Mikey Garcia said he craves “big challenges” and “big obstacles,” which explains why the four-division champion is moving up two weight divisions to challenge Errol Spence Jr. for the IBF welterweight championship Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The two unbeaten boxers meet in the main event of the first pay-per-view telecast offered by Fox as part of a four-year partnership with Premier Boxing Champions. Garcia (39-0 with 30 knockouts) holds the WBC 135-pound lightweight title and wants to add Spence’s 147-belt to his collection.
“Getting this victory will leave my name in the history books,” Garcia said this week. “I’m here to make history, and this fight does that. No other fighter dares to do what I’m doing and that’s what I’m about.”
Perhaps Garcia, 31, is being too brave for his own good. Trained by his older brother Robert, Garcia is easily one of the sport’s elite fighters, having won belts at featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight and super lightweight. He is a master technician with the ability to break down an opponent with timing and power. The Oxnard, Calif., native is also confident.
“I’ve got all the tools and skills needed to beat him,” Garcia said. “I’m better than him in every way. When it comes to timing, when it comes to reflexes, defense, you name it, I’m better.”
That has to be proven. Spence, a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, has been impressive just about every time he has entered the ring. Like Garcia, Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) is a puncher and a thinker with explosive power. This will be his third defense of the IBF title.
“This win will make me pound-for-pound No.1,” said Spence, a native of nearby DeSoto, Texas. “Garcia has a huge fan base and a great record. Everybody is trying to take the place of Floyd Mayweather and become the face of boxing. I think this takes me on the right track to be the face of boxing and be the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.”
Spence, 29, weighed in at 146 ¼ pounds on Friday, while Garcia was 145 ¹/₄. Spence said he would rehydrate to about 160 pounds by the time of the fight, while Garcia expects to be around 150. How Garcia deals with Spence’s size could impact the scheduled 12-rounder.
“I don’t feel that it’s a good advantage to try to gain weight or hydrate too much,” Garcia said. “I don’t plan on being big or huge. I want to be sharp and I want to be quick. It would be crazy for me to come in with too much weight.”
Spence doesn’t think size will play a big role in the bout. “Any size advantage won’t matter,” he said. “Skill for skill, talent for talent, I’m more dominant than him in every aspect. I’ll beat him at anything they want to do. If he wants to box, I’ll beat him in that. If they want to fight, I’ll beat him in that, too. Whatever game plan they have going on, it won’t work.”
Prediction: Spence by unanimous decision.
Michael Conlan makes his annual St. Patrick’s Day appearance Sunday night at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden when the Irishman defends his WBO Intercontinental featherweight belt against Ruben Garcia Hernandez of Mexico.
It will be the third straight year, Conlan (10-0, 7 KOs) has fought on St. Patrick’s Day weekend in the Garden Theater. Hernandez is 24-3-2 with 10 knockouts.
“It’s always going to be the biggest day of the year for me on the boxing schedule,” Conlan said. “It’s a special day because I’m Irish. Fighting each year in the Garden makes it a lot more important to me than it would most fighters.”
In a welterweight attraction, former champion and Brooklyn native Luis Collazo (38-7, 20 KOs) takes on Samuel Vargas (30-4-2, 14 KOs) in a non-title bout.