Later this month WBC lightweight champ Mikey Garcia 38-0 (30) will fight a unification bout with IBF titlist Robert Easter 21-0 (14). Some observers seem to be over-thinking the fight, nothing new there, suggesting Easter could be Garcia’s stumbling block – but don’t buy into it. Under the best case scenario, Easter goes the distance and loses a lopsided decision, but it’s more likely that Mikey will stop him.
Garcia, in preparation for Easter, continues to bring up IBF welterweight title holder Errol Spence as a soon-to-be potential opponent. Some have scoffed at the thought of Mikey fighting Spence and think it’s a pipe dream. I know I am tired of hearing about it because that’s not a fight on anyone’s radar. But Garcia isn’t the only elite fighter doing his best fighting with his vocabulary. The pillow fight Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder are having in the media, with both accusing the other of holding up their fight, has run its course. Add to that the cheap shots Team Canelo and Team Golovkin are taking at each other literally every day and it’s a complete bore. And then there are the Charlo “Lions,” who talk and fight really good, yet always seem to find a reason to miss fighting the most formidable opponent available in their next fight.
The talk isn’t a bad thing; it helps a fighter craft his so-called brand. The worst thing in 2018 is being brand-less to the point where fans could take or leave you. I’ve pointed out from time to time how two of the best fighters in boxing, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence, are a little vanilla out of the ring – and if that doesn’t change, it’ll hurt their income when they eventually meet…even though the pairing just might be the most fascinating fight you could realize in boxing.
In this space it’s been chronicled that Terence Crawford is the most complete, stylistically versatile and overall greatest pound for pound fighter in boxing. Vasyl Lomachenko is the most dynamic and disruptive stylistically, and Mikey Garcia, with his textbook form, is the most technically sound and fundamentally efficient. But there’s no doubt that Lomachenko’s eye catching style sets him apart from other fighters. Plus there’s the perception that he’s more inexperienced than he actually is; he should have six more fights tacked onto his record from the World Series of Boxing. So of the three, he’s clearly the biggest media star.
Lomachenko, 11-1 (9) has won titles at 126, 130 and 135 just as Mikey Garcia has. Other than Garcia’s one fight excursion up to 140 to pick up the IBF super-lightweight title from Sergey Lipinets, he’s still thought of as primarily a lightweight. Mikey consistently talks about leaving a legacy, and apparently he believes a win over Spence would benefit him more than beating Lomachenko.
“I think Lomachenko is an easier fight for me so I would rather take on a more difficult fight,” Garcia said. “After Errol Spence, I would welcome Lomachenko at 135 and I’d meet him there. Again, I just want the opportunity to show everybody that I’m not here just racking up wins over nobody. I’m beating champions and taking on the big tests, big fights and biggest challenges. The biggest challenge available is the one I’m going to go after.”
Now that may fool some, but I believe it is just a ploy. Garcia has a built-in parachute fighting Spence that he doesn’t have with Lomachenko. And that is, he’s not supposed to beat Spence, sort of like Sugar Ray Leonard wasn’t supposed to beat Marvin Hagler, but the reward for the risk if he were to beat Spence would be epic and the high water mark of his career, just as Leonard’s win over Hagler serves as his high water mark today 31 years later. If the bigger and more powerful Spence were to beat Garcia, and I have no doubt he would, it wouldn’t be much of a ding on his record but losing to Lomachenko would be a different story.
Garcia and Lomachenko are nearly the same size and their career paths starting as featherweights and dominating through lightweight are similar. Moreover, Garcia losing to Lomachenko would be the fight he’d be most remembered for. (That’s unless he went up to welterweight and beat Spence, who very well could be a junior middleweight by then.) The bottom line is that even though Spence is undefeated and Lomachenko is not, beating Lomachenko would be considered a greater feat in 2018 than beating Spence.
The three most anticipated fights in boxing right now are Joshua vs. Wilder, Crawford vs. Spence and Lomachenko vs. Mikey Garcia. I’ve yet to speak or correspond with a single boxing fan or insider who has mentioned they can’t wait to see Mikey fight Spence, not a one. Instead they marvel at the thought of Mikey touching gloves with Lomachenko.
The most important ingredient that a super fight needs is the “I can’t pick the winner” factor. Why is the first fight between “Smokin” Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali still considered the biggest and most anticipated fight in boxing history? The reason is obvious. Yes, both being undefeated and only 27 and 29 along with having contrasting styles played a big part, but it wasn’t the biggest hook for the fight. The biggest intrigue of the fight was that it was impossible to picture either of them losing to the other, and yet we knew that on Tuesday morning, March 9, 1971, the day after the fight, that one would be a defeated fighter. What sets Lomachenko-Garcia apart from Joshua-Wilder and Crawford-Spence is that (although I could easily be wrong), I can build a solid case supporting Joshua over Wilder and Crawford over Spence. If they were meeting this weekend, that’s who I would pick. That doesn’t apply to Lomachenko and Garcia. Depending on the day, I go back and forth on who I’d favor.
Barring a major upset, Garcia is going to beat Robert Easter on the 28th and hold both the WBC and IBF titles at lightweight. Lomachenko holds the WBA title and it’s pretty much a given he’ll fight WBO titlist Ray Beltran late this year, and he’ll be a two belt holder after the fight, setting up a dream match between Lomachenko and Garcia for the undisputed lightweight title. And that’s the fight everyone wants to see because nobody thinks Garcia is ready for Spence right now and other than being a gimmick the fight has no juice.
I bet I’m in the majority in wanting to see Mikey fight Lomachenko soon and before he tangles with Spence. Beat Lomachenko first and earn Fighter of the Year and then move up to welterweight and challenge Spence if he’s still there.
If Lomachenko, as Mikey suggests, is the easier fight, then press for a clash with him and give the fans what they want!
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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