Mikey Garcia’s bold move in challenging a younger, unbeaten world champion at his peak should be a precedent-setting stroke that others should follow.
At a time when boxing has become flush with television cash that includes Saturday’s entry into the pay-per-view business by Fox, the fighters can press the sport’s revival further into mainstream prominence by making the same type of demands that the four-division world champion from Oxnard has made.
“I’m here to make history, and this is the fight that’s going to do it for me,” Garcia (39-0, 30 knockouts) said of his move up two weight classes to meet Texas’ unbeaten International Boxing Federation welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. (24-0, 21 KOs) at AT&T Stadium.
“It’s not often you get a fight like this: undefeated, in-their-prime, pound-for-pound champions facing each other. I will become a five-division champion.”
Garcia, 31, is nearly a 3-to-1 underdog against Spence, 29, and several experts expect the challenger to have difficulty with the pressure of Spence’s power given that the taller champion will likely weigh at least 10 pounds more in the ring.
“It will be a one-sided massacre,” Spence pronounced in closing a news conference that had testy moments.
Garcia countered, “You don’t win a fight by the size and the weight. We fight smart, fight intelligent, pick our shots, be very smart about how we place our feet. That’s how we win. I believe I’m better than everybody when it comes to footwork, timing, reflexes, defense, you name it.”
That self-confidence, which Spence described as “arrogance,” is the swagger more fighters need in the climate where promoters and their network backers find it easier for business to keep the boxers obedient.
When Garcia took a dislike to the money he was earning and the wait for the in-house fights he wanted from former promoter Top Rank, he took a 30-month hiatus from the sport and moved to Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, insisting on a career path that takes him to his third consecutive bout against an unbeaten champion in a third different division.
It’s been a profitable push that has moved Garcia to his first pay-per-view main event, in position to make a claim as boxing’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter and meet the likes of PBC’s other welterweight champions Manny Pacquiao, who’s expected to sit ringside Saturday, and unbeaten World Boxing Assn. champion Keith Thurman.
“[Spence] is a star. I see a big challenge by moving up in weight and challenging him in his prime. That’s what motivates me. I wanted to go after the best, and he is the best right now,” Garcia said. “I took the hiatus and made a goal to be better than ever. I want to add to that legacy. You’re going to talk about Garcia … .”
Elsewhere, there’s some stagnation.
The increased interest in the sport’s heavyweight division stalled last month when lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury retreated from a rematch with PBC’s Deontay Wilder to align with ESPN while three-belt heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has taken a softer touch than Wilder for his June 1 U.S. debut because of his allegiance to the new streaming service DAZN.
Unbeaten World Boxing Organization welterweight champion Terence Crawford, seeking a Spence showdown, and unbeaten featherweight champion Oscar Valdez also find themselves isolated by their promotional/network ties.
Spence said he wasn’t sure of Garcia’s sincerity in pushing for the fight after seeing others, including World Boxing Council welterweight champion Shawn Porter, shy from the possibility of a loss by taking a mandatory title defense instead.
“This turns me into a star. Everyone’s trying to take the place of Floyd Mayweather and become the star of boxing, and I feel this takes me on the right track to become the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world,” Spence said.
“I have the crown and this is going to be a hard, legendary fight. [Garcia] really thinks he’s going to take this title back to California. It’s not happening. I know I’m the best fighter in the world. I’m going to show it.”
Doing so will require defeating the determined unbeaten who was raised in a boxing family, empowered by his unflinching principles.
“He’s going to see why I chose him,” Garcia said. “I’ve got to be calm, I’ve got to be confident. I chose this fight to make history. In order to do that, I’ve got to fight the fight of my life.”
Main Event: Errol Spence Jr., DeSoto, Texas, (24-0, 21 KOs) vs. Mikey Garcia, Oxnard, (39-0, 30 KOs) for Spence’s IBF welterweight belt
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
When: Saturday, pay-per-view portion begins at 6 p.m. Pacific
Television: Fox pay-per-view, $74.95; Preliminaries on FS1 at 5 p.m. Pacific