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Ariza doubts if Mikey Garcia’s training will work against Spence

Image: Ariza doubts if Mikey Garcia's training will work against Spence

By Dan Ambrose: Strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza isn’t sure that all the bulk training Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) is doing with Victor Conte at his SNAC facility in San Carlos, California is going to help him enough for him to beat the bigger, stronger and younger IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. (24-0, 21 KOs) in their fight on March 16 on FOX Sports PPV at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Ariza, who used to train former eight division world champion Manny Pacquiao during the best years of his pro career, says Mikey’s decision to train at the SNAC facility might not have been the best decision on his part to prepare for his fight against the 29-year-old Spence. Ariza feels that Mikey needed a more established strength and conditioning coach with a proven record of having prepared fighters for important fights. Ariza sees SNAC boss Conte as little more than a vitamin salesman, and not a guy that has prepared fighters for big fights. In this fight, 5’6″, Mikey will be giving away close to four inches in height and reach to the 5’9 1/2″ Spence.

“In the strength and conditioning world, Victor Conte isn’t really recognized,” Alex Ariza said. “Most people don’t even know who he is. He has a vitamin [business]. He’s a salesman. This is one of those classics like Manny Pacquiao vs. Oscar De La Hoya. It really is. They’re thinking of doing something that is unheard of. I don’t know. If I had a $400,000 race card, I don’t know if I’d take it to jiffy lube. Mikey is very smart. I don’t know if they have the success or the experience. Only Mikey will know what he’s doing will give him the confidence,” Ariza said.

It’s a bad comparison on Ariza’s part to compare the Spence vs. Mikey fight with the Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao match in 2008. There’s a huge difference between the two fighters. De La Hoya was a weight drained, 34-year-old, who hadn’t fought at 147 in seven years since 2001. De La Hoya had been fighting at 154 and 160, and he made a big mistake in agreeing to drain down to 147 to fight a prime Pacquiao without a catch-weight. De La Hoya took the weight off the wrong way to make the 147 lb limit. Instead of focusing on just losing water weight the way normal fighters do, De La Hoya dieted and lost a lot of muscle, and was completely drained at the weight. As such, Pacquiao had an incredibly easy time beating the brakes off De La Hoya with him in that horrible condition. Moreover, De La Hoya had only fought five times in the last four years before facing Pacquiao. De La Hoya wasn’t fighting enough, and he competing at a higher weight. In contrast, Spence is in his prime fighting at 147, and he’s not draining himself badly to make the weight. Mikey is moving up from lightweight to take the fight with Spence, not light welterweight the way Pacquiao did in facing De La Hoya. Mikey isn’t a speedy combination puncher the way Pacquiao was when he fought De La Hoya. The 2008 version of Pacquiao was a better fighter than Mikey in every department. Mikey is a good fighter, but nowhere near what Pacquiao was. Even now, Mikey isn’t in the same class as Pacquiao. If Mikey were to face Pacquiao now, he’d been out of his class, and would likely be knocked out by him.

The size, reach and strength of Spence might prove to be too much for Mikey no matter who his strength trainer is for the fight. If Mikey puts on too much size, he’s going to look like a mini tank, and that’s not going to help him against a fighter that is more streamline like Spence. He’s got size that goes with his frame. If Mikey bulks up to look like a short bodybuilder like Saul Canelo Alvarez did in his two fights with Gennady Golovkin and his recent bout with Rocky Fielding, he’s going to be a sitting duck to all the power punches that Errol hits him with. Unlike GGG, Spence likes to throw body shots, and he’s not afraid to take some shots in order to land his big punches to the midsection on the inside. Mikey isn’t going to be able to avoid the body shots from Spence with any regularity. The only way Mikey has a chance of winning this fight is if his power is good enough to hurt Spence, and knock him out. That’s what this fight is about. Mikey cannot win a decision against Spence, because the guy is too big and strong, and he’s going to be looking to take him out with every shot he throws in the fight.

“We’re talking about Errol Spence. How big is he? He’s probably 5’11”. He probably walks around at 180 lbs,” Ariza said in pointing out the obvious size disadvantage Mikey will have to deal with on March 16. “He may weigh-in at 147, but come fight night be at 170.”

Spence’s size, youth and talent is an advantage for him, it probably wouldn’t matter if Mikey had the best strength and conditioning coach that ever breathed. I don’t know if Ariza is the best or if some of the past Soviet coaches in the 1970s. All that punching power of Spence along with his height and reach will put Mikey at his mercy no matter what kind of strength and conditioning regimen he went through to get to the fight. Mikey took a pounding in his fight with Sergey Lipinets. Mikey won the fight by a 12 round unanimous decision, but he looked like he was hit by a truck at the end of it. Spence is a bigger puncher than Lipinets with both hands, and he’s an excellent body puncher as well. If Mikey isn’t able to keep Spence off of him, he’ll share the same fate as past opponents for the Texas native like Chris Algieri, Leonard Bundu, Carlos Ocampo and Kell Brook. Mikey’s ability to take punishment is no better than those fighters. He might be a better boxer than those guys, but that’s not going to help him with a fighter that cuts off the ring on his opponents the way Spence does. He’s not going to have problems catching up to Mikey to land his big power shots on March 16.

“I would have started with Mikey four months out to get him used to carrying around the weight,” Ariza said. “He’s got good power. The question is will it be enough to get the attention of Errol Spence. I’m sure Mikey saw something. This is historic. This will put him at the pinnacle. He will be right there next to Manny. If it were up to me, I’d like to go with a team with a history of success,” Ariza said.

It doesn’t sound like Ariza believes that Mikey has much of a chance of winning this fight. Starting four months out might give Mikey a chance to put on a little more bulk, but it’s still going to be very hard for him to carry the extra weight around in a full 12 round fight against a fighter like Spence.

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