434 days since beating Shawn Porter in his last bout before his serious car crash, Errol Spence Jr (27-0, 21 KOs) returned with a reassuring display against Danny Garcia (36-3, 21 KOs) to retain his two welterweight titles while standing in good stead for tougher challenges to come next year. He won via unanimous decision (116-112, 116-112, 117-111) but wasn’t satisfied post-fight.
Spence eases to UD win over frustrating Garcia
116-112, 116-112, 117-111: Errol Spence Jr retains two WW titles vs. Danny Garcia
“Gotta do what you gotta do,” you could hear Spence say as the pair embraced at the bell.
He got the job done with some impressive flashes, other shaky moments, personally assessed the return as a B-minus and told every camera flashing in his direction: “I told you I’m back.”
Fresh from last month’s fourth-round TKO win over Kell Brook, Terence Crawford was among those attending as 16,000 socially distanced fans watched in Spence’s hometown of Texas.
You couldn’t help but wonder what he would’ve thought about that display.
Spence didn’t go as far as to call anyone out, instead saying he’d be content on his ranch and was looking forward to taking on further divisional contenders in 2021.
It needs to be Crawford, sooner rather than later. Errol will presumably be 31 when he’s next defending his titles, Terence turned 33 in September. Time is of the essence with both in their prime and the list of credible opposition standing in their way has weakened in recent years.
Spence quickly gets to work against sluggish Garcia
After a measured start, Spence finished R1 strong and quickly went to work establishing good body work. Garcia landed a looping right of his own that caught the champion’s attention, but it stemmed from Spence staying in the pocket too long, rather than Garcia’s speed in fairness.
Both tried asserting control in R2, though Garcia unleashed a shot after the bell which caused a stur – both from the crowd and a bemused Spence – expecting the referee to take action.
He slipped to the mat early in R3 and again fans were voicing their discontent, this time for a different reason, before a roar reverberated around the AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Why? Spence had landed a big looping left of his own to wobble Garcia while doubling up on body shots which you could sense would begin to take their toll, the longer this fight progressed.
He came out firing and backed the Mexican against the ropes in R4 with forward pressure, but his aggressive approach always had the potential to backfire. Just like at times in R1, he stayed in close exchanges for a touch too long and was being hit as he exited to open up distance again.
His corner told him precisely that in-between rounds, though those punches were visibly backing Garcia up as he was again wobbled and absorbing yet more painful-looking body shots.
It wasn’t that Garcia wasn’t throwing punches.
He was, but Spence showcased some beautiful defence and head movement to dodge and weave his way out of needless damage before unleashing some combinations.
Garcia was warned by the ref for repeatedly pushing Spence’s head down whenever they clinched, landed a good two-punch combo on the defensive but continued going backwards.
That unconvincing body language was visible for all to see, as was the damage he wore under both eyes. Spence’s punches were hurting him and in truth, a stoppage should’ve been near.
Instead, an accidental headbutt paused the action momentarily and Garcia’s footwork was all wrong: he couldn’t set his feet properly and looked off-balance against the southpaw stance.
Swift had his moments in R8, but he finally started commanding centre ring in R9 and was no longer allowing Spence to dictate the fight’s tempo with ease. 27 minutes too late, though.
He landed two clubbing rights in the final minute of R10 as the adjustments were beneficial, but Spence was so far clear on the scorecards the only way he’d lose at this stage was via a stunning knockout finish. His evasive movement and high guard wasn’t going to let that happen.
R11 featured a nervy moment just before the bell sounded for Spence, whose mouthpiece fell out just beforehand after Garcia landed a punch and he instinctively turned sideways.
On first viewing, it looked like he turned away in pain from being caught clean with an overhand right. After multiple replays, you could see that wasn’t the case – he wanted to protect himself.
R12 was perhaps the most frustrating three-minute spell to watch from Garcia’s perspective, because he responded defiantly and finally showed some aggression. The issue?
Garcia falls short in big opportunity
Where was this earlier during a title bout he described as a legacy fight? Shawn Porter, who lost via split decision to Spence last year, stressed the importance of making him uncomfortable.
He had a 3.5-inch reach disadvantage and that was more reason to set the tone early, against a fighter making his long-awaited return, where pressure could prove key in the opening rounds.
Instead it felt he was content to trade and let Spence come to him, rather than the opposite. The champ fought at his pace, on his home turf, and wasn’t really troubled until he had essentially won. You shouldn’t read too much into pre-fight comments but this was underwhelming.
Errol doesn’t appear to have lost a step and his next mandatory IBF challenger appears to be Uzbekistan’s Kudratillo Abdukakhrov (17-0, 9 KOs) – who hasn’t fought since October last year.
Porter (#1 ranked contender with WBC, WBO and IBO) has revealed he’d be happy to run it back with Spence but also has his eyes on Crawford in 2021. Besides him and WBA title-holder Manny Pacquiao, I don’t see many obstacles to finally making Spence-Crawford a reality before long.
Pictures’ source: Getty unless stated