The Deck is Stacked Against Mikey Garcia
By: Brandon Bernica
Just 2 ½ years ago, Mikey Garcia reigned as the toast of the 130-pound division. He outclasses opponents, displaying pinpoint accuracy and knockout power. HBO loved him, and his promoter, Bob Arum, didn’t shy away from announcing his intentions to pit Garcia with Manny Pacquiao down the line. Flanked by his brother – well-respected trainer Robert Garcia – the opportunity to break into boxing’s elite was in the palm of Mikey’s hand.
And then, it all slipped away. Mikey became inactive, ensconced in a legal battle with Top Rank to escape his contract. There were no murmurs about returning to the ring, and, naturally, fight fans forgot about him. Meanwhile, Terence Crawford, the guy Mikey helped get signed by Top Rank, stole Garcia’s thunder and beat Yuriorkis Gamboa in a big fight Mikey was close to accepting. The win propelled Crawford to new heights while Garcia observed from the sidelines, helpless as the years the past on.
Garcia finally received his wishes when Top Rank released him from their stable after weighing that litigation wasn’t worth the headache. All indications point to him teaming with boxing’s top advisor/power broker Al Haymon, poised to start off fresh. Showtime already scooped him up and is marketing his July 30th return to prominence. But even with momentum finally swinging in his favor again, Garcia will now have an even greater uphill battle to the pinnacle of the sport.
Consider that a 2 ½ year hiatus from doing anything can disrupt your instincts, ruin your confidence, and plague your growth in that particular field. While it remains to be seen whether Garcia exhibits these symptoms, one can’t argue that ring rust will play a factor in his return. If he steps up in competition too quickly, he risks losing to less-skilled opponents simply because his tools aren’t sharp enough.
Another factor at play is Garcia’s love – or lack thereof – for boxing. He has stated on multiple occasions his distaste for the laborious work of training as a pro fighter. While his accomplishments ring even more impressively when taking that into account, it also leaves you wondering whether that mindset inhibited him from training properly in the interim. Boxing is its own truth-telling serum; if you don’t put in the work, you’ll be exposed.
From a marketing standpoint, groundwork must be laid to build him into a household name. Garcia’s fighting style is pragmatic but, at times, uneventful. This absence of sustained excitement inside the ring means Haymon will have to throw significant promotional muscle behind him. While Haymon thrived in contriving the careers of villains like Floyd Mayweather and Adrien Broner, his track record in building less polarizing stars has been less impressive. Most of the fighters on his PBC outfit are considered second-tier in talent and fanfare to HBO mainstays such as Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.
Of course, winning cures everything, or so they say. Beating opponents you’re supposed to beat can only take you so far, and with a talent disparity existent between Garcia and Haymon’s stable, that could be an issue. What if he eventually matches up with a Vasyl Lomachenko or a Terence Crawford? Consistent experience against top-notch fighters is crucial in preventing career stagnation, so Garcia better accumulate quality wins before fishing for the big tuna.
Young and talented, cerebral and decisive, Mikey Garcia’s ceiling sits higher than most. Yet there are still questions and factors that limit his potential as a fighter. No one enjoys seeing talent wasted, so losing the prime years of Garcia’s career would be a true travesty. One thing is clear, though: Garcia’s decisions inside and outside of the ring during his break will be heavily scrutinized, shaping the remainder of his career. Sadly, he may already be fighting from behind.