ARLINGTON, Texas: Errol Spence Jr. skipped a tuneup in his first fight since a car crash that almost derailed his promising career.
The Texan didn’t need a warmup act. Spence defended his WBC and IBF welterweight championships, looking sharp in a unanimous decision over Danny Garcia on Saturday night by controlling the pace almost from the start in another defense on his home turf.
Judges Steve Weisfeld and Barry Lindenman scored it 116-112, with Tim Cheatham giving Spence a decided 117-111 edge at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL team that has adopted the 2012 US Olympian and rising star.
Spence’s third defense in his hometown came 14 months after a high-speed crash near downtown Dallas.
“All training camp I felt good,” Spence said. “I told people I didn’t want a tune-up fight. I proved to everyone that I’m the best 147-pound fighter in the world.”
Spence flipped his Ferrari and was ejected but escaped without serious injuries while getting charged with drunken driving in October 2019. That was about a month after a thrilling split-decision victory over Shawn Porter in Los Angeles that added the WBC belt to his IBF strap.
“This was a long, long road to come back,” Spence said. “Just buckling down and staying focused, the trials and tribulations to get to this point tonight. And I got to that point and it paid off. I feel like I’m here for a reason and I basically proved that I’m back and I’m here to stay.”
Spence (27-0, 21 knockouts) went the distance for the third straight time to beat Garcia (36-3, 21 knockouts). Garcia’s three losses have come in his last six fights. The Philadelphia fighter was in his first title bout in two years.
“He was the better man tonight,” Garcia said. “No excuses. I fought a hard and tough fight. He had a good jab and that was the key to the fight. He was also a bit busier than me.”
The crowd of 16,102 was considered a sellout in the pandemic. It filled about 20 percent of AT&T Stadium’s 80,000-seat capacity, with fans spread through all four decks and spacing between a few hundred pairs of chairs at ring level.
Spence landed 187 punches, or 26 percent, to 117 and 17 percent for Garcia, and had a huge edge on jabs. Spence landed 84 jabs to just 14 for Garcia.
“His jab was rangy and threw my timing off a bit,” Garcia said. “That was the key to the fight. Everything else I feel like I adapted to. The jab was the only thing that was better than expected.”
WBO champion Terence Crawford was in the crowd, drawing a big cheer when he was shown on the giant video board above the ring. Whether that is Spence’s next opponent was the obvious question after the fight.