Errol Spence Jr. returns to the ring 14 months after the car accident that left him hospitalized in critical condition, but the welterweight world champion is hardly easing his way back in.
Spence puts his IBF and WBC titles on the line against Danny Garcia at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, an impressive venue worthy of hosting a clash between two of the leading names at 147 pounds.
SPENCE vs. GARCIA: Fight time, how to watch, odds
Fans will be present at the home of the NFL’s Cowboys to witness the bout, a welcome boost as the sport aims for a big finish to a year so dominated by the coronavirus pandemic.
A late venue switch — it was initially planned to take place in Los Angeles at the end of November — gives the defending champion home advantage (Spence fights out of Dallas), but Spence is just grateful to be back in action at all.
Not long after beating Shawn Porter to claim the WBC belt, the 30-year-old was involved in a single-car crash in Dallas in October 2019. Flung from the vehicle before it flipped, he somehow escaped without any serious injuries.
It would have been easy for Spence to look for a soft option when making his comeback. Instead, he has retained the desire to take on his leading rivals, starting with the experienced Garcia.
“The accident just made me hungrier and even more focused. I have the same hunger now that I had before I won the title,” he told RingTV.
Garcia used to hold the WBA and WBC welterweight titles himself, but defeats to Keith Thurman and Porter have seen him slip down the pecking order in what is a hugely competitive division.
The 32-year-old now has the opportunity to prove he still belongs among the elite, with a win — or at least an impressive performance — holding the key to what direction his career path travels next.
Angel Garcia, the challenger’s father and trainer who is never afraid to speak his mind, has predicted a seventh-round stoppage. It is a bold forecast, yet the questions surrounding both fighters makes it feel like any result is possible heading into Saturday’s main event.
Spence added a second title when edging Porter on points. An 11th-round knockdown was not crucial in deciding the outcome on the cards, with two judges giving it 116-111 in his favor (the other judge had it 115-112 to Porter, another example of how scoring in boxing is completely subjective).
He also went the distance against Mikey Garcia, having previously become accustomed to stoppages, most notably over Kell Brook in the Englishman’s back yard that earned him the IBF strap.
Garcia, meanwhile, has recorded stoppage wins over Adrian Granados and Ivan Redkach in his previous two outings, though neither were seen as much more than keep-busy bouts while waiting for a bigger test.
Now he gets his shot to put his name back among the elite in the division. All he has to do is put an end to Spence’s 26-fight unbeaten streak.
Tale of the tape
ERROL SPENCE JR.
Weight: 146.5 pounds
Reach: 72 inches
Professional record: 26-0 (21 KOs)
Major career titles: IBF, WBC welterweight
Weight: 146.75 pounds
Reach: 68.5 inches
Professional record: 36-2 (21 KOs)
Major career titles: WBA, WBC light welterweight, WBC welterweight
Familiar face Josesito Lopez is in action on the bill, taking on Francisco Santana in a 10-round welterweight contest.
Lopez lost last year to Thurman, the latest reverse in a career that has included defeats against other notable names in Andre Berto, Marcos Maidana and Saul Alvarez.
The unbeaten Sebastian Fundora — nicknamed “The Towering Inferno” — is quickly back in action, having previously recorded a knockout triumph over Nathaniel Gallimore in August.
This time the super welterweight, who stands at over 6-5, takes on the experienced Jorge Cota, who has won two in a row since being stopped by Jermell Charlo.
What they had to say
Spence on the choice of opponent: “I could have taken the tune-up, but I wanted somebody dangerous that was going to keep me focused and keep me in the gym and training hard.”
Garcia on his journey to this moment: “In this world you learn from your mistakes and you become a better person and become a better man, and that’s why I’m here today.”
Angel Garcia on fight tactics: “We’re going to control everything. We’re going to slip, we’re going to dip, we’re going to counter. We’re going to give him some leather.”
Shawn Porter, who has faced both fighters: “I think it is important for Danny to start fast, I think it’s important for Danny to be in Errol Spence’s grill, be in his face.”