Is Mikey Garcia Just a Tourist?
Photo Credits: Steve Marcus
The Fighting Garcias
To be clear I respect Mikey tremendously as I do anyone who climbs through those ropes.
That being said, the phrase pound for pound gets thrown around with regularity and at times little consideration. Objectivity and critical thinking should be applied to any fighter’s record and their overall standing pound for pound.
Mikey Garcia is a fascinating fighter and man to that end.
After all, Mikey Garcia did not choose boxing. Boxing chose him.
Mikey Garcia, born Miguel Angel Garcia, was born on December 15th 1987 in Oxnard California where he resides to this day. The son of two Mexican immigrants that made their living picking strawberries under the blazing So Cal sun. Oxnard was once the residence of another famous fighter; Cesar Chavez, a popular figure in the Mexican American community who helped establish the United Farm Workers union that protected the rights and safety of farm laborers like Mikey’s parents.
Mikey would initially demur from “the family business” though he showed ability early as a youngster. He won the 2004 Police Athletic League (PAL) Cadet Silver medal and was also 2005 National Golden Gloves bronze medalist. Mikey’s father Eduardo was an amateur boxer with a respectable record. His brother and trainer Roberto Garcia finished his career at 35-3 with 25 KOs. They have trained Fernando Vargas and Nonito Donaire among others. Donaire was once in the pound for pound best conversation himself just a few years ago, so try as he might boxing was Mikey’s natural avocation of Mikey.
Just the Facts & Unpopular Opinions
Mikey turned pro 12 years ago, however there is a two year gap in his career due to a contract dispute between Bob Arum and Team Garcia. Mikey did not endear himself to some journalists, promoters and other insiders who bristled at Garcia wanting to call the shots or agitate for better deals with more money, maybe his experience watching his parents who were laborers and the struggles of those in his community influenced his actions - I hope to get the opportunity to ask him one day.
Nevertheless, Garcia made a quick rise in the sport and prior to his sabbatical captured his first world title five years ago beating grizzled veteran Orlando Salido by technical decision, Garcia dropped Salido four times and may have eventually stopped Salido when the fight was halted in the 8th round after an “accidental” head butt by Salido. Garcia was now the WBO Featherweight champion.
Garcia defended that title once against a completely shot and outclassed Juan Manuel Lopez. Sadly Juan Ma continues to fight, he is 2-3 in his last five fights losing all three by violent stoppage.
Garcia vacated the WBO Featherweight title and moved up to Super Featherweight to challenge Roman Rocky Martinez in November of 2013. Though Mikey was knocked down off a hard counter in the 2nd he battled back and completely took over until stopping Martinez with a brutal left hook to the guts in the 8th round claiming his title in a second consecutive weight class.
Garcia made only one defense of that title as well before vacating and moving up in weight again to fight the earnest but extremely limited WBC Lightweight Champion Dejan Zlaticanin last January. Garcia won with a stellar if frightening KO working behind a precise jab cracking Zlaticanin’s defense before ending the fight in just the 3rd round and claiming his third weight division title!
A quick pit stop last summer at Super Lightweight to beat up Adrien Broner, the troubled, some say talented fighter earned Mikey a high profile scalp and a minor trinket - the WBC Silver Junior Welterweight title.
As of now Garcia has not defended his Lightweight title won more than a year ago before challenging Sergey Lipinets, the IBF Super Lightweight Champion this past Saturday.
Like Zlaticanin, Salido and Martinez, Lipinets is diligent if raw fighter. Garcia also had a wide experience advantage going into Saturday’s bout having more than double the amount of pro fights and the experience shown through early on.
Working as he always does behind a patient, hard, accurate jab Garcia boxed effectively throughout the majority of the 12 rounds. Early on Garcia established control of distance keeping the fight at the middle and long range where he’s most comfortable.
Contrary to the stereotypical Mexican Style - that pejorative label suggests that a Mexican or Chicano boxer must only come forward and bang it out - in truth Mexican and Mexican American boxers are among the most skilled fighters in the history of the sport - it just so happens they can be too brave for their own good at times.
In any event, Garcia has high ring IQ instilled in him by father Eduardo and brother Roberto. Garcia landed almost at will. Garcia does several things really well - first and foremost his jab is outstanding as I have previously mentioned - it’s highly underrated and one of the best in boxing currently in my opinion.
Garcia is also excellent at punching off the beat - many fighters get into a rhythm or pattern, a less intelligent fighter therefore becomes easier to time with counter punches - Garcia plays from his own sheet of music making him very hard to pin down or control, in the modern era Floyd was the absolute master - Garcia is quite good as well. Garcia moved his feet maintaining a comfortable distance from Lipinets and would - seemingly out of nowhere land a hard 1-2 - move his feet, jab - land again - jab - lead left hook - jab - move - double jab - 2 - and so on.
As I watched Lipinets grow more frustrated, more arm weary the task ahead of him seemed out of reach, he didn’t do anything wrong per se, his offensive footwork was good, he cut off the ring pretty well against Garcia, though he was unable to hold him for long and Garcia is good defensively, he rolls with punches well and catches punches well - and it was off a catch and shoot that garcia scored the only knockdown in the fight a clean left hook that dropped Lipinets in round 7.
Ultimately Garcia won by a unanimous decision, I gave Lipinets only two rounds, the official judges were slightly more generous: 110-117 (twice) 116-111.
Garcia, now 30 is a four weight world champion. Prior to the fight - that morning actually - ESPN released their updated pound for pound rankings placing Mikey at #7, hard to argue against a move up in those rankings and fans’ estimation.
Many fans and journalists place a premium on continuing to move up and up, and up in weight classes, claiming titles in divisions that may only be separated by as little as four pounds can be seen as a real feet and to be fair at the elite level rehydrating to four pounds above or below a natural fighting weight or having four additional pounds of muscle could be a real advantage/disadvantage.
Speaking specifically about Mikey Garcia I have to ask; What’s the plan?
What is the long term goal?
Is it to position himself better for big fights? Then ok. Garcia has been linked to Vasyl Lomachenko who has all but declared an official move to Lightweight where Garcia remains champion.
Current WBA and Ring champion Jorge Linares has goaded Garcia into a unification fight though Team Garcia seemed to demure - it’s more likely that Linares and Lomachenko will fight, if not later this spring likely by the summer or late fall.
So where does this leave Mikey Garcia? A a talented fighter with options in two weight classes in which he currently holds titles.
If I were a betting man I would wager he vacates his Lightweight title unless he angles for a fight with IBF champion Robert Easter Jr., arguably the weakest of the current belt holders.
I predict now that Terence Crawford has left the Super Lightweight division Mikey may seek to unify belts at this weight that is likely more comfortable for him and offers very winnable fights against either WBC Interim champion Regis Prograis or WBA Champion Kirill Relikh and bide his time until the winner of Linares-Lomachenko comes looking for him at a catchweight super fight or decides to move up where one would have to assume the now unified Super Lightweight champion will be the comfortable A side before possibly cashing out and moving on from boxing all together.
Don’t misunderstand me, I like Mikey Garcia, he’s quite skilled and I respect his Ronin mentality - fighting without need of a fixed promoter and controlling his own destiny, collecting titles, building a legacy and making good money along the way.
However, upon further review it seems there is no clear path forward for a fighter with close to a decade and a half of pro experience who is fighting in and around talent rich divisions who it just so happens has been cleverly matched against far less skilled fighters.
It begs the question: does Mikey Garcia want to be great? Or is he just here for a visit?