ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Errol Spence Jr. successfully defended his IBF world welterweight title for the third time, unanimously outpointing previously undefeated challenger Mikey Garcia on Saturday night.
Garcia moved up two weight classes to take on Spence and took a pounding though he never went down. Garcia, obviously worn out, spent the later rounds blocking punches instead of throwing them.
Spence improved to 25-0 after all three judges awarded him every round. One card was 120-107, and the other two were 120-108.
It was the first time Spence had to go the distance in his last 12 fights.
Garcia, who moved up from 135 to 147 pounds in his attempt to become a five-division champion, lost for the first time in 40 pro fights.
The hard-punching Spence landed 345 of the 1,082 punches (32 percent) he threw — both of those career highs. That included 237 of 464 (51 percent) of his power punches in his second title defense at home in North Texas in nine months.
During one portion of the ninth round, Spence walked Garcia in a full circle around the ring while continually delivering blows.
Garcia threw 406 total punches, and landed only 75 of them (18.5 percent). After landing 43 percent of his power punches his previous five punches, he was only 25 percent (54 of 218) on those against Spence.
Garcia was fighting for the first time since unifying the IBF and WBC world lightweight titles with a unanimous decision last July over Robert Easter in Los Angeles. He was trying to become a five-division champion.
Both fighters entered the arena to loud cheers and different kinds of music, with Spence following a local high school marching band. Garcia got plenty of support from the large number of Mexican fans at the fight.
Chants of “Mikey!, Mikey!” broke out in the second and third rounds, but those faded away as Spence kept punching and the crowd instead responded to hard shots — many more for the champion than the challenger.
The fight was at midfield of AT&T Stadium, the massive billion-dollar home stadium of the favorite NFL team for both fighters. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was there along with several players, including quarterback Dak Prescott, as part of an announced crowd of 47,525.
Jones and Prescott even stepped into the ring with Floyd Mayweather before the main event.
Exactly nine months earlier, Jones and the Cowboys were also there when Spence won his second title defense in the 147-pound division. Spence stopped previously undefeated challenger Carlos Ocampo with a first-round knockout at the NFL team’s practice facility in Frisco, not far from his home in Desoto.
Garcia grew up around Oxnard, California, where the Cowboys hold part of their preseason training camp each year.
WBA world welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao, a five-division champion, was in the building and could be a future opponent for Spence. Pacquiao won two title bouts at the Cowboys stadium in 2010, when he beat Joshua Clottey for the WBO welterweight crown and later Antonio Margarito for vacant WBO super welterweight title.
The 40-year-old Pacquiao wants to return to the ring in July.
In the last undercard before the main event, former WBC super middleweight champ David Benavidez (21-0, 18 KOs) landed 61 punches in just over four minutes before his scheduled 10-round bout against J’Leon Love was stopped by the referee in the second round.
Former WBC silver bantamweight champion Luis Nery from Mexico made his U.S. debut with a TKO after knocking McJoe Arroyo down four times in four rounds before the scheduled 10-round bantamweight fight was stopped as the suggestion of the corner before the fifth round. Nery, the 24-year-old southpaw who has drawn comparisons to Pacquiao, is 29-0 after his 23rd knockout.
Dallas heavyweight Gregory Corbin lost for the first time in 16 pro fights when he was disqualified in the eighth round after repeated low blows against Charles Martin, who improved to 26-5-1. Corbin had won every round on all three scorecards through the seventh.