By Tris Dixon
SO the saying goes, “A good big guy will always beat a good little guy.”
It is a pretty well tried and tested statement but not always wholly accurate.
Yet it is a line worth heeding should you go by the name of Mikey Garcia and if you’ve been downing the brave juice several litres at a time.
Garcia seems to be shaping up for a February bout with Errol Spence in 2019, effectively signalling a leap of two weight classes to fight one of the very best at 147lbs.
It could be described as ambitious, foolhardy, naïve and certainly risky.
But Garcia is 30-years-old. He has been around, has championship form at 140 and may think his bold bid will make up for the time lost in his career when he threatened to fall through the cracks of a contract dispute with Top Rank.
“It’s a challenge that excites me and motivates me, that’s why I want it,” said Mikey. “I think it’s a fight that can put me on top of the boxing world.”
Spence countered, saying: “He’s a big name and that’s the top name I can get right now so I would definitely take it.”
He is open to the challenge, and why wouldn’t he be. He will be handsomely remunerated for a fight that many believe has the odds stacked in his favour.
Mikey’s trainer Robert Garcia said he would have preferred a unification bout with Vasyl Lomachenko but believed that would still be on the table regardless of what happened against Spence. “Mikey sees something that nobody else sees,” he explained of why his man has put the target on Spence’s back.
Of course, precedents have been set, both successful and otherwise.
Manny Pacquiao made the leap to batter a faded Oscar De La Hoya, who failed when he jumped to middleweight against Bernard Hopkins.
More recent in the memory are welterweights Amir Khan and Kell Brook, who fell short against Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin respectively.
Middleweight champion Canelo is now jumping 8lbs to face WBA beltholder Rocky Fielding.
It is nothing new, and with many top 140-pounders in action in the WBSS Garcia is clearly looking at the most lucrative options.
Perhaps the best fight at 147 is Spence versus Terence Crawford, but as long as the PBC have a selection of fighters at their disposal – and that now includes Manny Pacquiao, who is set to meet Adrien Broner a month before Spence-Garcia could take place – the Top Rank star from Omaha should not be anticipating the phone to ring with offers to face Shawn Porter or Danny Garcia or anyone else in that mix on the other side of the promotional tracks.
So should Garcia be criticised for his audacious move? Or should Spence, who won his title on the road and has to wait for Pacquiao-Broner, Thurman-Porter II (as ordered by the WBC), Khan-Brook and anyone else that is not heading in his direction, be critiqued for accepting the challenge of a smaller man?
The answer is no on both counts.
Fighters have always moved up and down. They’ve looked for the big paydays, title opportunities, they’ve kept busy, ticked over and some have even thrived in their new domains.
But what makes Garcia and Spence slightly different is that while plenty of their more natural opponents may be tied up or otherwise engaged Garcia is unequivocally number one at 135 who has also won a world crown at 140. And while Spence is an elite 147 man and they’re not meeting at a ridiculous catchweight as we’ve been regularly fed over time and nor are they taking this fight on for titles, vast public clamouring or to break pay-per-view records.
Also, Garcia feels another accomplished weight-hopper in Lomachenko is an easier fight for him so he wants to go where the challenge is.
Garcia-Lomachenko is one of the best contests that can be made in the sport, a boxing fan’s golden egg, a fight for purists that would stand up in any era.
So perhaps Mikey has got this proposed double-division weight jump wrong. Some say he is only calling out Spence to make some noise. Danny Garcia, a fully-fledged welter, agreed. But Floyd Mayweather was accused of the same thing when the name Oscar De La Hoya first came from his lips many years before they met, when Mayweather was 130 and Oscar was going to war with the best at 147.
Garcia and Spence are doing it in a pure sporting sense. One man called, the other man answered. If it does not work out, it’s as you were.
Plenty have warned Garcia away from the challenge, but I recall former light-heavyweight champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad telling me he worried for Pacquiao’s safety when he leapt up to fight De La Hoya. He was not alone, either.
If Garcia wins, he is a major player at welterweight. If he loses, he can go back down, face ‘Loma’ and Spence can move on.
It is a case where everyone might, for once, win.