By GEORGE WILLIS
Errol Spence Jr. is calling it “a comeback fight,” only the comeback is more from a near death experience than a 14-month layoff rom the boxing ring. Spence, 30, from DeSoto, Texas, makes the first defense of his unified WBC and IBF welterweight titles Saturday night when he meets former champion Danny Garcia of Philadelphia in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The bout scheduled for 12 rounds will be shown on Fox Pay-Per-View.
Unbeaten in 26 fights with 21 knockouts, Spence was rising in the pound-for-pound rankings when he nearly lost his life in a horrific car crash on Oct. 10, 2019, in downtown Dallas. Drunk and driving at a high rate of speed, Spence lost control of his Ferrari 488 Spider and was ejected as it rolled several times before crashing to a stop in the middle of the street.
“I really don’t know what happened,” Spence said in a recent interview with Fox Sports. “I don’t remember that night. I just see the video of me flipping. I was in the hospital for two or three weeks and I don’t remember being in the hospital. I just think it was miracle for me to be able to walk and see my kids and know my name and to hug my mother and my father. For me to be thrown out of the car and survive it’s a miracle.”
A fight against Garcia originally scheduled for January had to be postponed as Spence recovered from his dental injuries and dealt with a subsequent DWI conviction. Initial reports he would fully recover enough to resume his boxing career were greeted with skepticism. Just how much the crash has impacted his skills is a major question surrounding this fight with Garcia, who is 36-2 with 21 KOs. Spence, who has been training since February, says he’s better than ever.
“Getting myself back to where I was took a lot,” Spence said. “My kids were my strength. They made me laugh and smile and work harder to get back to being myself again.”
Those close to Spence say he has given up his party-hard lifestyle between fights. He bought a ranch and moved out to the quiet life to avoid distractions. Professional athletes are grown men who make their own choices, but Spence understands he is lucky to be alive and lucky he didn’t kill someone else that night. “I feel like incident helped me a lot with putting my feet on the ground and humbling myself and realizing that a lot of people don’t get a second chance,” he said. “I feel like you’re going to see a better me overall.”
Spence defeated Shawn Porter by split decision on Sept. 28, 2019, at the Staples Center to add Porter’s WBC belt at 147 pounds to the IBF strap Spence first won by beating Kell Brook in 2017. Garcia, who held the WBC welterweight title from 2016-2017, has felt overlooked in his career though he won his first world title before Spence turned pro and has beaten some of the top fighters at 140 and 147 pounds, including Erik Morales, Amir Khan, Zab Judah, Lamont Peterson, and Pauli Malignaggi. Garcia has already established himself as one of the best boxers to ever come out of the city of Philadelphia and has managed to escape the large shadow of his bombastic and loyal father/trainer Angel Garcia.
“Boxing is a sport of timing,” Garcia said. “And the time is now. I feel great. I had a tremendous camp. I did everything I’m supposed to do. Now it’s time to go out there Saturday night and do what I do best and win.”
Spence is the betting favorite at -400 to +250, but Angel Garcia is predicting a seventh-round knockout. “He’s going to go out and show the world what a true champion is made of,” Angel Garcia said. “Danny has been here before. Danny just doesn’t know how to win. He knows how to kick your ass.”
Garcia is normally a tactical counter puncher who gets better as the bout goes on. His hand-speed has always been under-appreciated and is most noticeable in the later rounds when a wear-and-tear of a fight begins to set in.
Spence is more of a dissector, using the first few rounds to find openings and weaknesses and then exposing them with a vicious two-fisted assault. But he had a tough fight with a durable and relentless Porter, and Garcia has a tough chin that should hold up for the distance.
The bet: I like the money to be won with Garcia and won’t pass on that. Spence will have to overcome some ring rust, but he is the hometown fighter and the defending champion. A huge payday in a potential fight with WBO champion Terence Crawford could await the winner. I’ll take Spence, the bigger fighter, to win by close decision….so close it might be worth putting a couple of bucks on the draw.