Saturday, March 16, 2019

Mikey Garcia Reaches for Greatness

Throughout the promotional build up for the mega showdown between IBF Welterweight Champion Errol Spence (24-0)(21 KO’s) and current WBC Lightweight Champion Mikey Garcia (39-0)(30 KO’s), the common theme has been that Garcia is simply put too small to contend with Spence.  Granted Garcia, while going for a world championship in a fifth weight class, will be jumping up two weight classes from where he currently holds a championship.  Garcia has fought at the 140-pound limit before, winning the IBF version of the championship, and while Spence will indeed be the biggest natural fighter that Garcia has ever faced, he is an experienced fighter that has been across the ring from every type of fighter that you can think of stylistically.

It’s this type of experience that Garcia believes will guide him to victory over the supremely talented Spence.  Six years ago, while still fighting under the Top Rank promotional banner, Garcia took on Juan Manuel Lopez for a portion of the featherweight title.  Garcia was defending his title but wound up losing his title on the weight scale when he failed to make weight.  While the fight went on (ironically in Dallas), Garcia wound up re-hydrating 14 pounds over night and entered the ring the much larger man at 142 pounds.  Since that fight, over the next six years, Garcia has consistently taken on tough challenges as his career continued to rise both in the pound-for-pound rankings and heavier weight divisions. 

Having flirted with the welterweight division before competing against a couple of naturally bigger fighters at 140 pounds, Garcia recognized an opportunity to fight the current welterweight champion that many within the boxing industry have dubbed the next great champion.  Spence presents not just the biggest challenge in terms of physical size, but it’s also the type of challenge that will plant Garcia atop the pound-for-pound tree of the best fighters in the world.

For this challenge, Garcia enlisted the help of SNAC (Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning) to help his body, gain the proper type of strength for this monumental challenge.  “We had to build more mass, a little more muscle, leading up to this fight.  But we don’t want to compete against Errol with just size and muscle.  I want to use my other talents.  I want to use my other attributes, like my speed, reaction time, my explosiveness,” Stated Garcia during a recent phone interview.  It’s that type of skill set that has gotten Garcia to this point in his career. 

Garcia throughout his career has established himself as a fighter with some of the best timing during a fight.  He may not have the most powerful jab, the fastest jab, but he knows exactly when to throw it.  His foot movements along with the jab have helped him to control both the pace of the fight and the range.  The fact that he has been able to do this against every style he has faced thus far makes it even more impressive.

“We want to make sure that we kept all of my feet and muscle work and I feel very good with the results.  We had a great training camp and I don’t think the size is what I’m going to be using.  So that’s what we have focused on and making sure that everything else was done in the right way,” stated Garcia.  This is what makes this fight such an intriguing matchup.  We will find out just how much all of the work with SNAC in order to truly gain the right type of size to compete with Spence will translate into the actual fight. 

“We had to make adjustments, we had to figure out how to use my range and my timing against a bigger guy, against a left-handed fighter.”  Garcia also went on to mention that before the boxing training took over this camp, and he was still working with SNAC, his weight got up to 160 pounds.  It was the work back at his brother's boxing gym that helped him to shed the extra pounds of muscle and to get his weight back to the welterweight division.  While Spence will be taking fight week to make weight getting the extra pounds off and re-hydrating once the limit is met, Garcia will most likely only gain a couple of pounds between the weigh-in and the start of round one.     

Granted, Errol Spence is indeed the biggest fighter Garcia has ever faced when they fight.  However, size doesn’t always mean victory.  Even if the size is accompanied by a tremendous body attack and the type of power that any fighter would love to possess, skills and a high ring I.Q. also have their place in boxing, especially when you are dealing with fighters on this, the highest level of the sport. 

Garcia will look to establish the range against Spence with his well-timed jab.  It’s his jab along with a hard-right hand after he pivots to his left to avoid the return punch from Spence that Garcia will use early to score and warm up in the fight.  If he can land his hard jab consistently on Spence, whom for his part has never really shown that he naturally moves his head as he moves forward, he may be able to start to lock up Spence’s neck and this can have the same effect on an opponent that a vicious body attack can.

If Garcia sees this working in his favor and he is controlling the range and dictating the pace of the fight, look for him to start trying to get inside of the longer arms of Spence and once on the inside rip power punches on angles.  It’s the common opinion of many experts and boxing insiders that Spence’s body attack, hard left hands, and good right jab will not allow any of this to play out in Garcia’s favor.  Although this may be the case, the whole world of boxing agrees about one thing:  Garcia reaching out to take on this challenge to cement his legacy in the sport is something that makes the sport so unique from every other one.  It’s the reason why people are true fanatics of the sport, because we all enjoy witnessing when a fighter like Garcia reaches for greatness. 

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