By Sean Jones
Alex Ariza says it wasn’t the Mikey Garcia he knew that was completely dominated by IBF welterweight champion Errol ‘The Truth’ Spence Jr. this month in a one-sided 12 round decision wipe-out loss on March 16 at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Ariza, who worked with Garcia previously as a strength & conditioning coach, blamed his loss on him not being prepared physically with right training.
Ariza says Mikey (39-1, 30 KOs) looked to be mentally there, but he couldn’t make his body respond to do what it needed him to do for him to pull off the upset against the bigger fighter Spence Jr. The result was Spence winning every round by the judges’ scores of 120-107, 120-108 and 120-108.
“In watching Mikey, you could see he was watching everything he was doing. He was catching shots,” Ariza said to Fighthype about his observations in watching the Spence vs. Garcia fight. “I thought he took some big shots from Spence. I didn’t see Mikey’s eyes go. It never looked to me like he was hurt during the fight. Maybe a body shot. When he was catching shots, he was looking. You could see he was thinking what he wanted to do, but his body wasn’t doing what his mind was asking it to do at the moment that he wanted it,” Ariza said.
It didn’t help Mikey that he was moving up two weight classes to fight arguably the best fighter in the 147 lb weight class. What made this even more of a hopeless sitution for Garcia is Spence is big enough to fight at junior middleweight, so Mikey was for all intents and purposes moving up three divisions in taking the fight. Although Mikey did win a world title in beating former IBF light welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets in 2018, but that fight was a lot closer than the scores handed in by the judges. Mikey looked like the weaker fighter against Lipinets, and his faced looked like he’d been stomped on by the end of the contest. Seeing what Lipinets did to Mikey, it was pretty clear that Spence was going to have a field day in doing even worse. Surprisingly, Mikey’s face didn’t look marked up at the end of the fight, but only because Spence wasn’t going after him the way Lipinets was. Spence only fought hard in the ninth, and he knocked the stuffing out of Mikey in that round. Had Spence fought like that in every round, Mikey’s trainer Robert Garcia would have likely thrown in the towel by the third round. Spence spent too much time boxing, and that enabled Mikey to survive.
“I worked with Mikey over a year. I’ve seen him fight big guys 175 pounds in the gym,” Ariza said. “What I saw, that wasn’t Mikey to me. I think he’s being a good sportsman, saying something wasn’t right, but to me, that wasn’t Mikey. I think there was something that wasn’t working the way he wanted it to, because I could see he was looking to set things up. His body wasn’t responding. That’s my opinion. It could be [Mikey’s weight wasn’t right]. You can’t blame the loss on the driver,” Ariza said in implying that the loss wasn’t Mikey’s fault. Instead, it was a training issue. “If the driver is good, the race car needs to perform. In this case, the race car wasn’t able to perform. He was ready to perform, he was cognitive, he was lucid, and he was thinking. He was setting things up, but his body wasn’t doing what he was asking it to,” Ariza said.
All that useless bulking up that Mikey did at Victor Conte’s SNAC facility in San Carlos, California, was a big waste of time Mikey shouldn’t have bulked up so much, because it slowed him down, making his shots slower, and it hurt his stamina. Ariza is right that Mikey was seeing things that he wanted to take advantage of against Spence, but his body wouldn’t let him, because he was carrying around too much useless muscle on his fame. It wasn’t just muscle that Mikey was carrying. He put on some fat as well. He wasn’t shredded in the way that normal fighters are when they’re in shape. Garcia looked like more like a normal gym weight lifter that one sees when working out. He didn’t have a body that looked well-trained. That comes from Mikey eating too much, and not doing enough cardio to burn off the excess calories that he was ingesting.
“I’ve trained Mikey before, and I know what he looks like when he’s trained in shape,” Ariza said. “His body wasn’t doing what he wanted it to. Everybody can say they would have done this, and done that. I don’t know. I do know Terry and I could have done way better than that, as far as the physical standpoint. We know what Mikey looks like when he’s been trained and he’s in shape. We’ve done tremendous work with him. He’s a machine, but he didn’t look like when I’d seen him. More importantly, I’ve seen him come from a two month layoff, and he’d sparred guys 160, 170 pounds. Again, to me, that didn’t look like Mikey. A fighter isn’t a physiologist. He’s not a dietitian. That’s our job. If the driver is 100%, and the car is s—, how much can the driver do? I saw the driver [Mikey] looked good. Mikey looked like he was lucid, cognitive, like he was thinking in there. He didn’t look like he was struggling. His legs didn’t look the way they normally do. It didn’t look like Mikey,” Ariza said.
Ariza isn’t giving Spence too much credit, is he? It might not have mattered how well trained Mikey was for the Spence fight. It comes down to Spence being a special talent. He’s a 2012 U.S Olympian with boxing skills, power and size. Mikey was never an Olympian. Mikey has won his fights with his punching power. When he needed to show some boxing skills in the Spence fight, he couldn’t do it. He didn’t possess the talent. Mikey looked like he wasn’t willing to go all out to put in the needed effort to try and win the fight against Spence. Mikey seemed more concerned with surviving the fill 12 rounds than trying to win the fight.
If Mikey wants to add Ariza to his team to try and improve his conditioning, he can stay at welterweight and try to work his way into position for a rematch with Spence. It might no matter what kind of shape Ariza is able to whip Mikey into for his fights at 147. Mikey isn’t big enough, he doesn’t throw enough punches. Ariza can do anything about Mikey’s low work rate. That’s the fault of his trainer Robert Garcia for not spotting that problem a long time ago and fixing it.