IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston seeks the betting value in this weekend’s long-awaited return of unified welterweight king Errol Spence against two-division champ Danny Garcia in Arlington, Texas.
Errol Spence Jr looked in great shape at the weigh-in for tonight’s (early Sunday morning in UK) fight with Danny Garcia but questions remain after he suffered injuries in a horrifying car crash last year. Will there be any lingering effects? The bookmakers are confident that the undefeated welterweight champion won’t be a diminished boxer when he steps into the ring in Texas on Saturday; Spence is something like a 2/9 (-450) favourite.
And Spence isn’t the first fighter to come back after serious physical trauma.
Featherweight great Willie Pep suffered broken vertebrae in his back as well as other injuries when surviving a plane crash. But he came back to win perhaps the greatest featherweight fight of all time, avenging a KO defeat against Sandy Saddler. (Pep blamed the loss to Saddler in the initial meeting not on any after-effects of the plane crash but on taking Sandy too lightly.)
Bantamweight champion Robert Cohen suffered injuries, including a broken jaw, in a car crash in January 1955 but fought a 15-round draw with Willie Toweel in a championship defence in South Africa that September and almost knocked out Toweel early in the fight.
Then, of course, we had Vinny Pazienza, who suffered a broken neck in a car crash but came back to win two fights against a faded but still dangerous Roberto Duran.
So other fighters have come back from what, at first, looked like career-ending situations.
Still, we cannot be certain Spence is back to the fighter he used to be. He hasn’t boxed since he outpointed Shawn Porter 14 months ago. However, he does exude a quiet confidence.
Garcia is a serious challenge for Spence. If Spence isn’t all the way back, Garcia could win this fight. Garcia is tough, capable and heavy-handed. His left hook packs fight-changing power if he can land it exactly right.
But Garcia let the fight slip away from him in each of his two losses, against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. He had a tendency to wait a bit too long in these fights.
If Garcia tries to be too precise against Spence, looking for perfect openings, he could end up losing rounds.
I have to believe that Spence has fully recovered from the car crash. Spence and his trainer Derrick James wouldn’t have taken this fight unless they were convinced that the champion is ready to fight again at the highest level.
Apparently Spence has been boxing with much bigger sparring partners, including light-heavyweights, to test his robustness. Obviously, his trainer was reassured by what he saw.
And if Derrick James, a respected trainer and former fighter, felt Spence was good to go in a top-level contest, without a tune-up, then who am I to argue?
I’m sure that Garcia will have his moments in the big fight but I’m expecting Spence to control most of the rounds with his excellent jab and crisp punches from out of the southpaw stance.
The Spence jab is likely to be a problem for Garcia all night.
If this develops into a long-range boxing match, I feel Spence has a definite edge. Shawn Porter was very competitive against Spence, but Showtime Shawn is more of a physical, bullying type of fighter than Garcia, who tends to lay back and look to counter.
I’m looking for Spence to get into a smooth-boxing groove and make this a chess-match type of fight, similar to the one with Mikey Garcia when he was content to keep piling up points without pressing for a stoppage, although Danny is going to be more of a threat than Mikey proved to be.
For those wagering on the fight, the best play looks to be Spence by decision, which is offered at 4/6 (-150) by Betfred. Garcia has never been hurt in a fight that I can recall. It would be a tremendous performance by Spence to stop Garcia. But I see this as unlikely. Each man is capable of hurting the other so I don’t see either taking too many chances.
If you expect the fight to go the distance, the ticket price is 4/11 (-275). If you think the fight won’t go the distance, the price of 10/19 (+190) might appeal. And if you are sceptical about Spence’s ability to regain his old form after the car crash and sense an upset, Garcia is priced at 7/2 (+350).
Main image: Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions.