Monday, March 2, 2020

Mikey Garcia Answers Questions With Convincing Win Over Jessie Vargas

In March 2019 an event took place in AT&T stadium in Dallas, TX that fit the criteria of what most would refer to as a “Super-Fight” in the sport of Boxing. The encounter between undefeated world champions Errol Spence and Mikey Garcia. Garcia, a multi-division world champion ranging from 126lb. Featherweight division to the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division, chose to challenge himself by moving up to the 147lb. Welterweight division to challenge Spence for his IBF world championship. A decision that many ranging from fans, to those who cover the sport, to those within his own camp questioned the wisdom of.

As most Boxing fans know, Garcia was able to hold his own in putting forth a spirited effort against a fighter in Spence that was simply too much for him to overcome on that March evening. Garcia would lose a twelve round unanimous decision to Spence and his undefeated record.

Although Garcia lost the fight, he was not disgraced in the ring and was very “Game” and classy in defeat. It was logical to question however, whether Garcia had reached his ceiling in terms of moving up in weight. Was the move to 147lbs. one step too far up the weight scale?

There have after all been many great fighters throughout the history of the sport who have been able to move up through multiple weight classes and win world championships along the way. With few exceptions however, are fighters able to consistently move up in weight and be able to maintain all of their attributes along the way. For some who are noted for having punching power at lower weights, the punches may not be as effective at a heavier weigh, while others may not have the same hand speed or lateral movement as compared to when they were competing at lower weights. One must also factor into the equation that while some fighters deprive themselves from competing at a more naturally comfortable weight either based on how effective they are at a lower weight or for the financial incentives that may be available by competing in a lower weight class, in most cases as a fighter moves up in weight they tend to face opposition tgat is naturally bigger and theoretically stronger.

Of course, there are other things that factor into the equation beyond mere size and strength that plays a significant role in what happens when two fighters get into the ring to do battle such as a fighter's tactical approach and Boxing style. Even though opinion was at best mixed concerning whether Garcia should remain at Welterweight, the former four-division world champion would choose to give it another chance as he would face former WBO Welterweight world champion Jessie Vargas in February 29th at the Ford Center in Frisco, TX.

Beyond this being an encounter between two former world champions who were each looking to gain further standing in the division towards potentially another opportunity at a world championship, what was of interest to this observer in this fight to see what approach Garcia would implement this time around and whether nearly one year of inactivity would be beneficial or detrimental to him.

In Jessie Vargas, Garcia faced a naturally bigger opponent who had held his own against the best that the Welterweight division has to offer during his career. It was also of interest to me to see if Vargas would try to impose his will on Garcia from the outset. Although Garcia was able to make a good account of himself against Errol Spence, as the fight progressed, Spence's naturally bigger size, power, and overall skill set became the difference. This fight against Jessie Vargas would serve as an indication as to whether the loss to Spence was a case od a great fighter having a bad night at the office against another great fighter or if Garcia had reached too far past his weight ceiling.

Jessie Vargas is a world-class fighter and was fully capable od asking the questions of Garcia that needed to be answered. For the first four rounds, this bout had all the appearance of a tactical chess match with both fighters having periods of effectiveness in rounds that were frankly difficult to score. It would be in round five that the ebb and flow of the fight would shift.

A right hand to the head buckled the legs of Vargas late in the round, this world be followed by a second right hand that would send the former Welterweight world champion down to the canvas. This clearly answered the question of whether Mikey Garcia had the punching power to hurt Welterweights. Vargas was able to get up from the knockdown, but it was from this point in the fight that Garcia was clearly in control of the momentum. 

It appeared for a period of time that the combination of Garcia’s hand speed and power might have been too much for Vargas as there were periods over the second half of the twelve round bout where it appeared that Garcia was on the verge of stopping Vargas. To his credit, the always “Game “ Vargas was able to weather the storm and even appeared to get the better of the action in some of the latter rounds of the fight. The combination of the knockdown as well as Garcia’s overall effectiveness throughout the fight proved to be the deciding factor as all three judges scored the fight in his favor giving him a convincing twelve round unanimous decision and his first win as a Welterweight.

Although it is too soon to say Mikey Garcia should be regarded as the top fighter in the Welterweight division, a convincing victory and overall solid performance over a former world champion and top contender in Jessie Vargas certainly puts him in the discussion of potential world title challengers. From a business standpoint, Garcia also figures to be in a good position. 

Garcia, who has spent the last several years of his career competing under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner, chose to sign with Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn for his fight against Jessie Vargas making it the first time he has competed on digital sports subscription streaming network DAZN, where Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing promotional branches have a lucrative long-term broadcast agreement. Although the agreement between Hearn and Garcia was believed to be a short-term deal, one could assume that DAZN will be making an offer to Garcia to keep him on their network going forward.

What makes this interesting and potentially more lucrative for Garcia and all concerned is the ramblings that have begun to surface that were even acknowledged on DAZN’s broadcast of the Garcia-Vargas fight that there is a possibility that Manny Pacquiao, who has competed recently under the PBC banner could be a free agent promotionally. In terms of what this could mean for Mikey Garcia is Pacquiao is the current Welterweight world champion of the World Boxing Association (WBA) and even in what some might consider to be the twilight of his career, his current standing as well as legendary status in the sport is such where he is in demand and will likely go to the highest bidder in terms of both promotional and broadcast rights.

Since it’s inception in the United States along with the decision of HBO to exit Boxing after forty-five years in 2018, DAZN has proven to be a worthy successor to the network once known as “The Network Of Champions” in terms of their presentation of Boxing and overall value of content. This along with a solid and expanding global subscriber-base would appear to make DAZN an ideal candidate to make an offer to Manny Pacquiao, who’s global appeal is not limited to Boxing or the United States. As the network looks to continue to expand into different markets around the world, a fighter of Pacquiao’s stature competing on and helping to market their platform global would appear to be an ideal fit.

While the possibility of Pacquiao competing on DAZN in the near future is speculation at this point in time, the network has also shown the ability and willingness to put on the best fights possible for their subscribers while also proving that they do not need a traditional network platform like those of traditional cable networks or pay-per-view to be successful. Pacquiao’s status in the sport along with what would likely be a lucrative payday for Garcia has to be appealing and may indeed be a better option than continuing to face other contenders in the hope of securing another opportunity at a Welterweight world championship if a possible fight with Pacquiao is on the table for him under the DAZN banner.

For the moment, Garcia has succeeded in making an argument for himself that perhaps his outing against Errol Spence was simply a bad night at the office for a great fighter. The question now becomes who will Garcia’s next test comes against as he looks to continue navigating the waters of the crowded and talent-deep Welterweight division.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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