March 22, 2019
For handily beating former four-division world champion Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia, IBF welterweight (147 lbs.) champion Errol Spence Jr. is being hailed as the new top dog of pro boxing. In fact, not a few have called on Filipino ring icon Manny Pacquiao to stay away from Spence as he risks taking a thorough beating.
Spence is joining the fun, promising to hand Pacquiao his “retirement check” if a fight between them takes place. Spence and Pacquiao both compete under Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions group, putting a unification showdown within the realm of possibility.
There is no question that Pacquiao will be a heavy underdog if the fight comes into fruition. Spence is bigger, younger and presumably more powerful. However, it is insulting to say that Pacquiao will be cannibalized alive if he ends up meeting Spence in the squared circle.
For all the praises Spence is receiving, you have to pinch yourself on the cheek and remind yourself: Spence defeated Garcia, a bloated lightweight (135 lbs.) who moved two divisions up strictly for the payday. An established champion in the lower ranks, Garcia was expected to give Spence a decent run for his money, but he instead showed up with no fight plan and seemed more interested in collecting his purse.
Spence looked fast but only because a beefy Garcia offered the mobility of a statue. Spence’s jab looked spectacular, but only because Garcia offered no head movement and was attracted to the jab like metal to magnet.
Spence reduced Garcia into a human punching bag throughout the fight, but he could not take him out and even appeared hesitant to go for the jugular in the last few rounds. Spence supposedly brandishes Thanos-like punching power, but the smaller Garcia took his best shots and lived to exclaim, “I am Groot!”
Spence will likely say that he just took pity on Garcia, but there are people on the other side of the fence who are advancing the opinion that he played it safe out of fear that Garcia, an unbeaten champ going in, still had a few tricks left up his sleeve. The bottom line is that Spence was supposed to huff, puff and blow Garcia away but this he failed to do.
Pacquiao may already be 40 years old, but boxing’s only eight-division champion is a freak of nature. Despite his advanced age, Pacquiao’s legs are still pretty mobile and his defense has actually improved since he started invading heavier weight classes.
Pacquiao will never be caught standing flat-footed in front of an adversary as he moves his head well and he continues to impress with punches thrown even at the most unimaginable angle. Pacquiao’s volume punching may not be the same, but his combinations still rattle foes. Those who are saying that Pacquiao will collapse the moment he gets a taste of Spence’s body shot may have forgotten that he took arguably the hardest body shot ever thrown by Antonio Margarito and lived to post a lopsided decision win.
Unlike Garcia, Pacquiao is a legitimate welterweight and will have no weight issues opposite Spence. Pacquiao has fully adjusted to the 147-pound weight class since he first won the WBO welterweight plum over Miguel Angel Cotto in 2009.
Pacquiao has absorbed and survived the bombs of bigger fighters like Cotto and Margarito and it is a safe bet that he can handle Spence’s power which is now under microscopic scrutiny. Pacquiao himself mused that Spence’s power may not be as frightening as advertised. Spence has scored his share of pulsating knockouts, but it came against a collection of patsies and journeymen. Garcia provided the first true test of Spence’s power and the guy went the full distance.
If Spence held back to some extent against Garcia (“intimidated” may be the right way of putting it), imagine him taking on the legendary Pacquiao. The 29-year-old Adrien Broner (same age as Spence) talked tough going into his fight with Pacquiao in January, but in the fight proper Broner was so petrified he hardly threw a punch. Broner was limited to single-digit total connects in every round of the fight while Pacquiao exceeded double digits five times.
In sum, it is very disrespectful to say that Pacquiao will just roll over and count stars if he ends up fighting Spence. Pacquiao did not win eight division titles by feasting on softies; he faced and defeated the best champions each division offered.
Among the young champions looking to challenge Pacquiao, WBO welterweight champ Terence Crawford, not Spence, is the real threat from where this writer sits. Crawford hardly makes a mistake and gets the job done. Spence still has noticeable defensive flaws and his mental toughness remains a question mark.
You can understand why Pacquiao hardly feels threatened when talking about Spence. The Pacman has come a long way to feel threatened by a tyro who is still taking baby steps.
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