Errol Spence Jr.’s domination of Mikey Garcia meant more that just what happened in the ring.
On a night when Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao made almost ghostly pre- and post-fight appearances in the AT&T Stadium ring, welterweight champion Spence (25-0) posted a clean sweep of the scorecards against the lighter four-division champion Garcia, and a chapter in the sport’s history turned.
Spence, in a transcendent showing timed perfectly for his first pay-per-view headline assignment, with 47,525 watching inside his hometown stadium, became the frontrunner as best American fighter.
Say what you will about Spence beating up on a lighter man, since Garcia had fought in a weight class 12 pounds lighter in late July.
The showing against an unbeaten former 140-pound world champion was so one-sided — Spence outlanding Garcia in total punches (345-75) and jabs (108-21) — that it vaulted the Texan into a debate with fellow unbeaten welterweight champion Terence Crawford for pound-for-pound supremacy.
“The Mayweather era has stopped. A new era has started today: the Errol Spence era,” veteran fight promoter Richard Schaefer said.
But that’s where Garcia’s contribution to the night also requires consideration.
Because while Mayweather was so protective of the zero on his loss ledger that he allowed his 2015 fight with Pacquiao to drag out at least five years beyond its expiration date, and because Pacquiao allowed his then-promoter Bob Arum to dictate his opposition, the business of boxing trumped the intriguing matchups that can magnetize a fan base beyond the hard-core followers.
“To cement your name, you’ve got to go after the biggest fights,” Oxnard’s Garcia (39-1) explained following his first defeat. “If I want to pad the record, just fight pretenders, get a quick paycheck and keep moving on and racking up wins, that’s not something I want to be known for.
“I made it a goal of mine to fight the biggest challenges, so that people can appreciate who I am as a fighter. That’s why I took on this fight. I’m trying to be great. I feel that’s what a real champion needs to be doing, dare to take on the best fights possible.”
While a cynic for Garcia’s former promotional company Top Rank labeled his taking the fight a “business deal,” intended to “cash a check” that could exceed $8 million, he did absorb his first loss, get battered by more than 400 punches and risk both his drawing power and physical wear in the defeat, leaving the perception that legacy trumped the bank account.
“It’s not about not taking a loss,” Garcia said. “This is what boxing needs: two pound-for-pound champions coming together.”
Garcia’s mentality confronts fight promoters who are adverse to risk.
On Saturday’s card, Premier Boxing Champions placed former heavyweight champion Charles Martin and former three-time title challenger Chris Arreola in separate, one-sided bouts when a match against each other would have made a criticized pay-per-view slate more competitive and entertaining.
A Spence-Crawford showdown makes supreme sense. Crawford promoter Todd duBoef told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, “I’m in,” on the idea. “I would do it 100%. Crawford has a tough fight with Amir Khan coming up [April 20 on ESPN pay-per-view from Madison Square Garden], but we would love to fight Spence after that.”
PBC instead brought Pacquiao, 40, into the ring after Saturday’s fight, which seems like (a) a chess move to lure Mayweather, 42, to a double-farewell rematch in the late summer; or (b) a stunning change of heart given Pacquiao’s prior resistance to fight Crawford at the close of his relationship with Top Rank.
Spence kept a straight face in saying he believes the decade-older Pacquiao would be a more complicated match for him than the “one-sided massacre” that Garcia was.
“When I heard [Garcia] saying he had more power than me, [that] he was stronger than me, faster than me, his boxing IQ was better than me, it put a big chip on my shoulder to do what I did,” Spence said.
“It’d be a great fight … Manny Pacquiao is blood and guts. He’s on his way out and I’d definitely give him that retirement check,” Spence said.
Welterweight champions Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman are in the PBC ecosystem like Spence, but Spence said he believes Porter is ducking him and he’s tiring of Thurman’s limited time in the ring over the last three years.
Neither of those would create the draw of Spence-Crawford, but PBC-aligned veteran promoter Schaefer would offer no promises it was on deck.
““I think they’ll eventually fight. The money’s the money,” Schaefer said. “We, as hard-core fight fans might want to see Terence Crawford next, but that doesn’t have to happen next.”
The question that remains in perpetuity in boxing cases like this is: Why not?
Consider the lost momentum in the heavyweight division by separating unbeatens Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury into three network alliances and three predictable-outcome matchups.
Compare that to the pre-fight atmosphere and the riches of Saturday night.
Garcia has, and says he’s interested in moving back down to lightweight for another big fight, this time against three-division champion Vasiliy Lomachenko of Top Rank.
Yet, as Schaefer indicated a return to junior-welterweight might be best for Garcia, a Top Rank official added, “Mikey didn’t do much for his next fight … as a consumer, why am I interested in someone who made themselves toxic by throwing eight punches a round? How does the marketing campaign work on that fight?”
Good question. Probably better than that campaign for Lomachenko’s April 12 alternative fight at Staples Center against six-loss Anthony Crolla.