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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Errol Spence vs. Mikey Garcia)

Errol Spence has a clear size advantage in his intriguing matchup with Mike Garcia.
16
Nov

DAVID AND GOLIATH

Hey Doug,

When was/were the last time(s) you saw a great little man beat a great big man?  I can’t think of any in recent memory. I’ve seen Jones Jr. beating Ruiz, Toney beating Holyfield, Pacquiao beating Margarito, and Floyd beating Corrales, but for various reasons I feel like those were more even matchups compared to this upcoming Mikey Garcia-Errol Spence bout. These are two young guys in their prime with a serious size disparity. I’m not expecting a Hagler-type of beatdown from Spence since Mikey’s a different fighter but he’s going to have to box his ass off to win.

Take care always Doug, thank you! – Lester from MD

The last time I saw a great little man beat a great big man? Probably Toney’s stoppage of Holyfield in 2003. I don’t consider Spence and Garcia “great,” by the way. They are elite fighters, no doubt, both consensus pound-for-pound rated, but despite winning major world titles in four weight classes, Garcia’s never faced a fellow elite boxer. In fact, apart from Orlando Salido at featherweight in 2013, Garcia hasn’t faced the No. 1 or 2-rated fighter in any of the heavier weight classes he’s occupied. Obviously, that changes with Spence, who as badass as he looks, has only faced one top-five welterweight – the damaged and weight-drained Kell Brook.

Anyway, Jones-Ruiz, Toney-Holyfield, Pacquiao-Margarito and Mayweataher-Corrales seem like more even matchups than Spence-Garica to you because that’s probably the case. Ruiz, who I think was the betting underdog against Jones, was only bigger than the pound-for-pound king. That’s it. Jones was light years ahead of the heavyweight beltholder in every other category. Even though Holyfield was a 3-to-1 favorite to beat Toney (odds I didn’t agree with at all), he was way past his prime at that time. And although Margarito dwarfed Pacquiao, the Filipino icon was at his peak and heads and shoulders above the burnt-out pressure fighter in terms of talent. (I’m not quite sure why you included Mayweather-Corrales, which was considered even-money – no pun intended – at the time. Yes, Chico was taller than Floyd, but they were both junior lightweights. Mayweather didn’t go up in weight to challenge Corrales, who was dreadfully weight-drained and not in a good place, emotionally; not that it would have mattered if he had been 100%. Mayweather was just a far superior boxer.)

Spence is not only much bigger than Garcia, but, unlike Holyfield and Margarito, he’s in his prime. And unlike Margarito, he’s a good technical boxer (remember, the Texan was a 2012 U.S. Olympian).

I’m not expecting a Hagler-type of beatdown from Spence since Mikey’s a different fighter but he’s going to have to box his ass off to win. Garcia’s going to have to box a perfect fight, but guess what? Garcia is a near-perfect boxer.

 

MIKEY “ICARUS” GARCIA

Hey Dougie,

Three questions I would be extremely grateful for you to answer.

1- If you had to answer for him, why did Garcia take this fight?

2- If Garcia were to pull off the miracle (fights aren’t won on paper) how would/could it happen?

3- Has there ever been a similar instance in boxing history where a champ jumps up and faces a much bigger undefeated champ and wins?

Thanks, Dougie for all that you do, you’re a blessing to the sport of boxing and its fans. – Miguel from Naples

Wow, those are VERY kind words, Miguel. I’m touched. I’ll answer your three questions in order:

1- If you had to answer for him, why did Garcia take this fight? It was the biggest money fight for him vs. the most respected fighter within the PBC universe. Garcia likes to call himself a “free agent,” but he’s an Al Haymon client and he only fights PBC opponents on networks that have deals with Haymon (Showtime, and now FOX). So, all the talk of him fighting Jorge Linares last year or Vasiliy Lomachenko this year (or next year) is just talk. Plus, if he had lost to Linares or if he were to lose to Loma, it would mean that he was never the top lightweight (that some view him as). If he loses to Spence, it’s OK. It’a a welterweight bout against the top 147 pounder. At least he dared to be great.

2- If Garcia were to pull off the miracle (fights aren’t won on paper) how would/could it happen? That’s a good question. I have a hard time envisioning a victory for Garcia. Spence is a hell of a lot better than Adrien Broner or Sergey Lipinets (who put hands on Mikey if you recall). To have any chance of winning, I think Garcia would have to beat Spence to the jab, constantly sidestep the powerful southpaw, and counterpunch him at every turn. I also think Garcia will need to hurt Spence at some point during the early rounds in order to earn respect. That’s a lot to ask of the former featherweight.

3- Has there ever been a similar instance in boxing history where a champ jumps up and faces a much bigger undefeated champ and wins? Sure, it’s happened before… but not often. The first time was WAY back. Bob Fitzsimmons, the sport’s first three-division champion, was probably the first notable prize fighter to do it under modern boxing rules. As the reigning middleweight champ, “Ruby Robert” stopped unbeaten (10-0-3) reigning heavyweight champ James Corbett with a massive shot to the solar plexus in Round 14. That was in 1897! Heavyweights weren’t very big in that era, but I don’t think Fitzsimmons ever weighed more than 175 pounds. Fast forward 88 years,

Michael Spinks (right) took lineal status from Holmes (left). Photo by THE RING Archive

and the finest 175 pounder of the 1980s, undisputed light heavyweight champ Michael Spinks, made a much bigger leap (in terms of pounds) to heavyweight where he outpointed undefeated (48-0) champ Larry Holmes by close 15-round decision. It’s a very rare feat, but it has happened with very special fighters. The four fighters I mentioned are in the International Boxing Hall of Fame (and also considered all-time greats by many historians). (Perhaps I should also note that James Toney was an unbeaten, 44-0-2, super middleweight champ when Roy Jones Jr., a middleweight titleholder, stepped up from 160 to 168 pounds and undressed him over 12 rounds in 1994. Jones, I must add, was a big, extremely athletic middleweight.)

It’s probably more common for the naturally smaller or lighter champ to vacate his title(s) and campaign at the heavier weight classes for a while before taking on the bigger unbeaten champ. Roberto Duran, regarded as the finest lightweight of the 1970s, had eight bouts above the 135-pound limit (including a 10-round decision over former welterweight champ Carlos Palomino, which made him a top 147-pound contender) before he challenged Ray Leonard for the WBC welterweight crown, but Sugar Ray was undefeated (27-0) when he lost a close 15-round decision to Hands of Stone. Bantamweight champ Eder Jofre was unbeaten in 50 pro bouts (47-0-3) when he lost a close 15-round decision to former WBA flyweight titleholder Fighting Harada, although it should be noted that the Japanese legend had been fighting above 112 pounds for about a year and half before he upset the South American great in 1965. I’m sure I could find a few other examples if I looked hard enough.

 

SPENCE-GARCIA, GIANT SLAYING

Hey Doug, just wanted to write in to give my thoughts on the recently announced Spence vs Garcia fight and Usyk’s performance and future.

Although I’m looking forward to the fight, (it features two pound for pound stars in their primes who are both fun to watch) I don’t quite understand why Mikey is doing this. He says he wants to take the biggest challenges–was Loma not challenging enough? Am I being too cynical in thinking that part of his motivation for fighting Spence is that he has a built in excuse for losing (he’s way smaller) whereas with Loma, he knows he risks getting styled on and stopped by a guy slightly smaller than him?

It may also be that Mikey thinks he sees something in Spence that he can exploit. I think a lot of guys look at Spence and think: “this guy doesn’t move his head too much and he moves kind of linear, if I can avoid his biggest shots I’ll get my chance to time him and tag that chin.” The problem is that Errol (kind of like Golovkin) has a great jab, a sturdy chin, and is deceptively good at managing range with his feet. In my opinion, this fight is going to be a blowout. Errol is MUCH bigger than Mikey and he’s not going to respect Mikey’s power. I think he’s going to keep that jab in Mikey’s face, walk him down with authority, and pulverize the little man’s intestines into jello. I’d be surprised if this goes past 5 rounds.

On a more positive note, Usyk delivered another awesome performance, again in hostile territory. (Though he won the crowd over with his class in and after the fight.) Bellew fought really well I thought. I expected him to be cagey and difficult to hit at first, but was surprised by his ability to potshot counter Usyk with his right hand. Ultimately the pace and pressure were too much for him and he got starched in chilling fashion, but Tony should be proud of his performance. Usyk is a generational talent and Tony looked like he belonged in there for the first 6 rounds.

I’m excited to see what Usyk can do at heavyweight. I feel like us boxing fans have been waiting for awhile for a smaller heavyweight with sublime skills to test himself against well-schooled super heavyweights. Something really captures the imagination when it comes to guys from the past like Tyson, Holyfield, and Toney taking on these 6’5”, 250-plus juggernauts. Toney standing toe to toe with Samuel Peters was especially exciting, their first match is one of my favorite fights to re-watch.

People are going to kill me for this but honestly, Usyk reminded me of a young Ali in his fight with Gassiev–the way he stayed on his toes and poured the combinations on him–he really just slapped the shit out of him. It was reminiscent to me of Ali’s one sided beatdowns of Chuvalo or Terrell. But Usyk has also shown himself to be hittable in his fights with Breidas and Bellew. Kind of interesting since of those three opponents, I think Gassiev is clearly the best. When I think of that Gassiev fight alone I feel like Usyk has it in him to beat Joshua Wilder and Fury, but he also can’t afford to take as many right hands as he did against Bellew, and I don’t think many would favor him to beat Joshua right after seeing the Breidas fight (which was a competitive, really fun fight.)

Anyways, I can’t wait to see him move up and roll the dice. Fun question for you Doug: what are your top 3 “giant slayings” in the history of boxing? – Jack E.

Duran lands and uppercut against Barkley. Photo from THE RING archive

Well, my three choices weren’t exactly “slayings,” but they did involve a naturally smaller man (albeit ultra-talented dudes) dethroning a respected, naturally bigger reigning champ. I’ll go with two WBC middleweight title-winning split decisions – Leonard’s nod over Marvin Hagler (The Ring’s 1987 Fight of the Year) and Duran’s last hurrah over Iran Barkley (The Ring’s 1989 Fight of the Year). For No. 3, I’ll go with Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title winning final-round stoppage of Miguel Cotto.

Although I’m looking forward to the fight, (it features two pound for pound stars in their primes who are both fun to watch) I don’t quite understand why Mikey is doing this. There was nothing meaningful or lucrative for him left at 135 and 140 pounds within the PBC. He had to consider the 147-pound division, where Spence is viewed as the man but the only PBC welterweight willing to fight him is Shawn Porter. Mikey Garcia is a more respected name than Porter, which brings with it the biggest payday of Spence’s career. So, I get why Spence is doing it (even though it seems like a no-win situation for him).

He says he wants to take the biggest challenges–was Loma not challenging enough? Loma is the perfect challenge for Garcia – at the perfect weight. And the Ukrainian wizard is No. 1 in all the major pound-for-pound rankings. But, as Don King once told Antonio Margarito, he’s “with the wrong promoter, brotha!”

Am I being too cynical in thinking that part of his motivation for fighting Spence is that he has a built in excuse for losing (he’s way smaller) whereas with Loma, he knows he risks getting styled on and stopped by a guy slightly smaller than him? Nope. I’m thinking the same thing and don’t consider myself a cynic.

It may also be that Mikey thinks he sees something in Spence that he can exploit. I’m sure he does.

I think a lot of guys look at Spence and think: “this guy doesn’t move his head too much and he moves kind of linear, if I can avoid his biggest shots I’ll get my chance to time him and tag that chin.” You’re probably right. There were probably more boxers who thought that before he stopped Brook and Peterson.

The problem is that Errol (kind of like Golovkin) has a great jab, a sturdy chin, and is deceptively good at managing range with his feet. True.

In my opinion, this fight is going to be a blowout. That would kinda be a bummer.

Errol is MUCH bigger than Mikey and he’s not going to respect Mikey’s power. I can see that. But I don’t think Garcia is going to try to overpower the IBF welterweight titleholder.

I think he’s going to keep that jab in Mikey’s face, walk him down with authority, and pulverize the little man’s intestines into jello. That’s a disturbing thought.

I’d be surprised if this goes past 5 rounds. I think it will go past five rounds, but for Mikey’s sake/health, maybe it shouldn’t.

I’m excited to see what Usyk can do at heavyweightYou and a lot of hardcore fans are, but Usyk’s manager Egis Klimas says they’re not going to be in a rush to venture into boxing’s glamour division. Usyk might go up and face a fringe contender and then drop back down to 200 pounds to defend his cruiser titles.

I feel like us boxing fans have been waiting for awhile for a smaller heavyweight with sublime skills to test himself against well-schooled super heavyweights. I gotta be honest with ya, Jack. I haven’t been thinking about that.

Something really captures the imagination when it comes to guys from the past like Tyson, Holyfield, and Toney taking on these 6’5”, 250-plus juggernauts. Well, when you put it that way…. Yeah, that was cool to see.

Toney standing toe to toe with Samuel Peters was especially exciting, their first match is one of my favorite fights to re-watch. I covered that fight from ringside (picked Peter to win but thought Toney got jobbed). I don’t think I’ve re-watched it to this day. I’m gonna have to do that. You should have seen Toney at the post-fight press conference. He was in rare form. I think it got back to him that I picked Peter. He said he wanted to see if I had the guts to wear my ponytail in Detroit (I do).

People are going to kill me for this but honestly, Usyk reminded me of a young Ali in his fight with Gassiev–the way he stayed on his toes and poured the combinations on him–he really just slapped the shit out of him. I agree with you.

It was reminiscent to me of Ali’s one sided beatdowns of Chuvalo or Terrell. But Usyk has also shown himself to be hittable in his fights with Breidas and Bellew. True, but the Briedis fight wasn’t as close as the official scorecards indicated (IMO) and Bellew didn’t nail him that much. Usyk may not be untouchable but he’s not easy to hit, and he’s obviously got solid whiskers.

Kind of interesting since of those three opponents, I think Gassiev is clearly the best. The Russian is the most formidable, but he’s not as experienced as the other two.

When I think of that Gassiev fight alone I feel like Usyk has it in him to beat Joshua Wilder and Fury, but he also can’t afford to take as many right hands as he did against Bellew, and I don’t think many would favor him to beat Joshua right after seeing the Breidas fight (which was a competitive, really fun fight.) Gassiev was only 24 when he faced Usyk, and he’s got short arms. He’s not as mature, experienced or rangy as the heavyweight standouts. I’m gonna need to see Usyk face a real heavyweight contender before I form a strong opinion about his chances against the titleholders.

 

FURY AIN’T BORING!

Hi Dougie,

Just enjoyed your Monday mailbag including MMs of Usyk vs. the heavies.

Once again though you seem to refer to Tyson Fury being a boring fighter (‘Fury by monotonous MD’), which is surprising.

OK he’s no action-packed brawler or KO-artist, granted, but do you not find watching his craft entertaining or at least interesting?

The way he mentally broke down and physically disarmed Klitschko was fascinating to me; all the subtleties and tension. And there were still some good shots landed. Like watching some strange master at work and making beating this supreme champ seem pretty easy. But yet it’s still largely referred to as a boring fight.

His apparent vulnerabilities also add to the intrigue (low hands and ungainliness suggesting he’s open to something landing etc).

Really interested in your thoughts.

Couple of MMs:

Fury (that beat Wlad)/Vitali Klitschko

Fury/Holmes

Duran/GGG at MW

Best. – Rob

I’ll go with Big Bro and Holmes (by late TKO) and Golovkin by close decision (this is peak GGG, 2012-2015, not the current version).

Regarding Fury, I enjoy watching fight against certain styles. I thought the Klitschko fight was beyond dreadful. I envision that a Fury-Usyk showdown would be boring. I’m not saying Fury is always boring. I just believe that particular matchup would be monotonous and uneventful.

By the way, the closer we get to Wilder-Fury, the more I think the Gypsy King can pull off the upset.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer and on Persicope.

 

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