ARLINGTON, Texas — Welterweight world titleholder Errol Spence Jr. said a few days before his defense against Mikey Garcia that the fight would be one-sided in his favor. Oh, boy, was it ever.
Spence pummeled the iron-chinned Garcia for the entire fight en route to a shutout decision as he retained his 147-pound belt for the third time before a hometown crowd of 47,525 on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
In the first pay-per-view headline fight for the undefeated fighters in their prime — both of whom ranked among boxing’s best pound for pound — Spence pounded Garcia round after round and won all of them on the three judges’ scorecards: 120-107, 120-108 and 120-108. ESPN scored the fight 119-109 for Spence, giving Garcia the second round.
Spence was bigger, stronger, longer and just better than Garcia, a reigning lightweight world titlist who called out Spence and moved up two divisions to challenge him as he dared to be great.
“I give Mikey Garcia all the credit for taking this fight,” Spence said. “Mikey and I put on a great show in front of all these lovely fans. I respect him so much, and I appreciate him for stepping up.”
When it was over, Spence called out secondary welterweight world titlist and all-time great Manny Pacquiao, who joined Spence in the ring after the fight. They could meet in July.
Spence said it was a big deal for him to have such a big fight with Garcia at home.
“The motivation fighting in front of my hometown crowd made me feel great,” Spence said. “These people have supported me since day one, and I wanted to put on a good performance for all of them. Throughout training camp, a lot of commentators thought he was too smart and I couldn’t box as well as him. I showed I can box and I can move my head if I want to.”
Garcia, despite the shellacking, said he was proud to at least have tried and gone the distance with such a quality fighter.
“We just went 12 rounds with a great welterweight champion. That’s a feat no one has done recently,” Garcia said. “I’m proud of what I was able to do.”
Garcia acknowledged that welterweight is not for him. He still has a lightweight title and could continue to defend it or go down to junior welterweight, where he has also had success.
“I have to go back and think about it,” he said. “I will probably go back to lighter divisions, but we’ll have to think about it.”
With stars such as Floyd Mayweather, Pacquiao and Deontay Wilder at ringside, as well as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the fight began quietly, with each probing the other with the jab, but Spence landed a few as Garcia backed up. Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs), 31, of Moreno Valley, California, began to assert himself more in the second round, landing body shots and coming forward more in a close round.
In the third round, Spence began to find the range on his straight left hand, sending it down the middle time and again. He also landed a flush left cross, though Garcia took it well.
Spence (25-0, 21 KOs), 29, from the Dallas suburb of DeSoto, Texas, began to find a groove in the fourth round. His punches began to flow, including three quick jabs, a straight left hand and a body shot. Spence landed some heavy blows in the round, including a left to the chin that stopped Garcia in his tracks.
By the fifth round, Spence was dominating, imposing his size and power on Garcia, who was game but could do little. Spence continued to land heavy shots in the sixth round except for brief moments when Garcia unloaded a few ineffective punches.
Spence was in total control as he continued to fire jabs and body shots and slam left hands off Garcia’s head. Whatever Garcia’s game plan was, it was not working at all, but he showed a durable chin to take so many hard, clean shots.
Seemingly convinced Garcia could not hurt him, Spence was all over him in the ninth round. It was a cascade of power punches with almost nothing of consequence coming back at him.
Garcia was almost staggering around the ring as Spence unloaded on him.
As Spence continued to hammer Garcia in the 11th round, referee Jon Schorle took a close look but let the beating go on. It was more of the same in the final round, but Garcia managed to remain on his feet until the final bell.
“I really appreciate the love and support of the fans tonight. It’s a great night, and all the credit to Errol. He’s a great champion. He’s ‘The Truth,'” Garcia said, referencing Spence’s nickname. “He executed his game plan very well.
“He came out here with a good game plan and kept the distance at his favor. I couldn’t get my rhythm going, and he did what he had to do. I tried to make adjustments, and he kept executing. I was able to hold my own. I felt good, and I felt strong myself. I think he felt my power, but he definitely has power also.”
Garcia, who had won world titles in four divisions — featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight — was bidding for one in a fifth weight class and to join all-time greats Henry Armstrong and Pacquiao as the only former featherweight world titleholders to also win a world title at welterweight. But it was not to be. Despite Garcia’s claims that the size difference would not be an issue, it was for sure, as he could not deal with Spence’s physicality.
Not only was it a landslide on the scorecards, it was for Spence in the CompuBox statistics as well, as he landed 345 of 1,082 punches thrown (32 percent) — both career highs. He landed more punches than any opponent ever has against Garcia in the 21 fights of his that CompuBox has tracked. Spence outlanded him 86-11 in body shots.
“The game is to be smart; it’s the sweet science,” Spence said. “I had the size and reach advantage, so why not use it to take away the jab? It’s a weapon for me, and it takes away one of his weapons.”
Garcia’s output was shockingly poor. He landed just 75 of 406 shots (18 percent) and connected with double-digit punches only in the fifth round, when he was credited with landing 10.
“My brother wanted to maybe stop the fight in the later rounds,” Garcia said of Robert Garcia, who is also his trainer. “He didn’t want to let me get hit more, but I told him I was fine and I tried to go out there and pull it off. I thought I could have landed one good shot to change everything, but I wasn’t able to land it.”
It was just an overwhelming performance by Spence, who said he hoped to fight Pacquiao next.
“He’s broken records here before, he’s a legend in the sport, and it’d be my honor to fight him next,” Spence said of Pacquiao, boxing’s only eight-division world champion.
Pacquiao, standing next to him in the ring and looking for a summer opponent, said he was interested in a fight that would be relatively easy to make, given that they are both with Premier Boxing Champions.
“Yes, why not? We’ll give the fans a good fight,” said Pacquiao, who has fought twice and won both times at AT&T Stadium in 2010. “I’m so happy to be here in Dallas, and I hope I will be back here soon.”