Spence shines again; Pacquiao next?

Boxing

Errol Spence Jr. wasn’t just bigger and stronger than Mikey Garcia, he was also better.

Yeah, size matters in boxing — but so do skills.

In successfully defending his IBF welterweight title, Spence (25-0, 21 KOs) thoroughly outclassed the fundamentally gifted Garcia in every way. This wasn’t just about hitting harder than Garcia — who’s best weight is 135 pounds — Spence proved to be technically sound and elusive.

Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs) could never truly find the counter-punching opportunities he has in the past. On this particular night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, one of the most accurate and precise punchers in the sport kept swinging at a target that was no longer there. Spence isn’t just about hitting you with sledgehammers, he also had deft footwork that allowed him to be a step ahead of Garcia throughout the 12 mostly one-sided rounds.

Give Garcia some credit, he showed some real guts by going the distance with Spence, but by the end of the night, that’s really all he had.

By the late rounds, you wondered if trainer Robert Garcia would throw in the towel on behalf of his brother as the fight became more and more lopsided. Garcia saw the final bell and for him that is a morale victory, but one that came at a heavy physical cost. While he stood on his feet for all 36 minutes of this bout, he took a pounding — both to the body and head.

Spence is a two-fisted wrecking ball, but one that is structurally sound and as well-rounded as any fighter you’ll see. He didn’t just beat up Garcia, at times, he outboxed him.

“If you think Spence had problems getting guys to fight him before, he’s really going to have a problem now,” Richard Schaefer said with a chuckle. And he’s right, while the other marquee Premier Boxing Champions welterweights like Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Adrien Broner, have mixed it up, they have consciously avoided the Texan.

And this is why. He doesn’t just beat you — he punishes you in cerebral fashion.

“Throughout training camp, a lot of commentators thought he was too smart and I couldn’t box as well as him,” Spence said. “I showed I can box and I can move my head if i want to.

Right now, it could be stated that the only true challenge he has at 147 is a guy by the name of Terence Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) who holds the WBO belt. Crawford is a bigger fighter than Garcia, and is much fleeter of foot. In a perfect world these two would meet at AT&T Stadium and play to a significantly larger crowd than the 47,525 that came out Saturday. Spence-Crawford is THE welterweight fight to make.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, we live in one that is very fractured, and the reality is that those two most likely aren’t going to meet inside the ring anytime soon since they are attached to different promotions/networks.

Among those watching Spence-Garcia was the legendary Manny Pacquiao, who came into the ring after the fight.

Pacquiao would be the ideal dance partner for Spence. He’s still a recognized brand who comes with a real pay-per-view history. It would be exactly the type of star-building fight that Spence needs to further bolster his marketability.

The problem is that it would be an insurmountable task for this version of Pacquiao.

With all due respect, a 40-year-old Pacquiao should think long and hard about such a proposition.

There was a time when Pacquiao was among the very best in the sport, especially during his magical run from 2008 to 2012 when he rampaged through weight divisions and wrecked future Hall of Famers in devastating fashion.

He was the most consistently electrifying performer in the game. The current version of Pacquiao is one that is more or less effective, and once in a while will show that breathtaking form.

It’s one thing to defeat a flawed, one-dimensional fighter like Broner at this stage of his career. There’s something much more daunting in facing Spence.

Just ask Mikey Garcia.


Benavidez returns with TKO win

Stay inside the pocket on former WBC 168-pound champion David Benavidez at your own peril, just as J’Leon Love who was stopped in two rounds in the co-main event.

Fighting for the first time since his suspension for testing positive for cocaine last fall, the talented 22-year-old fighter showed off his impressive offensive arsenal in overwhelming Love. After hurting him in the first round, he then buzzed him in the second and unleashed a series of blistering shots that gave referee Laurence Cole a reason to step in and wave off the fight.

“I expected to knock him out, but when I hit him with the first god shot, I knew he wasn’t going to last. I tried to pace myself, but it wasn’t necessary tonight,” said Benavidez, who improved to 21-0 (18 KOs).

Benavidez clearly has designs on regaining his WBC title, which was won by Anthony Dirrell, as he was named “champion in recess” while sidelined the past six months.


Nery is a real talent

The only thing that has stopped bantamweight Luis Nery thus far — is Luis Nery.

And he showed what an impressive fighter he is in dominating the usually sturdy McJoe Arroyo (18-3, 8 KOs). Coming into bout, Arroyo had never been stopped. On Saturday he was simply outclassed in every way.

Nery, a former WBC bantamweight champion, actually never lost his title in the ring. He defeated the respected Shinsuke Yamanaka in four rounds in Japan to win the title. But the problem was that he tested positive for a banned substance. The WBC mandated a rematch, and two fights later he faced Yamanaka again, and then failed to make weight by a whopping three pounds, thus losing his belt on the scales. While he defeated Yamanaka in two rounds, it forever stained his reputation.

But Nery is a real talent, and still only 24. Fighting out of a left-handed stance, he is an offensive buzzsaw, one who brings about comparisons to Pacquiao — who watched the fight from ringside.

“I’m happy for the comparison and even happier that he’s here to watch me fight,” said Nery, who is in line to face Nordine Oubaali at some point in 2019. Oubaali captured the vacant WBC belt by defeating Rau’shee Warren on Jan. 19.

No, he might not be the Mexican version of the “Pacman,” and those type of comparisons are very premature, but this is a formidable fighting machine.


Arreola still a serviceable heavyweight

Although 38-year-old heavyweight Chris Arreola is certainly no longer in his physical prime, he showed that he still has a bit left in the tank as he stopped the previously undefeated — and woefully untested — Jean Pierre Augustin (17-1-1, 12) in three one-sided rounds.

From the very beginning, Augustin looked out of his depth. The southpaw looked shaky from the very first jabs that Arreola (38-5-1, 33 KOs) landed in the opening round. Arreola steadily closed ground Augustin, and in the third round he shook him and then dropped him. As Augustin rose to his feet, he was then hit with another barrage of punches that gave referee Neal Young no other choice but to wave off the fight.

Again, Arreola has certainly seen better days — and even during his prime he was never the most disciplined or focused fighter — but at a certain level he is still a serviceable heavyweight.

Let’s be honest, his days of being a world-class heavyweight are in the rearview mirror, but he’s still a known commodity, and in an era when the three best known heavyweights are plying their trade on separate platforms, opponents are at a premium. At the very least, Arreola, makes for fun fights.

Perhaps a matchup with fellow PBC heavyweight, Charles Martin (who won via disqualification over Gregory Corbin in eight rounds on the undercard), makes sense. The winner stays relevant and moves onto bigger and better things. In professional wrestling, they would call this a “loser leaves town” match.

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