By Michael Rosenthal
Those who are passionate about boxing constantly harp on fighters and their handlers to fight the best possible opponents.
That’s why Mikey Garcia’s desire to move up two weight classes and face Errol Spence should be applauded. The lightweight titleholder appears willing to challenge himself to a degree rarely seen in boxing these days.
Having said that, I feel awkward saying this: Don’t do it, Mikey.
Again, Garcia’s instincts are laudable. The man is fearless, a quality fans love. The problem is that the unbeaten Garcia (39-0, 30 knockouts) is reaching too high, meaning he’s setting himself up for a bad beating and a colossal disappointment.
Garcia demonstrated again in front of wildly enthusiastic hometown fans last Saturday that he’s one of the best fighters in the world, as he easily outpointed talented but overmatched Robert Easter at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Let there be no doubt: He can compete with anyone at or near 135 pounds.
That’s the main issue: Spence is a big welterweight.
If Spence were an average fighter, the weight difference probably wouldn’t matter. Garcia could beat most 147-pounders in his sleep. But Spence is anything but an average fighter. He’s as gifted as Garcia is but is quicker and more athletic.
Add all that up – bigger, quicker, more athletic – and you get a recipe that very likely would bite Garcia in the butt. And if Garcia is going to lose his pristine record, I wish it wouldn’t come in a fight he didn’t have a realistic chance of winning. That would be a shame.
“Mikey fighting Spence is fearless but also probably stupidity,” Shane Mosley told CBS Sports.
Mosley is a good example of a fighter who did exactly what Garcia would be trying to do: He moved up from 135 to 147 to fight superstar Oscar De La Hoya in 2000 and walked away with a victory, which could be inspiration for Garcia.
And while Garcia faced Easter at 135 pounds, he fought as a junior welterweight in three of his last four fights. So the jump to 147 isn’t as extreme is it might otherwise be.
I hope Garcia doesn’t buy into that line of thinking, though. The reality is that Spence is significantly bigger than Garcia. I think you’d see that if they stood side by side. Spence started his career as a welterweight – actually a few pounds over – and is a middleweight waiting to happen. Garcia started as a featherweight (126 pounds) and was still campaigning in that division as recently as 2013.
Mosley was able to make the two-division jump in part because he could match De La Hoya in speed and power. And the weight wasn’t a significant issue because he started his career as a big lightweight and outweighed De La Hoya as an amateur.
"(De La Hoya) fought at 132 pounds and I fought at 139 pounds in the amateur rankings,” Mosley said. “With Mikey, it's a little different. He's fighting a guy at 147 who could really fight at 160. It's a different thing.”
Garcia might not be serious about Spence, at least not yet. Potential welterweight opponent Danny Garcia believes his namesake is merely stirring the pot to build his brand, which is growing rapidly.
That’s possible; only Mikey knows. But Robert Garcia, his brother and trainer, believes his sibling is dead serious.
“Whatever we say is not gonna change Mikey’s mind, (his) idea of fighting Errol Spence,” Robert Garcia said in the post-fight press conference following the Easter fight. “So we’re gonna go for it. You know, we’ve talked to my dad and my dad tells me earlier today, after the fight, in the locker room, he says, ‘Contact Manny Pacquiao.’ My dad would rather go after Manny Pacquiao … but that just doesn’t interest Mikey. I think we’re gonna go straight into Errol Spence.”
Pacquiao makes a lot of sense, if the Filipino is willing to do it. He’s a smallish welterweight, as Garcia would be. He has declined to some extent, which makes him beatable. He has a secondary title. And he has tremendous name recognition. A victory over Pacman in his first welterweight bout would be a nice step in Garcia’s career.
But that evidently isn’t how Garcia thinks. He is supremely confident in his abilities, as well he should be. I’m sure he sees Pacquiao as an easy mark. And he isn’t motivated by pushovers.
“I’m here for the biggest challenges,” Garcia said on Saturday night. “I don’t know if there is anyone that is a bigger challenge than Errol Spence. I know he’s up to fight everyone so let’s make it happen. I think it can be made. I think that’s the next big fight coming up.
“I feel I have the power and the skillset to compete in any division up to welterweight. He’s the toughest guy at welterweight so I want to face him.”
One has to admire Mikey Garcia.
Michael Rosenthal is the most-recent winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing in the Los Angeles area and beyond for almost three decades.