Jan 25, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Mikey Garcia (blue/silver trunks) and Juan Carlos Burgos (red/white/green trunks) box during their WBO junior lightweight title bout at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Garcia won via unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

With Only A Hint: Mikey Garcia W12 Juan Carlos Burgos

****

The latest grooming session in the career of Mikey Garcia saw him score a unanimous decision over Juan Carlos Burgos last night at the Theater in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

It is easy to understand why Top Rank has hitched its wagon to the smooth operating Garcia. Once the third member of a Top Rank triumvirate featuring Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez, Garcia has long given the impression of being not only the best fighter among the three, but the one whose career is most carefully and concertedly orchestrated. Lopez, whom Garcia splayed in four pathetic rounds last June, fell victim to irreconcilable differences between his competitive fury and the technique and toughness needed to gratify it. And Gamboa, who unlike Lopez has plenty of fight left, becomes less and less compelling with every forgettable performance. He is best remembered for bailing on a fight with Brandon Rios before jumping ship to a fledgling promotional company that places part of its future in the hands of Andre Dirrell.

Garcia, 26, is neither as reckless as Lopez nor as flakey as Gamboa. He gives every indication of understanding the stakes, and the relationship between his ability to give the people what they want today, and his power to shape what they want in the future.

This understanding is reflected in the way he fights. A slow starter, Garcia, Oxnard California, will ignore the crowd’s cries for action until the threat before him is sussed out, whereupon he ratchets up his activity and exploits openings he merely logged earlier. He gives the crowd the violence they pay to see—Garcia has stopped his last eleven opponents prior to meeting Burgos—but does so on his own terms. Fighting his fight, Garcia has looked nearly flawless save for a flash knockdown against Rocky Martinez and some shakey moments against roughneck Orlando Salido. This calculated dominance is one of the reasons he is being built as a future opponent for Manny Pacquiao. With Pacquiao on the horizon, Garcia must keep winning—as he did, with only a hint of danger, on Saturday night.

Burgos, Tijuana, Mexico, tried to make a fight of it early, doubling and tripling his jab, and mixing crosses to the head and body. Parrying and slipping effectively, Garcia refused to be shucked. When he did open up with a right hand in the second round, Burgos, 26, countered with a left hook that wobbled Garcia like a stubborn bowling pin. Garcia, 129, returned the favor the following round, countering a left hook with a crisp right hand that forced Burgos to hold on. After the bell, as he would for seemingly every round from then on, Garcia extended a fist in the air; a gesture that felt more like an effort to establish a connection with the crowd than to symbolize his dominance. There is indeed a shiny polish on this potential new idol.

But it was boxing, not histrionics, that made Garcia’s dominance obvious. Once Garcia established distance, Burgos, 129, struggled to find a safe range; and while he continued to fire off jabs and crosses, his activity dipped as Garcia came on. Rarely willing to sit down on his punches once Garcia committed to his own, Burgos essentially mitigated his own threat. Garcia picked up on his opponent’s reluctance and let his offense bloom a bit, firing lead left hooks, precise one-twos, and landing all of the heavy blows. Burgos, 30-2-2 (20), never completely cowed to the pressure, but remained only active enough to resemble the menace it will take to undo Garcia. Having established pole position early, Garcia held it as the remaining laps expired. The boos drowned out the cheers in the final round and both gave way to silence as the scores were read: 118-110, 119-109, and 119-109 for Garcia.

Looking very much the total package wrapped in papel picado, Garcia, 34-0 (28), is a fighter who not only excites the imagination, but has the support of the Mexican and Mexican-American fanbases. There is no better foundation to build a draw upon. If he is being primed for Pacquiao, and Top Rank gaffer Bob Arum has stated as much, Garcia will have to move to welterweight quickly: not only is Pacquiao running out of saleable opponents, he has a difficult fight against Tim Bradley slated for April, and the Filipino cash cow is already seeing diminished returns on his performances. The torch must be passed while it still bears a flame.

Whatever the long-term plans for him, Garcia is moving to lightweight in his next fight, with the aforementioned Gamboa probably having talked himself into being the opponent. There should be enough history between the former promotional stablemates to drudge up a narrative, and Gamboa’s speed, power, and vulnerability will also help sell the matchup. For all his hype, for all his substance, there is a festering—though still manageable—indifference surrounding Garcia stemming from the lack of intrigue in his recent fights. It will be interesting to see if the selection of Gamboa checks that. A lesser threat certainly will not.

****

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Tags: Juan Carlos Burgos Mikey Garcia

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  • Double L

    It was refreshing to read a take that didn’t shit all over Garcia’s performance. The common lazy narrative after the fight was “well, that confirms it, this kid isn’t a star”. I guess our instant-gratification-140 characters-or-less culture extends to boxing, where nowadays every fighter has to absolutely demolish his opponent every time out. Somehow I don’t remember that being the case a generation ago. Burgos was a great step in Garcia’s development. It was always going to be difficult for Garcia to destoy Burgos because of Burgos’ height and, well, no one has actually done that to him, ever. I guess winning 10 out of 12 rounds isn’t enough for some. Also, Garcia wasn’t exactly “Rigondeaux-ing” either. Perhaps Top Rank erred in putting this fight in NYC if the objective was to get the east coast masses excited about Garcia. An opponent more likely to end the fight on his back would have been a better choice in that case.

    I do hope they don’t rush him up to welterweight for a Pacquaio fight. Alas, “The Cold War” is not only bad for fans but bad for a young fighter’s development. There are tons of fights for Garcia at 140 but most potential opponents are under GB banner. Still, sign me up for Garcia-Gamboa. That is a tough fight for Mikey. Gamboa has the speed and power (I think) to land a fight-changing shot. Garcia dealt with some minor adversity against Burgos, but a similar wobble against Gamboa would likely be a different kettle of fish.

    • Jimmy Tobin

      Hi Double L,

      Burgos is a good fighter, and save for a left hook early, Garcia pretty much handled him. I understand the criticism though: Garcia, like Rigo, like Donaire, isn’t exactly entertaining if the guy across from him isn’t willing to risk his neck. From a business perspective that’s fine, especially since Top Rank have big plans for Mikey, but you can’t continue to fight that way and not expect some backlash. Rigo may have been boring against Donaire, but Garcia has never faced a fighter as good as Donaire, so he can’t even fall back on the level of competition defense. Garcia has proven that he’s a very good fighter, and I expect him to splatter Gamboa (though Gamboa will be dangerous early). Should that fight happen, it’ll be the only Garcia fight I’ve cared about since Salido. I need to see him tested. That’s not a criticism of his skills – it’s a reaction to his performances. But he’s the goods, and the Burgos fight further confirmed it.

      Like you, I think they need to slow his roll a bit. There are opponents for him at 135 and 140, but maybe those guys get him knocked off? Would Terence Crawford give him hell? What about Provodnikov or Alvarado? The longer he waits on the Pacquiao fight, the longer the expectation for him to be in a compelling fight, but a compelling fight against one of those guys might get him knocked off, no? Then where’s the Manny fight? Are they rushing him to Manny because Garcia’s ready? Or are they rushing him to Manny because lingering is dangerous? Not sure.

      Thanks for reading!