“I see dead people.”
–Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense
IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. (24-0, 21KOs) should kill (eh, that would be figuratively folks) four-division world champion and reigning WBC lightweight king Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30KOs) when they meet in Spence's backyard at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX on March 16.
Not because he has a demonstrably better skill set than Garcia– he doesn't.
But any boxing purist who considers things based on the original eight divisions that existed in boxing before greedy ass promoters got out of hand, knows that those weight classes exist for a reason: To ensure a level playing field and competitive balance.
I'm listening to the call of NYF's editor-in chief Michael Woods and “Shoot Da Five” maestro Xavier Porter on the Friday edition of Friday Night Live, and it occurred to me that we used to call street fights “fair ones”– which meant no “jumping” or outside interference from someone else to shift the balance. The vernacular ultimately became two street combatants were going to “shoot da one” and go at each other for however long the street fight was going to last (which generally is about two minutes, tops). What it didn't necessarily involve was facing someone your own size, thus ensuring a guaranteed level of respect and street credibility for the “little guy” in the equation.
That Mikey basically talked his family – and Spence's business manager – into a potential 36 minute confrontation with who I believe to be the most debilitating puncher in the sport is admirable, but no less dangerous.
Mikey thinks he's set up a legacy meeting; I'm of the opinion that he's set up a legendary beating.
We're not talking a young Manny Pacquiao with a score to settle over an over-the-hill Oscar De La Hoya; as mentioned in the analyst heavy [Vol.I] of this series, which involves dream match-ups between Spence against a 1981 version of Sugar Ray Leonard (I absolutely believe Spence would stop that Leonard), and Garcia facing the Duran who confronted Leonard in June 1980 (Duran would not have hated Mikey, so it's possible he could've stolen a decision). This is more like a prime De La Hoya of shortened height and reach at 147, deciding to work with Victor Conte before taking on the Marvelous Marvin Hagler..
.. who made road kill out of Thomas “Hitman” Hearns in their epic April 1985 middleweight clash. Impossible right? Just about, but not quite. Mikey says he “saw something” that made him damn near adamant about facing Spence, borrowing from Sugar Ray's famous line before positively befuddling Hagler in their Superfight. I don't know what in the world Mikey sees, but I will share with you a few remote possibilities a little later in this piece.
I will say this…if Mikey pulls this off, he'd eclipse what Leonard did in a much more dramatic sense, in that Hagler was slipping in the eyes of many analysts at that time. He'd lost an incredible amount of sharpness and speed as a result of the Hearns fight, exacerbated by a gut-wrenching 11th round KO win over John “The Beast” Mugabi in March 1986, essentially snatching any remaining prime out of Hagler overnight and it showed. That is what Leonard (who was “Money” before “Pretty Boy Floyd” took it to a new level) “saw” before deciding to steal glory from Hagler– in addition to the last :10 seconds before the bell rang to leave lasting impressions on the judges. None of this will apply with Spence, who not only fights 3:00 minutes of every round, but he's a huge welterweight routinely wrecking the frames of bonafide super welterweights in camp.
So what is it that Mikey can possibly see? If Leonard keeps this real (stop frontin Ray, you know where you got the whole “I see something” situation from), it was Max Schmeling who first dropped those famous three words in reference to Joe Louis; mainly, as a result of the analysis given to him from a duplicitous Cus D'Amato, who handled Louis, and was adept at playing both sides. Anyway, Cus always knew that boxing has much more to do with skills and tactics, intelligence and craft, than physical strength and blunt force trauma, and what everyone had overlooked in Schmeling, a veteran of 59 pro battles at that time compared to just 24 for Louis, was that he was a master of timing and counterpunching– the likes of which Louis had never faced. I see the same thing with Spence. The main point of emphasis exploited by Schmeling, was the tendency of Louis to drop his left hand ever so slightly, cracking a window for an overhand right cross, which just happened to be Schmeling's best punch.
The same does apply to the southpaw Spence, as we lefthanders are absolutely available for that shot; and to do it, Schmeling had to switch up his footwork and maintain incredible discipline throughout. Similarly, if Mikey can apply enough subtlety in footwork, with enough physical strength to tie up Spence and shorten the rounds, it's conceivable that he can manipulate the 7-5 principle Keith Thurman offered to me from the post fight podium a few weeks ago before Woods and I started dealing with exotic tacos. What also may work for Mikey is exploiting what I call the “Tito Effect”, which was the secret in unraveling all-time great Felix Trinidad.
One of the greatest offensive fighters in the history of the sweet science, Tito was not especially fast or nuanced in the feet, but he was absolutely coming to get you. However, the mistake he would make (masterfully exploited by Bernard Hopkins) is that he would apply so much pressure on his right front foot before attacking, that it almost served as “a tell” in the ring's poker table. Then, he'd show his hand by producing a hitch in his left leg as a launching pad, tightening his shoulders before delivering his favorite punch sequences. Spence does have these same tendencies, but is able to mask them with more variety, and a much more firm commitment to attacking the body. Again, I don't know what Mikey “sees” but I believe it has to be along these lines (which is another thing- Spence does fight in what trainers call “lines”), and he was able to convince his brother and his father that he can indeed take down who I believe just may be the very best fighter in the world.