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By Winning Too Easily, Errol Spence Jr. May Have Diminished His Options

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  • By Winning Too Easily, Errol Spence Jr. May Have Diminished His Options

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    By Bernard Fernandez

    It was easy. Ridiculously easy. And, just maybe, too much so for the winner’s own good in some ways.

    On the one hand, IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr.’s absolute domination of future Hall of Famer Mikey Garcia, achieved before 47,525 presumably impressed spectators in AT&T Stadium and a Fox Sports Pay Per View audience, certified the winner as a superstar and a rapid climber in everyone’s pound-for-pound ratings. If Spence (25-0, 21 KOs) hadn’t been widely recognized as such beforehand, his shocking (well, at least to a lot of people) shutout of Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs) likely moved him into one of the boxing penthouses reserved exclusively for fighters who not only are highly skilled inside the ropes but so marketable that their appearance in a bout virtually guarantees intense public interest and torrents of cash flowing into any promotion in which they happen to be involved.

    OK, so maybe Spence did not “massacre” Garcia, as he had vowed to do, which suggested victory by knockout, boxing’s standard exclamation point. Hey, you can’t have everything. But a knockout can come on a lucky punch, or during a competitive fight in which the outcome might still be in question. The scorecards submitted by the judges in Arlington, Texas – Glenn Feldman had it 120-107, with Alex Levin and Nelson Vazquez just a tick behind with identical 120-108 tallies – tell a perhaps even more telling tale, of one terrific champion almost toying with another, albeit one who was so confident in himself that he not only agreed to move up two weight classes to make this particular match, he virtually demanded it.

    Having great fighters he admired siding with the underdog stung Spence more than any of the few punches landed by Garcia, who must have known he had no chance of winning in the later rounds but allowed himself to be further battered for the small consolation and “moral” victory of making it to the final bell. In the 11th round, with Spence connecting almost at will, two-time former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, one of the commentators for the telecast, said of Garcia, “He’s being a punching bag right now.”

    When it was over, and Spence had done all that he knew he was capable of doing, he took a few verbal swipes at the legends of the ring who had questioned whether he could solve so clever and versatile a fighter as Garcia.

    “So many so-called experts were writing me off,” Spence said of what had to be a source of additional motivation. “I felt insulted during training camp that people were saying he was smarter than me and I felt insulted that lot of these reporters were agreeing with them. Top guys like Sugar Ray Leonard were going for Mikey Garcia. Guys like (Juan Manuel) Marquez and (Marco Antonio) Barrera were going for him. (Mike) Tyson and Leonard saying Mikey Garcia was going to win kind of rubbed me the wrong way, too.”

    Given the nature of his victory, and on so large a stage, the case can be reasonably made that Spence has entered a select circle presently occupied by such proven fillers of stadiums as Anthony Joshua and Canelo Alvarez, an exclusive address to which not even such undeniably terrific fighters as Vasiliy Lomachenko and Terence Crawford have been able to take up residence. Spence might still be perceived in some quarters as a lesser fighter than fellow welterweight Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs), the WBO champion, but until further notice he likely will be acknowledged as the reigning king of boxing’s most-stacked and top-heavy division, with all manner of megafights seemingly available to him, including a pairing with 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao, a former occupant of that figurative penthouse whose name value and brand are so established that he would be at or near the top of every prominent 147-pounder’s wish list.

    After he had exposed Garcia’s foolishness in calling him out, Spence, before doing an in-ring interview with Fox’s Heidi Androl, did the same by calling out Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs), who holds a secondary WBA welterweight title. “Pac-Man” had flown in with his wife, Jinkee, to see the fight on what can only be surmised as a scouting mission.

    “Tell Manny Pacquiao to come back over here,” Spence said to Androl, motioning for Pacquiao, who had entered the ring, to join him on-camera. “Manny, come on over here, man. He been here before (Pacquiao had fought twice in 2010 in what is now known as AT&T Stadium, on each occasion before a crowd in excess of 40,000). He done broke records here before. He’s a legend of the sport. It’d be my honor to fight him next.”

    Asked flat-out if he would consent to being Spence’s next opponent, perhaps in AT&T Stadium before another huge crowd, Pacquiao responded with what might be described as less-than-sincere enthusiasm. The only man to have won championships in eight separate weight classes, the Pacquiao of five or six years ago surely would have been a worthy opponent for the Spence of today, but his sights are set on another golden-oldies money grab in a rematch with the retired, 42-year-old Floyd Mayweather Jr., who even at his best was not stylistically suited to beat the snot out of the other guy. If you exclude his 10th-round stoppage of mixed martial artist Conor McGregor in their dog-and-pony show on Aug 26, 2017, “Money” had not won inside the distance in six years, a span of seven fights. Spence, meanwhile, had whacked out 11 consecutive opponents until the proud but outclassed Garcia hung around until the scheduled finish.

    “Yeah, why not?” Pacquiao said when asked if Spence might be next on his dance card. “It’d give the fans a good fight. I’d be happy to be here (at AT&T Stadium). I’m hoping that I will be back here. Soon.”

    Yeah, but maybe not against Spence. And therein lies the problem for Spence, the southpaw from DeSoto, Texas, whose nickname, appropriately, is “The Truth.” The truth just might be that Pacquiao and other elite or semi-elite welterweights might prove unavailable to him because of conflicting promotional affiliations or the simple desire to not be thumped by someone with the skills and power to win with either finesse or force.

    Richard Schaefer, the former Golden Boy executive who now heads up Ringstar Sports, was in Arlington and it was his opinion that Spence might have been too good for his own good.

    “If you think Spence had problems getting guys to fight him before, he’s really going to have a problem now,” Schaefer told ESPN’s Steve Kim.

    WBO welterweight champ Shawn Porter (30-2-1, 17 KOs), who would be a significant underdog should he get a unification gig with Spence, immediately volunteered to accept generous hazardous-duty pay for the assignment, to which Spence sniffed, “Shawn can’t sell out a family dinner.” Upon further reflection, Spence allowed that a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, if it comes to that.

    “If Manny Pacquiao doesn’t want to fight, I’ll smoke Shawn, too,” he said.

    The matchup that would make the most sense is a unification showdown that would pit Spence against Crawford. But that fight might require some marination to attain its full flavor, and Crawford is a Top Rank fighter and thus aligned with ESPN+, putting him, in Spence’s words, “across the street” from where Spence is obliged to work. That narrows the field somewhat to still-attractive options Pacquiao, Porter, Keith Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs), the “super” WBA welter titlist, and former WBC welterweight ruler Danny Garcia (34-2, 20 KOs). Contract kinks would need to be worked out, but any of the aforementioned fighters would be more than acceptable to Fox PPV and Showtime PPV, with which Premier Boxing Champions, which holds paper on Spence, has working arrangements. Spence, however, has reservations about some of the top guys whose names have been floated, the theory being that they’d rather protect their own little slices of the championship pie for less money than to risk a beatdown in going for a larger piece, unless, of course, the financial compensation is too enticing to pass up.

    It could be that Spence eventually might have to look down or up for the kind of high-visibility fights that will allow him to remain in the penthouse on a long-term lease. Might the potential talent pool include WBC super lightweight champion Regis Prograis (23-0, 1 KOs), who at some point is likely to move up to welterweight? Would Spence consider going up to super welter to challenge IBF/WBA super welterweight titlist Jarrett Hurd (23-0, 16 KOs) or WBO champ Jaime Munguia (32-0, 28 KOs)? Is it too much of a stretch to believe he might even try to do what Garcia did so unsuccessfully, which is to bulk up two weight classes, to middleweight, where WBA/WBC king Canelo Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs), IBF champ Daniel Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs) – Alvarez and Jacobs square off on May 4 in Las Vegas – and former IBF/WBA/WBC titlist Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs) reside?

    For now, it must be said that what Spence did to Garcia is reminiscent of a book about a World War II battle, A Bridge Too Far, authored in 1974 by Cornelius Ryan. Adapted into a 1977 movie of the same name, the ambitious Allied strategy was to launch a surprise attack and capture several bridges behind German lines in the occupied Netherlands. But in the words of British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the plan failed because its reach exceeded its grasp and went, well, a bridge too far.

    In Mikey Garcia’s case, his bold bid definitely went at least one bridge too far, because Errol Spence Jr. was on the other side and resolute in his determination to not yield an inch of ground.

    Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel



  • #2
    The answer is in the title................

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    • #3
      Spence looked absolutely brilliant and yeah may have some of his potential opponents thinking twice about getting in with him.

      For one, I do not see Pacquiao now being interested in a Spence fight. If the Mayweather rematch does not happen, then I expect Pac to move onto with Thurman or Porter.

      As for other PBC welterweights like Thurman, Porter and Garcia I don't see any of them being all too eager to jump in with Spence. First, they will all hold out for a Pac fight first. Second, they could make good money fighting one another.

      All that said, of the three I would say Porter would probably be the most likely to accept the going rate and jump in with Spence. I think Porter will first though exhaust all other options before considering Spence.

      Most likely, I could see Ugas or Jamal James in with Spence next. I could also see PBC putting Brian Castano on the undercard and building him into a future Spence opponent in 2019 given the story line behind that fight.

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      • #4
        I have one question for Spence.

        Can you beat Canelo at any weight up to & including 160?

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