Does Mikey Garcia Hold All The Cards?

Talk about an elite fighter with options! Mikey Garcia has a plethora if he can defeat Sergey Lipinets this weekend for the IBF super lightweight title. Mikey has been on a run lately collecting belts. After dealing with promotional issues and not fighting once between January of 2014 and July of 2016, Garcia has picked up belts in two different divisions.

On January 28th of 2017 he knocked out Dejan Zlaticanin in the third round to win the WBC lightweight title and then followed that with a 12-round unanimous decision over Adrien Broner to add the WBC Diamond super lightweight title to his collection. This weekend Garcia 37-0 (30) will challenge IBF super lightweight title holder Sergey Lipinets 13-0 (10) at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas. The fight was originally scheduled for February 10th but was pushed back to March 10th when Lipinets suffered a hand injury while training.

Mikey Garcia is ranked as the sixth best pound for pound fighter in boxing in the latest poll of The Ring magazine. I think he should be included in the top five and above Sergey Kovalev and Gennady Golovkin who are ranked slightly above him, but it’s all conjecture. The point is that Garcia, 30, is the most technically sound fighter in boxing from a fundamentals vantage point. He does everything the way it’s supposed to be done without any wasted movement or punching.

Lipinets, 28, is more experienced than his total number of fights indicates. He’s a pretty strong and aggressive fighter who can fight going back and also possesses pretty good head movement. He goes to the body and has an inside game but only goes there in spurts. Sergey isn’t a defensive wizard but gets hit less often and is a little more elusive than some give him credit for. Garcia is the sharper and more accurate puncher and I believe his accuracy will translate into his punches landing with more impact, resulting in Sergey looking to clinch or break off some of the exchanges. However, I think Lipinets, because of his physical strength, will be in this fight more than the long odds suggest. Sure, Garcia does everything better that is asked of a fighter and is capable of winning by stoppage, but if he does it’ll likely come later in the bout.

Fighting at 140 may prove to be Garcia’s ceiling after making his mark as a featherweight weighing in at 126. If he defeats Lipinets he’ll hold recognized world titles at 135 and 140 with a multitude of options. He’s recently stated that lightweight is his true division and wants to unify the titles there….meaning highly anticipated confrontations await him with Jorge Linares 44-3 (27) who holds the WBA title and Robert Easter 21-0 (14) who is in possession of the IBF title.

A unification bout with Linares would be the most intriguing of the two because Jorge is a complete boxer who can throw every punch in the book with accuracy and respectable power. Linares has a beautiful left hand that he uses well both offensively and defensively. Jorge’s issue fighting Garcia would be that he cuts easily and can be worn down. Mikey would be the bigger and stronger guy and, on top of that, it’s doubtful Linares punches hard enough to make Garcia do anything he doesn’t want to. And then there’s Easter. Fighting Easter wouldn’t be as lucrative as a fight with Linares, but getting the IBF belt would add to his cachet and set him up for the biggest fight of his career, a bout with WBO super featherweight title holder Vasyl Lomachenko.

Recently Mikey has talked about moving up to welterweight and challenging IBF champ Errol Spence, but that may have been just talk. Spence would prove to be too big and physically strong for him and, in reality, unless it’s for a lot of money, I don’t see it happening as not many would see Garcia as a genuine threat and Spence wouldn’t get a ton of credit for beating him. That said, it could be an option for Garcia who is in a good position with nearly a handful of big fights to choose from.

The authentic superfight would be a showdown between him and Vasyl Lomachenko at 135 with Mikey holding a couple of the belts. Lomachenko is looking better and gaining more confidence every time out. But as great a fighter as Garcia is, it must be noted that he is a very shrewd self-manager along the lines of Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather, so there’s no way with so many options available to him that Garcia is going to rush into his next fight (providing, of course, that he defeats Lipinets).

Garcia knows Lomachenko is his lottery fight and vice versa, but I can see Mikey trying to push it back for a while in order to position himself better. Holding multiple titles simultaneously would hopefully insure his bargaining power is at its optimum and there’s no B-side with the money split being on even terms at the worst…..along with the weight at which they fight and any other specifics that Mikey can work to his favor. Make no mistake, Garcia is fully cognizant Lomachenko is the new media darling and in a close fight it’s doubtful he’d get the benefit of the doubt from the judges.

The stylistic clash between Garcia and Lomachenko is a promoter’s dream. Garcia is the common man who punches the clock and does it in the ring according to the advanced textbook. Lomachenko is more dynamic and better eye-candy whose style is more based on athleticism and unconventionality. Both can be the stylistic foil for the other, depending on which fighter can execute and impose himself on the other.  And that’ll make for a great fight.

This time three years ago some had written Mikey Garcia off due to his dispute with Top Rank. Yet one can now make the case that he has at least as many and maybe more lucrative fights in front of him as any other fighter in boxing. Regarding Lomachenko, Garcia knows that the fight everyone wants to see is a fight between him and Vasyl. He’s also aware of how that gives him some leverage when it finally happens. Actually, Lomachenko’s emergence has been beneficial for Garcia in that he’s considered the only fighter at 135 who could beat Vasyl, thus allowing him to string it along until he gets things the way he wants. And if he doesn’t, he can move up to junior welterweight and fight the best there with the hopes of picking up the baton Terence Crawford left for the fighter who emerges as the best among those fighting to occupy the perch he once held at the top.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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