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Mikey the Magician

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By Jermill Pennington: The showdown in Arlington Texas took place on Saturday night featuring IBF Welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. (25-0) vs. Mikey Garcia (39-1) for the vacant WBC Diamond Belt. When the fight was first announced months ago the skeptics were out on this fight being an absolute mismatch. Many fans and pundits alike said Mikey was too small to go up two weight classes to fight a beast the likes of Errol Spence Jr. As the months went by and the fight drew closer, that opinion seemed to change.

By the time fight week came around you started to hear many of the experts and fans surrounding the sport favoring Garcia. But why? Every measurable favored Spence, but even with that we all seemed to believe that Mikey could pull off what months ago seemed impossible.

I woke up Sunday morning a bit confused on the fight I had seen the night before. Errol Spence Jr. made Mikey Garcia look for lack of better word, regular. In a fight that wasn’t competitive in any shape or form, Errol Spence disarmed and battered the out-classed Garcia. Did most of us expect it to be a battering? I’d say yes, however what we didn’t expect was Spence making Garcia look amateurish in skill. In what was a boxing match, Spence’s performance rendered the most unexpected scenario leading in to the fight. Spence out boxed Garcia to the tune of an absolute shutout on most people’s scorecard, this no one expected.

In the aftermath I’m now hearing a lot about the size disparity. I’m hearing people talk about the difficulties in coming up two weight classes. While all these things are valid, why weren’t we acknowledging them just days before? how’d we go from when the fight was announced everyone saying it was a mismatch, to the so-called experts leading in to the fight picking Garcia to win?

The narrative leading in to the fight seemed to change as the fight drew closer. Garcia and camp consistently implied they’d seen flaw in Spence’s skillset and would exploit it. Garcia’s confidence was massive in every interaction. By all accounts Mikey seemed to be extremely comfortable with fighting Spence. When questioned about the size and strength disparity Garcia would consistently iterate that he was the higher IQ fighter, and he being the smarter fighter would make up for any advantage Spence would have. I’m not sure how Mikey came to such a solid assumption, however his IQ seemed to be what Garcia went in to this fight thinking would be the difference maker for him.

Garcia being the “higher IQ” fighter combine with his glowing confidence that some say cross the line and was flat out disrespectful and arrogant, all looked and sounded like a guy who could pull off the upset. By the time Friday night came around and it was time to make predictions, few were picking Spence by KO, and those who were picking Spence in a UD aired with caution that it wouldn’t be easy for Spence. To be honest I even bought in. My prediction was a 10th round towel from the Garcia corner, however Mikey would have moments where he made Spence look vulnerable. Safe to say Mikey Garcia had us all “sippin the Kool Aid,” but my question is how?

All seems like a weird magic trick now. Why did we think Garcia was so dam good? Why did we think he was so superiorly smart compared to Errol Spence? Errol’s the one with the vastly superior amateur career. Errol’s the one who went to the quarter finals in the Olympics, not Mikey. Spence now only 25 fights in to his career fought and defeated Mikey Garcia, Mikey in his 25th fight fought someone for the NABF featherweight title named Matt Remillard. All that said to say, how the hell did Mikey convince us that he had a chance in this fight?

Let’s take it a step further, why’d we think he was so good? Was it beating Adrien Broner? Perhaps, Robert Easter some would say. Rapper Meek Mill made a song a few years back called “It’s levels to this @$%^,” that’s an adage that I’ve applied quite a few times to fights in recent years. If nothing else we learned that even if something is great, there could still be a far greater level of greatness. Mikey Garcia may still go on to do great things, but we now know he doesn’t have the greatest set of intangibles ever seen by man.

I titled this fight “The Measurable Champion vs. The Immeasurable Champion.” Errol Spence being the Measurable Champion, every attribute that can be quantified went to Spence. Garcia was the Immeasurable Champion, all the intangibles going in to the fight overwhelmingly were given to Garcia. All the things that can’t be quantified like timing, IQ, ability to adjusts etc. were all thought to be in favor of Garcia.

Spence seemed disrespected by this assumption that he was some straight forward plodding type fighter. It seemed to bother Spence that the implication going in to the fight was that Spence was one dimensional and Garcia would use his superior ring IQ to pull off the upset. Some theorized that Garcia and camp were trying to bait Spence into a boxing match by using these insulting tactics, a boxing match that in their estimation would greatly favor Garcia.

Spence on numerous occasion would make it a point to let everyone know that he’s the better boxer with the higher pedigree. Spence in defense of his fight style would regularly iterate that he fights the way he does not because he’s one dimensional, but by choice. The “Man Down” moniker is not just an alias, it’s Errol’s way of going about his business in the ring. What we as fans know of Spence surely aligns with the alias, however we don’t know Spence for being a tactician in the ring. Many cite Spence losing rounds in his fight vs. Kell Brook as a clear indication that Spence can be out-boxed.

If I told you on Friday the outcome of the fight would be a 12 round boxing match ending in a unanimous decision, no knockdowns, no one in the fight being significantly hurt and someone being out-boxed to the tune of a 12-0 scorecard, who would you think won the fight? Spence showed to have tools on the belt that we had yet seen him use and had assumed did not possess them. I for one believe Spence when he says no one has pushed him yet. Sky’s the limit and the future is bright. Errol has a big date in the future undoubtedly in what will be the biggest showdown in the Welterweight division in years Vs. Terrence Crawford, that’s what we all want to see.

As for Mikey I believe there’s a time for us all to be humbled. Clearly there was some over estimating and under estimating done on the behalf of Mikey and his team. It was originally thought Mikey had all to gain and nothing to lose in this fight, days later it feels like the persona that was Mikey Garcia has definitely loss some of its luster.

Mikey can of course rebound strong fighting most likely in a lower division. What Garcia decides to do at this point remains to be seen as Garcia has always been one to march to the beat of his own drum. Prior to fighting Spence most said Garcia would knock out Vasiliy Lomachenko, I wonder what the consensus would be now. Mikey who I could see in this fight being knocked out, was eventually out-boxed, which oddly in this case ended up being worse.

Spence used a tool that we didn’t think he had in the box to beat Garcia who we assumed was a master of the craft. They’ll be guys out there saying they called a unanimous decision in favor of Spence, however, they’re leaving out the context. No one predicted the win in this fashion other than Spence and his camp. It seems boxing may be on the cusp of having a new star, Spence has just put his name amongst the “must mentions” in the sport. I for one think he’ll be great bearing the torch, until the next time, I’ll holla.

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