Though he still feels like a fighter hunting super-stardom, Mikey Garcia’s reputation precedes him. At an astonishing 39-0, Garcia is revered among Boxing purists and already stands as one of his generation’s most respected prize fighters. With that being said, Garcia has never been a Welterweight and when he fights Errol Spence this weekend, that’s exactly what he’ll be. After most recently unifying two versions of the Lightweight crown, Garcia now moves up two weight classes and if that’s not enough, he’s arguably facing the finest 147lbs fighter in the world too.
This is undeniably the biggest and toughest fight of Garcia’s deceptively long career but in truth, his initial entry among the elite is now a distant memory. It was January 2013 in fact, with Garcia dethroning Orlando Salido with the most emphatic technical decision win imaginable. That victory gave Garcia his first world title but just as he looked set to establish his dominance, a promotional dispute rendered the champion inactive for over two years. That legal struggle not only halted Garcia’s immediate momentum but more than that, its length brought his whole career into question.
Considering the amount of time he’d now missed, Garcia’s future suddenly found itself very much in doubt. Though his time at the top had been brief, Garcia’s prime may have realistically already come and gone. As has been proven throughout combat sports’ history, the results of ring rust can range and that truth alone was enough cause for concern. Garcia’s roots as a natural remained though and he looked back to his best in no time, scoring a highlight reel knockout to become Lightweight champion in just his 2nd fight after returning.
Garcia then stepped up to 140lbs, fighting Adrien Broner in his highest profile bout yet. As most onlookers expected, Garcia came out the clear victor and he’s repeated that feat twice since, most recently returning to Lightweight for a win over Robert Easter Jr. As standalone achievements, Garcia’s multi-weight class title wins are undeniably impressive but the surrounding circumstances add contrasting layers of detail. On the one hand, Garcia’s absence makes his seamless return even more staggering but on the other, his talent suggests that in truth, his ceiling is still yet to be realized.
As a fighter, Garcia is silky smooth with a sudden edge, capable of flooring his foes without making even the slightest visible shift. Few debate Garcia’s place among the sport’s absolute elite but for a variety of reasons, he’s yet to make an impact befitting of his skill level. Like most of his peers, Garcia is yet to break through and reach the general public but more specifically, he’s also not quite scored the kind of win that among ardent viewers, truly solidifies him as one of his era’s greats.
This Saturday night though, Garcia gets a rare opportunity to in some ways, climb both of those mountains at once. While this fight’s reach is still to be decided, it’s overarching importance feels far greater than Garcia’s prior world title quests. The fabric of boxing’s future feels entwined in this bout’s result and with a win here, Garcia will firmly plant himself at the very center of it. As is usually the case with fights of this magnitude though, that’ll be far easier said than done.
Against Spence, Garcia is facing the worst kind of size disadvantage, one magnified by the bigger man’s immense skill and pedigree. However, every elite fighter eventually reaches a crossroads and it seems as though Garcia is currently at that very point. Garcia’s place in the boxing landscape is established but the quest for greatness remains very much in his future. It’s at this point that a champion decides his legacy, fight by fight shaping the perception that’ll surround his name in sweet science history.
From the outside looking in, this feels like a precarious move. Garcia is quite literally chasing glory here and as a result, he’s putting his undefeated record at great risk. In 2019, that decision looks like even more of an outlier but in truth, this ambitious courage is what defined boxing’s celebrated glory days. True greatness requires certain feats and historically, this kind of risk-taking is usually one of them.
Everyone agrees that Garcia is good. Excellent in fact, but is he truly great? Well, Saturday night will likely guide us a long way to that very answer. It’s a throwback fight between two throwback fighters, a clash of pound for pound elites that on talent alone, seemed destined for greatness. Thus far, Errol Spence has indeed been ‘The Truth’ but in the biggest fight of his life, Garcia has an opportunity to establish some facts of his own. This is a career shape-shifter, the kind of bout that simply put, can define a legacy.
How it’ll do that? Well right now, that’s quite literally in the fighters’ hands.