Now, he’s beaten someone. Now, he’s headlined a pay-per-view and generated an impressive crowd.
Now, Errol Spence Jr. is the man.
In an overwhelming, punishing display of skills multiplied by his physical advantages, Texas’ Spence cruised to a dominant victory over Oxnard’s previously unbeaten, four-division champion Mikey Garcia.
Spence (25-0) retained his International Boxing Federation welterweight belt and made a claim to pound-for-pound supremacy in front of 47,525 on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
He swept every round on all three scorecards, 120-107, 120-108, 120-108, while outlanding Garcia in punches (345-75), power punches (237-54) and jabs (108-21).
“I had the size advantage and I had the reach, so why not use it? It’s a weapon for me,” Spence said. “A lot of commentators thought he was too smart and I couldn’t box as well as him. I showed I can box. The game is to be smart. It’s the sweet science.”
Spence might be back soon. Watching ringside was eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao, who’s fought here twice. Spence spoke to Pacquiao in the ring and said, “It’d be my honor to fight him next.” Pacquiao responded, “Why not?”
Pacquiao “has broken records here before. He’s a legend,” Spence said.
Spence is cementing his status, thanks to the champion’s left-handed punches to the head and body and the substantial jab. It all kept Garcia covering and cautious about engaging as Spence timed well-placed, hard lefts.
By the sixth round, Spence was treating Garcia like those reluctant, outmatched foes he battered in becoming a champion, aiming crippling body shots at the outsized opponent who was shorter by 31/2 inches in height, four inches in reach and likely up to 10 pounds in weight.
“All the credit to Errol. He’s a great champion. He’s the truth,” Garcia said. “He came out here with a good game plan and kept the distance at his favor. I couldn’t get my rhythm going and he did what he had to do.”
Garcia (39-1), in seeking to move up two divisions, after his lightweight title victory July 28 at Staples Center, to become just the third man in history to own both a featherweight and welterweight belt, instead found that Spence’s physical advantages were, as many expected, the deciding factors.
That extra gear Garcia believed was housed inside him, the extended work with nutritional guru Victor Conte and the years of dedication to the craft Garcia thought could carry him to an upset, did not.
Sure, there was grit, like Garcia’s combinations at the close of the ninth round after being smacked by head and body punches, but it only revealed heart. The truth, that he belongs at a lower weight, was naked for all to see.
Garcia acknowledged he had to urge his brother-trainer, Robert Garcia, not to stop the fight in the ninth.
“I told him I was fine and I tried to go out there and pull it off. I wasn’t able to. I’m proud of what I was able to do. We’ll be back,” Garcia said.
In the co-main event, as David Benavidez sought a fresh start following a turbulent year, he found the best way to bring that to reality was with heavy punches.
So Benavidez battered Las Vegas’ J’Leon Love by a second-round knockout.
Benavidez (21-0) finished Love (24-3-1) just 1 minute 14 seconds into the second round with a vicious combination of blows to the head as Love sought to duck under the ropes.
“I knew it was going to happen,” Benavidez said.
The heavy flurry answered the frustration of Benavidez losing the World Boxing Council super-middleweight belt he won in becoming the sport’s youngest champion in 2017. He tested positive for cocaine, and Anthony Dirrell proceeded to capture the vacant belt.
Following the victory, Benavidez scanned the stadium and looked for Dirrell, whom he expects to meet in the summer.
“He can’t call himself champ until he comes to fight me,” Benavidez said. “I’m going to go get that belt back. That’s mine.”
Former bantamweight champion Luis Nery (29-0) flashed speed and power, which Puerto Rico’s McJoe Arroyo (18-3) couldn’t contain in getting knocked down four times before failing to answer the bell on the advice of his corner after the fourth round.
Nery, making his U.S. debut, satisfied those who’ve compared him to Pacquiao. “I’m happy they make comparisons between me and Manny Pacquiao, and I’m even happier that he’s here to see me fight,” Nery said.
Former heavyweight title challenger Chris Arreola (38-5-1) of Riverside opened the Fox pay-per-view with a convincing victory by third-round technical knockout over Haiti’s Jean Pierre Augustin (17-1-1).
“Augustin is a hungry kid who tried to make a name off of me,” Arreola said. “I lose and I’m out, but I’m not going out. I touched him a couple times and saw he was hurt. I stayed calm and the stoppage came. I love fighting.”