Leo Santa Cruz says Mikey Garcia will beat Errol Spence
By Sean Jones: Featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz is predicting a big upset win for former four division world champion Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) when he challenges Errol Spence Jr. (24-0, 21 KOs) for his IBF welterweight title in two months from now on March 16 on FOX pay-per-view at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Santa Cruz feels that the combination of ring smarts, experience and punching power will enable the unbeaten Garcia to score an upset against the younger, stronger and bigger 5’9 1/2″ Spence.
It won’t be easy for the 5’6″ Mikey to win this fight. He’ll be giving away 3 1/2″ inches in height, 4″ inches in reach, and likely 15 pounds in weight to Spence. Even though Mikey is bulking up like mad in training at conditioning guru Victor Conte’s SNAC facility in San Carlos, California, he’s still going to be much smaller and weaker than Spence. The added bulk that Mikey puts on for the fight could backfire on him, causing him to gas out in the second half of the fight and get stopped.
In looking at Mikey’s two fights in the 140 lb weight division against Adrien Broner and Sergey Lipinets, he faded badly in the last six rounds in both contests. Those two fighters were able to come on in the second half of the fights to win rounds and administer punishment on Mikey. Neither of those fighters possess the punching power, size and talent of Spence. What this means for Mikey is that unless he’s able to raise his game considerably from what we’ve seen from him lately, he’s going to lose badly to Spence and possibly wind up a knockout victim. It won’t matter if Mikey just tries to survive by going into the sparring partner mode. Spence will cut off the ring, and chop Mikey down with body and head shots.
“Errol Spence is a good fighter. Mikey is my friend, and he’s a good fighter and everything,” Santa Cruz said to Fighthype. “He’s really skillful. It’s going to be a tough fight, and I’m pulling for Mikey. I think he can pull off the upset, and decision him. It’s going to be tough for Mikey to knockout Spence, because Spence spars with the Charlo brothers. They’re bigger guys, so he’s already used to the punch. He can take a big punch. I think if Mikey beats him, it’ll be a decision,” Santa Cruz said.
It’s clear that Mikey has no chance of knocking out Spence. Mikey couldn’t even stop Sergey Lipinets, Robert Easter Jr. and Adrien Broner. Mikey doesn’t possess power to KO guys at 147. All the resistance training that Mikey is doing at the SNAC facility in San Carlos, California will help him build muscle, but that’s not likely going to translate to additional punching power. Mikey being bigger just means that he’s going to look better on the beach, but it’s not going to do anything with his power. It’s extremely rare where a fighter develops more power after hitting the weights. The power that fighters have comes from their frames. It’s a muscle thing. Mikey bulking up to 165 lbs in a hurry isn’t going to turn him into the puncher that Spence is at welterweight.
“Maybe they [Mikey and his trainer Robert Garcia] see some mistakes that Errol makes,” Santa Cruz said. “His [Spence] skills right now [aren’t good enough for him to beat Mikey]. Maybe he’s not that experienced. He’s still learning. Those are the mistakes that they’re going to take advantage of. Mikey is a smart fighter. He really knows how to fight you,” Santa Cruz said.
The mistakes that Spence makes aren’t ones that Mikey will be able to take advantage of unless he’s willing to stand in the firing line to battle him in the trenches. If Mikey does that, he’s not likely going to last very long. With all the added muscle weight that Mikey is putting on for this fight, he’s going to be tired quickly from the fast pace that Spence sets, and from the heavy body and head shots that he’s going to be forced to absorb. Spence is like a smaller version of middleweight Gennady Golovkin, but he’s much better at cutting off the ring than him. Spence is going to force Mikey to slug with him by trapping him. There’s no chance that Mikey will be able to keep Spence off of him unless he runs for 12 rounds, and that’ll be a bad look for him to be seen doing that. Mikey’s boxing fans aren’t going to think too highly of him if he gets on his bike and goes into the survival mode for 12 rounds, hoping that if he can cross the finish line, the judges will give him a controversial decision just because he went the distance with the younger, bigger and stronger champ. Mikey has to stand and fight Spence if he’s to have a shot at winning on March 16.
“I’ve heard that when people see Mikey fight, they say he looks easy,” Santa Cruz said. “But once you get in the ring with him, the story is different. You feel his punch, and it’s not the same as being out there looking at him. I worked out with him, and I sparred with him one time. He was at 126. He was bigger. He hits hard. Like I said, once you get up in the ring, it’s different. When he barely touched you, you feel it. He knows where to land them, and he has perfect timing. That’s why he’s so good. He has to be great. He has to box really good [to beat Spence], and not get caught with those big shots. If he [Spence] lands a big shot, maybe he can hurt him. Mikey is smart. He’s not going to let him catch him with those big shots. He’s going to know what to do to not get hit by Spence,” Santa Cruz said.
Santa Cruz says he sparred with Mikey when he first started his career, which means he was fighting at bantamweight at 118 lbs at the time. Mikey fought at 126, so it makes sense that his power would be greater than Santa Cruz’s. However, Spence is a guy that fights at 147, and he has a junior middleweight frame. Some boxing fans say Mikey is only going up one weight class from 140 to 147 to challenge Spence for his IBF welterweight title. Mikey didn’t show that he’s a strong light welterweight in his two fights in the 140 lb division. Mikey looked decent in beating a shot Adrien Broner, and a guy that many boxing fans felt was a paper champion in former IBF light welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets. Mikey’s face was bloody and lumped up badly against Lipinets. If that’s how Mikey looked against a limited fighter like Lipinets, what do you would think he would look like facing the talented 140 lb fighters like Regis Prograis, Jose Ramirez, Ivan ‘The Beast’ Baranchyk (19-0, 12 KOs), Maurice Hooker or Kiryl Relikh? Mikey didn’t stick around to defend his International Boxing federation light welterweight title against his mandatory challenger Baranchyk. It was like Mikey couldn’t get rid of the IBF title fast enough when he was ordered by the IBF to defend against Baranchyk. Mikey vacated the IBF belt like it was a hot potato, giving it up without a fight. Baranchyk then picked up the vacant IBF title last October in stopping Anthony Yigit in the seventh round in the World Boxing Super Series light welterweight tournament. Baranchyk looked like a big upgrade over Lipinets. Had Mikey kept the IBF belt and defended it against Baranchyk, there’s a very good chance he would have been knocked out by him. At the very least, Mikey would have been bloody and battered far worse than he was against Lipinets.
Mikey will basically be still moving up two weight classes when he faces Spence at welterweight. The reason for that is Spence is a fighter that rehydrates a ton of weight after he weighs in. Although the IBF has secondary weigh-in on the day of their fights, it’s not going to keep Spence from rehydrating to near or over 170 pounds for the fight. Mikey isn’t going to be close to that weight. If Mikey does pack on that much bulk, he’s going to look like a beach ball inside the ring at 5’6″. Mikey is too short to pack all a ton of size to come into the fight with Spence close to 170. It would be a stupid move on Mikey’s part for him to try and match the weight that Spence comes into the fight at, because he’s not going to be able to compete with him at that weight. It’s too much weight for Mikey to be adding to his small frame. When a fighter bulks up, they often test out the new weight by fighting a series of tune-up level opponents before they take on someone good at the new weight. Mikey has no intention of testing out all the new bulk that he adds. He’s going to be bulking up like crazy, and flying blind inside the ring, hoping that the weight that he packs on will help him. It clearly won’t. The weight will slow Mikey down, make him easier to hit, and cause him to gas out earlier than he normally would.
“I think Mikey can beat Spence by setting up his feet, because Errol is very heavy on his feet,” said lightweight prospect Carlos Balderas to Fighthype. “He’s a fighter that walks down his opponents, but he’s kind of flat footed. If Mikey can box him and move, and use his feints, he can beat him. I seen Errol Spence fight against Lamont Peterson, and every time Lamont Peterson was faking him, Errol Spence was going for the feints, even though he would never follow up with it. Errol Spence, that guy I think is the real deal. He beat the crap out of Chris Algieri. He beat Kell Brook in Kell Brook’s hometown. It’s going to be a very hard fight [for Mikey], but because of the weight, I think it’s going to be a hard fight for Mikey,” Balderas said.
Having seen Mikey fight many times over the years, he does NOT have fast feet. Mikey even more flat-footed than Spence, which is understandable, since he likes to sit down on his shots. If Mikey chooses to try and move around the ring against Spence, it would be something that’s alien to his fighting style. Mikey isn’t all of a sudden going to have quick feet after fighting as a pro for 13 years.
Spence can be flat-footed when he’s stalking his opponents, but he’s quite good at moving quickly when he needs to. What the young 22-year-old Balderas is failing to point out is the huge difference in arm length between Spence and Garcia. Spence’s reach is almost six inches longer than Mikey’s, and he has a much better jab. If Mikey chooses to move around the ring to avoid Spence, then he won’s be doing anything to win the rounds. In that case, Mikey would be fighting purely in the survival mode, and not bothering to try and win.
Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs) will be defending his World Boxing Association Super World Featherweight title against Miguel Flores (23-2, 11 KOs) on February 16 on Premier Boxing Champions on FOX & FOX Deportes at the Microsoft Theater, in Los Angeles, California. Santa Cruz plans on fighting three times in 2019, and he wants to face WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. and the other 126 pound champions in unification fights. It would be great for Santa Cruz and his fans if he does face the likes of Russell Jr., Josh Warrington and Oscar Valdez in 2019. Whether any of those fights happen remain to be seen. Santa Cruz has been around for a while now and he’s not been fighting unification matches. It’s hard to imagine him starting right now at accomplishing that goal.
There’s a very good chance that Spence will KO Mikey in the first three rounds of the fight. Mikey’s punch resistance is arguably no better than Spence’s last opponent Carlos Ocampo, and he stopped him in the first round last June. Ocampo tried to punch with Spence, and he was taken out right away. We could see the same thing with Mikey. He’s smaller than Ocampo, and less suited for the weight division. Mikey’s brother Robert Garcia, who works as his trainer, isn’t going to want to let him soak up punishment for any length of time. It’s believed that once things start looking bad for Mikey, which could be as early as round one on March 16, his trainer Robert Garcia will toss in the towel to keep him from getting knocked unconscious.