FOURTEEN months after being injured in a shocking one-car accident, unified world welterweight champion Errol Spence Jnr returns this Saturday (December 5). The high-speed collision – which occurred less than a fortnight after Spence had outpointed Shawn Porter in a thrilling unification clash – initially left the Texan in intensive care. However, incredibly, Spence escaped the wreckage without any broken bones, though he did sustain facial lacerations and broken teeth.
Spence, who was handed a DWI charge (driving while intoxicated), had originally been pencilled in to defend his WBC and IBF titles against Danny Garcia in January this year. Following the crash, Spence was obviously unable to adhere to this timeline, but now the gifted 30-year-old is “ready to go” for his rearranged defence against Garcia this weekend.
“There was a lot of uncertainty after my accident, but the doctors gave me the OK and told me that everything is fine,” said Spence. “The accident has made me hungrier and even more focused. It’s up to me to make a big splash now that I’m back.
“I’m not concerned about ring rust and I didn’t want any tune-up fights. I wanted someone tough who can push me to the limit, so I can get back to being Errol Spence Jnr. I picked Garcia so that I can rise to the occasion. I’m still the top dog in the division. Fighting Danny will show how great a fighter I am.”
Spence is right in that Garcia is certainly no tune-up opponent. The Philadelphian is a former two-weight world titlist, having been a unified WBC/WBA champ at super-lightweight, as well as a WBC title-holder at welterweight. He may have lost his two biggest fights in recent years – against fellow 147lb standouts Porter and Keith Thurman – but both defeats were close and competitive. The vastly seasoned 32-year-old is determined to rule again, and he won’t be relying on any potential frailties in a post-accident Spence.
“I’m taking this fight like Errol is 100 per cent,” stated Garcia. “I’m not banking on anything hindering him. I can’t worry about what he brings to the table. I just have to be the best Danny Garcia. This is a big fight for me to get back to where I want to be in my career. This is definitely a legacy fight.
“I’m used to playing the role of underdog. I have to keep proving myself again and again. That’s what keeps me going. I know that I’m a great fighter. I’ve been in these type of fights before. I know what I’m made of. As long as I’m mentally and physically at my best, nobody can beat me.”
With around 11,000 socially distanced fans set to be in attendance at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Spence will enjoy the backing of the crowd, as his Desoto home is only half-an-hour from the venue. Yet it is unlikely that this will faze Garcia, who, after 13 years as a professional, has been around the block.
After an extensive and successful spell as an amateur, Garcia has gone on to carve out a long and distinguished career as a pro. With 10 full 12-rounders under his belt and a host of notable names on his 36-2 (21) record, Garcia has the experience and talent to exploit any shortcomings in Spence, if the crash has had a detrimental effect on the champion.
A 2012 Olympian and career welterweight, the 26-0 (21) Spence picked up his first world title by breaking down Kell Brook on away turf in Sheffield. In the three-and-a-half years since, the supremely skilled southpaw has notched four victories, including a shutout of the previously unbeaten Mikey Garcia in March 2019.
Last time out in January, Danny Garcia comfortably outscored Ivan Redkach. Although Redkach was overmatched, he is a left-hander like Spence, so the bout did serve as a decent preparatory contest for Garcia in this sense.
Able to box and bang, the technically sound Garcia is a smart and accurate punch-picker who is extremely dangerous on the counter with his lethal left hooks.
He has also demonstrated in the past that he possesses a fine chin.
Spence can take a shot too, as evidenced in his all-action encounter with Porter, during which he displayed impressive grit and guile. Taller and rangier than Garcia, Spence’s lengthy list of attributes includes timing, composure, versatility, speed, strength and fluency. An intelligent mover and sharp jabber, he targets the body with spite and precision, while his hooks and uppercuts are particularly powerful.
The critical question in this fight is what, if anything, has the accident taken out of Spence? Yet the answer will only become apparent when he steps in the ring. Garcia is a significant betting outsider, but with what Spence has been through, the challenger cannot be written off. Nevertheless, it would take a brave person to pick against one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. The truth is out there, and Spence can prove that he is still “The Truth” by prevailing on points.
The Verdict Fair play to Spence for going straight in against a world-class foe on his return from his crash.