Making a first defense of a world title is a daunting and perilous task, especially against a Puerto Rican with power.
Mikey Garcia is about to make that discovery.
Garcia (pictured above in Chris Farina-Top Rank photo, with young fans at a workout; 31-0, 26 Kos) defends the WBO featherweight world title against Puerto Rico’s Juan Manuel Lopez (33-2, 30 Kos) on Saturday, June 15 in Dallas. HBO will televise the first title defense for the Southern Californian.
Winning a world title is one thing, defending the world title is like holding a wiggling rattlesnake and trying not to let its fangs sink venom into your arm. One mistake can result in catastrophic circumstances.
Lopez can be catastrophic to one’s health. In 35 fights the Puerto Rican has sent 30 foes into the ozone of consciousness. The jaw busting fighter known as “Juanma” has destroyed nearly everyone in front of him, except for Mexico’s Orlando Salido. Boxing is funny that way. One guy can beat the other guy but can’t beat this guy.
Last January, Garcia demonstrated a clinical exhibition of how to defeat Salido as he out-boxed, out-hit and out-maneuvered the veteran Salido for eight rounds. Then, an intentional head butt forced a technical decision that Garcia won easily.
It was a bloody baptism for Garcia in winning the world title.
Lopez feels that Garcia was lucky in fighting for the title against a guy he already tenderized with his southpaw power blows. The Puerto Rican believes that Salido was well done and ready to order.
“I say that because after he fought me, in the fights he had afterwards, he had a lot of trouble. He was knocked down by Yamaguchi (in round 3),” said Lopez about Mexico’s Salido.“I think he was beat up by me, and that may be wrong for me to say, but I know he wasn’t as fresh when he fought Mikey as when he was fighting me.”
The Puerto Rican lefty bomber has a good point. History has shown that many times after a fighter engages in a brutal war something intangible from both participants is left behind in the boxing ring. Maybe it’s just a little slice of their fighting heart or a notch taken away from their razor reflexes. It happens often.
Garcia is a wizard when it comes to deciphering a fighter’s strengths and weaknesses like so many pixels in a digital camera. Whether the fight develops into a long range smart bomb strategy or an in-close eyeball to eyeball battle of bighorn rams, the Moreno Valley prizefighter practices the art of boxing with a dedication worthy of a concert composer virtuoso.
Details of attack and exit strategies are planned with his father Eduardo Garcia and brother Robert Garcia that would impress a squad of U.S. Navy Seals. Everything is tinkered with and adjusted like a high-tech weapon prepared for modern warfare. This is not Napoleonic era stuff with armies lining up in rows to combat opposing rows of armies. It’s advanced computerized warfare style of prizefighting that strikes with precision at the most inconvenient time.
When Salido fought Garcia it was like watching a World War I general using weapons of 1917 trying to out-fight a computerized M-1 Abrams tank. It just didn’t compare. Frustrated with the shellacking he took, the Mexican fighter opted to resort to plan X and butted Garcia with a ploy from Evander Holyfield’s playbook: fire the right toward the left of Garcia and come in with the head. The head caught Garcia flush. It didn’t matter. The Southern Californian was too far ahead.
One problem with modern high-tech prizefighting is still you must input all of the information needed to carry out the plan. Plus, one must execute with precision and never lose focus.
Garcia is confident that he can carry out his plan.
“I have prepared with my brother (Robert Garcia) and my dad for many scenarios,” said Mikey Garcia, who trains in Riverside. “I’ll do whatever it takes to win because I am prepared for it.”
Still, it’s a dangerous fight. One false move and a rattlesnake can strike even against a 21st century tank. If the hatch is left open, anything can happen.