S. debut, showing why hardcore fans have so much enthusiasm for the former bantamweight champion. Nery made easy work of another former champion, McJoe Arroyo of Puerto Rico (18-3, 8 KOs), scoring his 11th consecutive stoppage at 10 seconds into the fifth round.
Arroyo, nine years older than Nery, is a rugged opponent and normally a tough out for most opponents. Nery walked right through Arroyo, landing body shots and dropping him four times in four rounds, including twice in the fourth. Arroyo got to his feet each time, but after the fourth round, his brother and fellow professional fighter McWilliams Arroyo told McJoe in the corner, “You might have to fight another day, don’t worry about it. This is too much, let’s stop this.” The bell sounded for the fifth round, and referee Laurence Cole called a stop to the fight when Arroyo failed to come out.
“I’m happy to start on the right foot here,” said Nery. “Arroyo is a tough competitor, but we had the best tonight.” Nery said he plans to train hard and have the title back that he lost due to missing weight no later than June. Fans are already salivating over the thought of Nery taking on Naoya Inoue in the future.
Chris Arreola resurrects career with TKO win
In the opening bout, former three-time heavyweight title challenger “Nightmare” Chris Arreola of Riverside, California (38-5-1, 33 KOs) looked better than he has in many years, having little trouble with paper tiger Jean Pierre Augustin of Haiti (17-1-1, 12 KOs) scoring a third round TKO victory.
Arreola came out aggressively and showed a good jab setting up a delicious right hook he deployed early and often. Augustin has faced limited opposition, and Arreola was far more than he could handle. He was down midway through the third round, and Arreola moved in to make it stick at 2:03 of the third round.
“He came to make a name for himself using me, and it’s not happening,” said the elated Arreola. “I’m here chasing a title, not a check. I lose, I’m out. I’m not losing … I kept my composure, I knew it would come.” At age 38, Arreola wants one fourth and final chance at a title to become the first ever Mexican-American heavyweight champion. He’s lost none of his passion for the sport. “I love fighting you know, I love it. I love what I do, I’m blessed to be a fighter. All for the fans!”
Britain’s Dillion Whyte still needs a dance partner, but a more likely opponent is Brooklyn heavyweight Adam Kownacki in what would be a Clash of the Titans.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News.
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