Size matters in boxing

Fighting Spence a brave but foolish move by Garcia

Errol Spence and Mikey Garcia fight for the IBF welterweight title Saturday in Dallas on pay-per-view. (Photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys.)

Mikey Garcia will dare to be great on Saturday night when he moves up two weight classes from his natural division to challenge Errol Spence for the International Boxing Federation welterweight championship of the world. It's a throwback move by Garcia, who is a natural 135 pounder, as he steps in the ring against a much bigger man. The question on everyone's mind is simple: does Garcia have a chance to win? Unfortunately the answer is no, not really.

Garcia is many things as a fighter. He's a four division champion, having won titles at feathweight, super featherweight, lightweight and junior welterweight. He's undefeated, amassing a record of 39-0 with 30 knockouts. He's a pound-for-pound fighter, being ranked as high as fifth on most major publications' list of the greatest active boxers regardless of weight class. However it isn't what Garcia is that will make the fight on saturday night; it's what he's not. Garcia is not a welterweight.

That isn't to say that there aren't welterweights Garcia could beat; there certainly are. Could Mikey move up to 147 pounds and beat Danny Garcia, who is on the tail end of a successful career? Perhaps. Could he beat a gatekeeper like Jessie Vargas, who has passed the test against every B-level fighter but looked average against the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Adrien Broner? Of course. But this is Errol Spence we're talking about here.

Spence is the best natural 147 pound fighter in the world. At 29 years old he's younger than Garcia. As a natural welterweight who will ultimately move to junior middleweight he's bigger than Garcia. At 5'9-½" he's nearly four inches taller than Garcia. And with a record of 24-0 with 21 knockouts he hits harder than Garcia. Mikey Garcia is an accomplished fighter, but he's never fought anyone at Errol Spence's level. Not even close.

Garcia has fought twice at 140 pounds, and has looked less than inspiring both times. In 2017 he beat Adrian Broner via unanimous decision to claim the WBC junior welterweight title. But despite easily outpointing Broner, he never appeared to hurt him or stagger him. Last year Garcia fought Sergey Lipinets and again won a relatively wide decision without showing any signs of fight-changing power. So if Garcia can't carry his power to 140 pounds, how is it going to look at 147?

In 2016 welterweight Amir Khan dared to be great, moving up two weight classes to fight Canelo Alvarez at 160 pounds. Khan looked more than capable of competing with Alvarez until the sixth round. In round six Alvarez landed his first big punch of the fight. The right hand sent the smaller Khan to the canvas like a rag doll, knocking him out cold. The huge knockout derailed Khan's career, spending nearly two years recovering before returning in April of 2018.

A few months later welterweight titlist Kell Brook also dared to be great, jumping up two weight classes to fight Gennady Golovkin at middleweight. Brook gave it his best effort, but was knocked out in the fifth round after the bigger, stronger Golovkin unleashed a barrage of punches that ultimately fractured Brook's eye socket. Brook has never been the same as a fighter since the loss to Golovkin.

Mikey Garcia will bring his technical style to the ring to AT&T Stadium on Saturday night in Arlington. He'll work behind his jab and look for holes in Errol Spence's strategy. He aims to shock the world by dethroning the boogeyman at 147 pounds. But it's far more likely that Garcia ends up like Khan and Brook, the smaller men that have gone before him. This is boxing; and we have weight classes for a reason.

TIM'S PICK

Spence by 7th round knockout

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Watson's accusers appeared on Real Sports on Tuesday night. Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images.

HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’s heavily promoted and much anticipated examination of Deshaun Watson’s legal mess involving alleged sexual misconduct shed little new light and merely presented a summary of well worn he said/she (x22) said accusations and denials.

The episode debuted Tuesday night on the premium cable service and will be repeated dozens of times throughout the week on HBO’s platforms. Check your local listings for times and channel.

The segment was hosted by Soledad O’Brien who presented compelling face-to-face interviews with two of the quarterback’s accusers: massage therapists Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes. Their stories were detailed and graphic. Both cried during the interviews.

Solis: “As I’m working, he deliberately grabs himself and put his penis on my hand. I pulled my hand away instantly and I started crying. I told that I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Solis said she felt threatened when Watson, before leaving the session, allegedly told her: “I know you have a career to protect, and I know that you don’t want anyone messing with it, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

Solis added, “That’s when I got really scared because that sounded like a threat to me.”

Hayes: “He wanted me to kind of make a V motion in his pelvic area. I just kept massaging and did what he asked, until his penis kept touching me repeatedly as I did it.”

Hayes said that Watson had an orgasm, which she said was “mortifying, embarrassing and disgusting.”

O’Brien asked Hayes why she continued to have contact via email with Watson after their encounter.

Hayes: "I wasn't sure what he was capable of. He could've physically assaulted me. He could've bashed my business, so I had to protect myself and my business the best way I saw fit. Did I ever see him again after that? No. Did I give him the runaround? Yes."

O’Brien pointed out that two separate grand juries in Texas heard criminal accusations against Watson and neither found enough evidence to indict him.

Solis and Hayes, and 20 other massage therapists have filed civil suits against Watson. The cases aren’t expected to reach a courtroom until next March. Both sides could reach a settlement before then which would effectively shut down any legal action against Watson. However, both sides say they aren’t interested in any pretrial settlements. That’s what they say now, anyway.

After being banished to the sidelines for the 2021 season by the Houston Texans, Watson signed a historic, 5-year fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Hayes said she feels Watson “is being rewarded for bad behavior." Solis said, "It's just like a big screw you. That's what it feels like. That we (the Browns) don't care. He can run and throw, and that's what we care about.”

Watson currently is participating in preseason workouts with the Browns and, at the moment, is cleared to play the upcoming NFL season.

That is unless the NFL suspends Watson for some, most or all of the 2022 season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is nearing completion of its independent investigation into Watson’s case and will reach a decision “shortly,” probably this summer. The NFL and NFL Players Association mutually agreed to have former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson decide whether or not Watson violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and what discipline should be handed down if he did.

The Browns are scheduled to play the Texans on Dec. 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

O’Brien said, while producing the Real Sports piece, she tried to interview Watson, his attorneys and the Cleveland Browns for their side of the story. All declined.

During a press conference in March to announce his joining the Browns, Watson denied any inappropriate behavior with the massage therapists.

Watson: “I never assaulted any woman. I’ve never disrespected any woman. I was raised to be genuine and respect everyone around me. I’ve never done the thing that these people are alleging. My mom and my aunties didn’t raise me that way.”

Leah Graham, a member of Watson’s legal team, sat for an interview after O’Brien’s segment was complete.

Graham: "It's 22 women. It's one lawyer. There's only one lawyer who was willing to take these cases. And as we know from Ashley Solis’ deposition, Mr. (Houston attorney Tony) Buzbee was not the first, probably not the second or third lawyer she went to, but he was the only one to take her case. Why? Not because it had merit, but because he would use these cases to increase his social media following and quite frankly to get on shows like this one.”

My reaction after watching the Real Sports segment? We weren’t in the room when the massage therapists worked on Watson. We weren’t in the grand jury room when evidence against Watson was presented. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know what will happen if these cases go to trial.

Until then all we have is one big, lurid, embarrassing mess. In American courtrooms, defendants are presumed innocent. That’s often the opposite in the court of public opinion. We’ll just have to wait while the wheels of justice grind painfully slow.

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