Old School Lessons Bring Mikey Garcia His Fourth World Title

One of the definitions of the word clinic is “an exemplary display or performance.” If you’re an avid boxing observer you don’t see them as often as you’d like, but when you do, you never forget them or the fighter responsible for the display. This past weekend WBC lightweight titlist Mikey Garcia 38-0 (30) put on another clinical exhibition while defeating IBF junior welterweight title holder Sergey Lipinets 13-1 (10). In winning a lopsided 12-round decision, Garcia earned his fourth world title in four different weight divisions (126, 130, 135, 140) and that isn’t even the major story regarding him.

The biggest takeaway from the fight is just how masterful, economical and proficient Mikey Garcia was against a very tough and underrated foe in Sergey Lipinets. The unbeaten Lipinets was no joke and would be a handful for any other junior welterweight in the world. He has good head and upper body movement along with a great chin, he’s awkward and strong with respectable power and is clearly not the one-dimensional fighter some have portrayed him as being. And maybe the most admirable thing about him is he never stopped trying to win, not just go the distance, after realizing by the fourth or fifth round that the fighter in front of him was just better than him.

Throughout the bout boxing fans saw what things look like when a great fighter and technician like Mikey Garcia fights a very tough, outstanding fighter like Lipinets. The bottom line is Garcia was just better and there’s no fight plan or big shot trainer who could’ve been working in Lipinets’ corner who could’ve helped him alter the result.

Garcia once again showed that he is the most fundamentally sound fighter in boxing. Garcia’s skills are completely old school and he never deviates from them, aside from a tweak here and there. Everything he does is based on efficiency and he is laser-focused every minute of every round. He’s not flashy but he’s perfect.

Stylistically, Garcia is a boxer-puncher who is also a great counter-puncher. Lipinets fought a very smart tactical fight by bringing pressure, but not predictable pressure. He pushed the fight in spots behind his deceptively quick jab and mixed it with some good body work. The problem was that Garcia (and this is what’s so great about watching him) seldom lets his opponent’s punches go unanswered. And that was on full display against Lipinets. Almost every time Sergey initiated the exchange, Garcia responded with his sharp jab and, if it found a home, his right cross was on the way before the jab was fully recoiled.

What sets Garcia apart from many of today’s top pound-for-pound fighters is how he is equally effective fighting as the aggressor or stepping back giving ground so he can set up his counters. And that was the conundrum that confronted Lipinets. If he tried to push the action, Garcia smartly inched away from him and countered beautifully off his near misses. And when Mikey was fighting with his back to the ropes, it was often of his own volition, as he picked off most of Lipinets’ heavy artillery with his high guard while at the same time being in perfect position to fire back.

The counter left hook that dropped Lipinets in the seventh round was another display of technical proficiency. Lipinets started his right uppercut from a little too far out, due to Garcia having confused him, forcing him to guess if he was about to move in or retreat. Seeing that Lipinets’ chin was exposed due to the right hand being turned under for the uppercut, Mikey instinctively turned over his hook and it landed clean, dropping Lipinets for the first time in his career.

Garcia is more than just a boxing textbook; he has a great chin and strong legs. Shortly before scoring the knockdown, Garcia was caught by a thunderous right on the chin. It really was a Sunday punch and yet Garcia didn’t move. Not only that, but he didn’t lose his foot positioning and he maintained his balance as well, remaining in position to counter and finish the exchange, thus further illustrating his stout chin, strong legs, great balance and applicable ring strength at 140.

The one negative that was highlighted by commentator Paulie Malignaggi was that Garcia sometimes is squared up when against the ropes, and for a fighter not as good or as experienced as Garcia, that could be construed as negative. But what Paulie failed to convey was that Garcia was positioned like that because of his ability to pick off punches while against the ropes; in that position he wasn’t getting hit much. If he’s not getting hit, being in more of a neutral stance allows him the option of leading from either side, once he sees which side his opponent’s momentum has left him most vulnerable.

Mikey also has no reservation about fighting in the red zone where he is within reach for his opponents to hit him. He doesn’t look to get out when he’s in range to be touched back because he has total confidence in his ability to block and counter and fully accepts that in order for him to put any real hurt on his opponent, it comes with the risk he may get hit in return…..which is almost a plus in his case because it allows him to answer back without having to lunge.

Garcia now holds titles at 135 and 140 and at those weights he’s not an underdog to anyone. Hopefully he doesn’t move up to welterweight because all that he does that’s so great could be blunted by the physicality of the upper-tier contenders and title holders currently there. Mikey’s not a big guy at 140, and once he moved up to ’47 he’d be fighting good fighters who were effectively 15 pounds heavier on fight night, which is beyond his physical capacity.

Based on his performance against Lipinets, Garcia has to be considered one of the top fighters in boxing when it comes to versatility and skill. Garcia vs. Lomachenko fighting for a unified title at 135 is nearly as intriguing as Joshua vs. Wilder at heavyweight. And if Garcia-Lomachenko is down the road too far (Lomachenko is slated to fight WBA lightweight title holder Jorge Linres in May), Mikey can fight Regis Prograis or Josh Taylor at 140 and there would be a lot of interest in those bouts as well. Or perhaps he could meet IBF title holder Robert Easter in a lightweight unification bout….then again, if Garcia and Easter are ever matched, I could see Garcia being handcuffed after the fight and led to jail with a murder charge against him.

Make no mistake. Mikey Garcia is as much fun to watch as any fighter in the sport. He’s the most scientific fighter in the sweet science and between 135 and 140 there may be no one his equal.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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