Mikey Garcia’s Return – Two and a half years ago Mikey Garcia was an emerging star in professional boxing. He sported a 34-0 (28) record and was a multi division champ having won titles at 126 and 130. There’s been a lot of talk recently regarding just how complete junior welterweight champ Terence Crawford is. However, from a basics and fundamentals perspective, Garcia is superior to Crawford. Mikey is the textbook of boxing. Inside the ring he does everything the way it is supposed to be done; he’s that proficient. In many aspects he’s a 140 pound version of former all-time great Joe Louis.
Garcia hasn’t been in the ring for real since January of 2014. Before his self-induced exile, he was recognized as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in boxing. Just when he was really starting to be mentioned as one of the must-see fighters in the sport there was a lawsuit between Garcia and his promoter Bob Arum. The dispute was in regards to the value of Garcia’s purses and whether or not his contract expired or could be extended.
This past April Top Rank and Garcia settled and Mikey became a true free agent. It was a bold stand on his part to take, but Garcia is the real deal and should come out okay. And if he does, he along with Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather will be of a select few fighters who took on boxing’s power brokers and won their independence and kept a little more of their own money.
“I accepted the release because we might want to work together again,” Garcia said. “But I have no regrets.”
In taking the stand, Garcia lost 27 months of his prime and, it’s been said, lost between 3-4 million dollars in purses. Now that is all behind him and the road to redemption begins this coming Saturday night. Now 28 years old, Mikey returns to the ring against Elio Rojas 25-2 (14) at the Barclays Center in New York City. He will fight a 10-round co-feature on the card televised by Showtime. Leo Santa Cruz defends his WBA super featherweight title against Carl Frampton in the main event.
He’ll fight Rojas at 140. Then he plans to go back to lightweight (135), rise to 140 and eventually settle at 147, where he hopes Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter will be waiting.
“I don’t believe there will be ring rust because I was never really outside of the ring,” said Mikey. “I’ve been in the gym the whole time, sparring and training. I would spar 10 or 12 rounds, just to do it. Not because I had a fight, but just to keep me active. I know it seems like a long time, but I don’t really see it. I feel like I was gone six months.
“I want to fight at 135 and fight for a title there. I’m going to see how my body feels after this fight, but that’s the plan as of now. We’re not looking past Elio. I definitely want to get back in the ring soon if everything goes right.
“I have no regrets. I’ve got to enjoy myself more than I had in the last 10 years. When you’re in boxing, it’s a year round sport. You don’t have time to yourself, for your family or friends. You miss out on a lot. I learned a lot in my time away about boxing and more.”
Some may scoff at the notion of how a fighter can learn things about the sport via inactivity. But I don’t. When fighters aren’t training and obsessed with their own careers, they look at boxing differently as a spectator. Without the burden of preparing themselves for a bout and being totally engrossed in what’s going on around them, they watch other fighters and absorb what they do that works. And then when they start training and fighting again, they try and take things they saw and incorporate a tweak here and there into their game. No, it’s not a monumental difference but they go into the ring feeling they have a little more in their arsenal whether it’s mental or physical.
Boxing fans should be ecstatic that Mikey Garcia is back in the mix again as there are many bouts with the winner in question for him to partake in. Think about the potential fights for Garcia involving Adrien Broner, Vasily Lomanchenko, Danny Garcia and Terence Crawford, assuming he can get back to being the fighter he was before the hiatus.
Professional boxing is starting to become exciting again. Its cousin MMA had all the momentum for a while, but as of late most of the upper-tier MMA bouts among the men have been a lot of sloppy boxing and have ended by TKO with not many fights going to the ground. Mikey Garcia’s return gives fans another special fighter to watch, one who possesses all the requisite tools that make for exciting fights.
Garcia has perfect structure and form. He fights with his hands up in a tight guard. His punches are never throwaways, but always delivered with leverage and power. They’re short and concise and they land cleanly on the intended target. Mikey is a boxer-puncher who inches his way forward and tries to force his opponents into committing to something or making a mistake so he can attack the opening. On the flip side, if he’s forced to go back, he’s a great counter-puncher, landing shots up the middle as set-ups for his finishing blows. Another admirable thing about Garcia is that he seeks to test himself against the best available opponents. His opponent Saturday night, Elio Rojas, hasn’t been the most active fighter on the block, but he’s legit and should be a good gauge for Mikey to find out just where he’s at. I expect Garcia’s reflexes to be a little stale, but he’ll probably exhibit more strength and grit en route to victory.
Stylistically, Mikey Garcia matches up with every big name fighter near his weight. His versatility makes him very formidable and dangerous to all the big names in between 135 and 147…..and that’s why his ring return adds another layer of excitement to a sport on the upswing.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Mikey Garcia’s Return