Ringside Seat: Errol Spence Jr. set for major test against Danny Garcia


Errol Spence Jr. knows why the stakes are so high for Saturday’s fight against Danny Garcia.

As much as the bout at AT&T Stadium is about maintaining Spence’s place as a unified welterweight champion, it’s also a test to see where Spence stands 14 months after a horrific car crash that left him hospitalized.

Spence (26-0, 21 KOs) and the rest of the world won’t have to wait long to see if he’s still good enough to dominate quality opposition. Spence’s fight against Garcia (36-2, 21 KOs) for the IBF and WBC titles will either confirm or reject his status as one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters.

“I know that people have a lot of questions,” Spence said in the final pre-fight news conference on Wednesday. “Those questions need to be answered. I don’t think I would have answered them against lighter competition. People who haven’t been in the gym are going to see those answers on Saturday.”

The bout against Garcia was tentatively scheduled for January 2020 before Spence’s wreck in Dallas, which also resulted in a misdemeanor charge for driving while intoxicated. That case is still pending, according to court records.

Since beating Kell Brook in 2017 to win the IBF welterweight title, Spence has carried grand aspirations of being one of the sport’s biggest names. The 2012 Olympian said the accident caused him to reevaluate his self-discipline and work ethic.

“I have a renewed focus,” Spence said. “I’m back focused on the things that got me to the top of the mountain. That’s really about being back in the gym every day no matter what.”

Garcia has a few questions of his own that need to be answered as well. The former junior welterweight and welterweight champion has faltered against elite competition in recent years. In 2017, Garcia lost a split decision to Keith Thurman before dropping a unanimous decision to Shawn Porter in 2018.

Since then, Garcia has been determined to show he’s still a top player in the 147-pound division.

“I’m not worried about being the underdog,” Garcia said. “I know that I’m a great champion and a great fighter. That’s why I’m here today.”

But Garcia is a subplot when it comes to Spence and his place in the boxing landscape. If Spence can win, he will stay on pace for a potential megafight against Terence “Bud” Crawford — if he wants it — who has long believed to be the other man’s true equal in the welterweight division.

Should Spence lose, it will derail all the momentum he has built in recent years and jeopardize big future paydays.

At 30, Spence knows he needs to make the most of the rest of his career. And it all starts against Garcia.

“I wanted somebody who was going to be tough, push me to the limit I know I need to be pushed to so I can get back to [being] Errol Spence Jr,” Spence said in November. “I’m very focused for the fight. I can’t wait.” — Ben Baby

By the numbers

Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info

7: Number of 2012 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team members who have gone on to win a world title. Spence is also one of five current world titlists from that team, along with Jose Ramirez (WBO and WBC junior welterweight), Joseph Diaz Jr. (IBF junior lightweight), Jamel Herring (WBO junior lightweight) and Claressa Shields (WBA, WBC and IBF women’s middleweight, WBC and WBO [Super] women’s junior middleweight). Rau’Shee Warren (former WBA bantamweight world titlist) and Marcus Browne (former interim light heavyweight world titlist) also won belts after competing on that 2012 team.

48%: Power punch connection percentage for Spence, according to CompuBox, which makes him the No. 1 fighter in the world in that regard.

0: Combined knockout losses for Spence and Garcia. Spence is undefeated, while Garcia’s two losses happened in welterweight title fights against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Among six judges’ scorecards in those fights, four were decided by razor-thin 115-113 margins — one in Garcia’s favor, three against him.

6: English-born fighters who have won world titles in at least two divisions, including current WBO super middleweight world titlist (and former middleweight titleholder) Billy Joe Saunders. The others are Ricky Hatton, David Haye, Ricky Burns, Duke McKenzie and Bob Fitzsimmons.

0-3-1: Martin Murray, who challenges Saunders for his super middleweight belt on Saturday in the U.K., has fallen short in four previous title challenges. His losses came at the hands of Gennadiy Golovkin, Sergio Martinez and Arthur Abraham. In 2011, a then-undefeated Murray fought to a split draw in his first world title shot against Felix Sturm.

The odds

Courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, as of Friday morning

Errol Spence Jr: -450
Danny Garcia: +350

Spence by decision: -138
Spence by KO/TKO/DQ: +260

Garcia by decision: +500
Garcia by KO/TKO/DQ: +750

Spence-Garcia goes to a draw: +2,000

Over/under 10.5 rounds: Over -333 | Under +240

Billy Joe Saunders: -2,000
Martin Murray: +1,000

Saunders by decision: -250
Saunders by KO/TKO/DQ: +200

Murray by decision: +2,000
Murray by KO/TKO/DQ: +1,600

Saunders-Murray goes to a draw: +2,500

Fight goes the distance: Yes -275 | No +188

Spence-Garcia prediction

Don’t be surprised if Spence takes a few rounds to find his footing in his first bout following a 15-month layoff. If Spence can take a big punch and respond well, he should be able to pick up a unanimous decision to retain both of his world titles. — Baby

Saunders looks to push towards Canelo Alvarez fight

The incentive of a money-spinning fight against Alvarez next year might inspire Saunders to produce one of his better displays to convince promoters and broadcasters to make the Canelo fight. There’s already been groundwork laid for such a fight, which was set to happen earlier this year before COVID-related shutdowns scuttled it for 2020. — Nick Parkinson

Saunders-Murray tale of the tape

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