Errol Spence Jr makes his return to the ring on December 5 to defend his WBC and IBF welterweight titles against Danny Garcia, but will the champion be the same fighter that he was before the horrific car crash he suffered earlier this year?
That really is the million dollar question to be answered by this fight but, for the purposes of betting, it is an answer we need to work out before the two men step into the ring at AT&T Stadium. Spence Jr is a pretty clear favourite with the bookmakers at this time, but they are not ruling out the challenger and that is no real shock given the circumstances.
Spence Jr was on top of the world just over a year ago. Having emphatically dethroned Kell Brook to win the IBF title in the Sheffield man’s hometown, the 30-year-old quickly established himself as the cream of the crop in the welterweight division by stopping Lamont Peterson inside seven rounds before destroying Carlos Ocampo in three minutes, and he then improved his flawless record to 25-0 in March 2019 by besting the talented, and previously unbeaten, Mikey Garcia via the scorecards.
It was impressive stuff from Spence Jr that night. He dominated the contest from start to finish and between round eight and nine he landed over 100 punches as he picked apart the challenger. By the end of the night he had outlanded Garcia 345-75 and it was no surprise when the judges rendered their verdict and overwhelming sided with the champion, with two of them awarding him a shutout victory of 12 rounds to nothing.
His next outing would prove to be a much more difficult affair, but the outcome was the same. Shawn Porter was once again a welterweight champion having ended a four-year spell without a crown, and although he posed plenty of problems for Spence Jr on the night, two of the judges saw enough from the IBF champion to award him a split decision success. Spence Jr now held two belts in the weight class and was slated to face Danny Garcia in January of this year, but that fight had to be shelved after the champion was thrown from his car during an accident in October 2019 and only now has he returned to the ring.
And that leads us to the big question? Is Spence Jr the same fighter that he was before? The WBA and IBF champion sustained a broken jaw during the accident and admitted several months ago that he still had not resumed sparring – can his chin stand up to having punches thrown at it? We have seen before that many fighters never truly get over horrific injuries of this nature. It would be no shock to see a gun-shy Spence Jr step in the ring and be overly cautious for fear of being caught. If he is then he could soon be a former champion because Garcia is a talented pugilist who can take advantage to outpoint him over 12 rounds.
But I am going to give Spence Jr the benefit of the doubt. There may be some rust in there and there may be a few mental things that he needs to overcome, but there is no disputing just how talented this man is and once he gets into his groove he will pull away on the scorecards. Spence Jr has a sizeable reach advantage and can fight behind the jab to keep Garcia at range, but when it is time to throw down he has the power that will punish Garcia if he makes the slightest mistake.
He will not stop the challenger though – Garcia has a couple of losses on his record but he heard the final bell on both occasions. That will be the case here, but it will merely be a moral victory. Spence Jr will get the nod from the judges and set himself up for a big 2021 that could see a unification clash with unbeaten wrecking ball. Terence Crawford.