Catch & Counter with Caryn: Errol Spence Jr. vs. Danny Garcia
By Caryn A. Tate on December 5, 2020
Importantly, Errol Spence Jr. likes to work the body. He often does so even with his jab.
On December 5 from AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, unified WBC and IBF world champion Errol Spence Jr. (26-0, 21 KOs), "The Truth,” will defend his titles against Danny "Swift" Garcia (36-2, 21 KOs) on FOX Sports pay-per-view.
The added drama leading into this bout surrounds Spence's devastating car accident from October 2019. He was thrown out of the car entirely, but miraculously didn't suffer any broken bones. From reports, his front teeth were damaged, and he suffered scrapes and serious bruising. But that was it.
None of us yet know what kind of fighting shape Errol will be in.
To top it off, Spence's last fight was versus Shawn Porter in September 2019, just before the accident. It was quite a while ago and it was grueling, with Spence winning a split decision.
Garcia, on the other hand, last fought in January 2020 versus Ivan Redkach. Garcia won a lopsided unanimous decision that night.
Danny Garcia is a two-time world champion for a reason. He's experienced, tough, determined, and by most accounts packs a good wallop. People typically reference his left hook, which is fantastic.
His best asset in the ring, though, is his timing.
His hook is great and it's eye-catching. But the way he's able to land it so consistently, and to such disruptive effect, is thanks to his timing. His well timed counterpunching is clean and sharp. Garcia’s opponents often seem surprised when he counters them, which at the world level means you’re doing something pretty special.
Fighters with excellent timing can often use it to make up for other things they're not as good at. In Danny's case, he likes to fight flat-footed—feet planted. When facing boxers with good footwork, like Lamont Peterson or Shawn Porter, Garcia can fall into following his opponent around the ring.
Danny likes guys to come at him so he can counter them; but the flip side of that is he doesn’t like it when his opponents come at him too hard or pressure him too much. It seems to take him out of his zone, he doesn’t fight well off the back foot, and—most importantly—I suspect it throws his timing off.
Errol Spence Jr.
Spence, a 2012 U.S. Olympian, has excellent fundamentals. He’s not exactly a flashy fighter, but everything he does is effective. As a southpaw, his jab—particularly when he throws it to the body—is difficult to deal with all on its own. Errol’s foot placement is tremendous; he’s almost always in position to fire his offense and utilize his defense. He can fight coming forward or off the back foot, at distance or on the inside. Add to all if that the fact that he’s a volume puncher, and you have an extremely tough guy to beat.
I recently spoke with Spence’s coach of 11 years, Derrick James. He broke down what he focused on first and foremost when he and Spence began working together.
“When I [first started] working with Errol, I had the idea to build his confidence,” James said. “And his confidence is built with his defense. I wanted him to embrace that if there’s a storm, you can be calm within the storm. Then you think and you see openings. You know that your defense is gonna prevail, and you will not stop.”
Importantly, Spence likes to work the body. He often does so even with his jab, which as a southpaw could put him in line for a right hand from his opponent.
Particularly against Danny Garcia, it could also leave an opening for Garcia’s famous counter hook.
Derrick James, though, explained how Spence throws the jab downstairs safely:
"You’re not shooting down, because then you expose yourself to the left hook. You shoot it straight out but bend your knees, keep your head level to the jab, so your shoulder blocks the left hook."
If one looks at how Spence normally throws that shot, he does it the way James explains it. That means Danny Garcia’s best punch is going to have a hard time landing cleanly, unless Garcia can time it just right.
What this matchup really boils down to is: footwork and lateral movement (which helps provide angles—and take away angles that help the other fighter); volume; and, like all top-level contests, the ability to adjust on the fly.
Garcia has proven he’s a skillful, smart fighter who is comfortable at the world level. You don’t achieve what he has otherwise, and he not only has victories over some top tier opposition, but in his losses he made the other fighters work for their wins.
But he has struggled with lateral movement and good footwork from his opponents in the past. When he fought Mauricio Herrera, Danny also showed he has a hard time fighting someone who uses different ranges and elevations to good effect.
And pretty much everybody struggles with a volume fighter (unless you happen to also be one yourself).
Spence throws a lot of punches. For a counterpuncher like Garcia, that volume is going to limit his opportunities to find good openings for his counters. It’s hard to let your hands go, much less think about how you can catch your opponent, when punches are flying at you. They tend to keep you busy defending.
Spence is longer, and with the superior feet, I suspect he will use his jab upstairs and down to control Garcia at distance most of the time. When Garcia is able to get inside Errol’s reach (which he will), Spence will move laterally and use his foot positioning to make it tough for Danny to land much of consequence, much how he did against Mikey Garcia.
Of course if Spence is not the same fighter he was before the accident—mentally or physically—Garcia has a very good chance to win. It would likely come down to who has more dog and more left in the tank.
But if Spence is at least as good a fighter as he was before the accident, I expect he wins a clear decision with Garcia winning a few rounds himself. It’s also possible Spence wins by late stoppage.
However it goes, it speaks volumes about both men’s character that they’re taking one another on. For Spence to be able to return to boxing at all, much less a year after that accident and against a former world champion like Garcia is astounding. Garcia sought out one of the toughest fighters in the sport to challenge himself and continue to prove his greatness. The sport needs more matchups like this one.