By: Hector Franco
Four-division world champion Mikey Garcia (40-1, 30 KOs) will make his return to the ring this weekend at Chukchansi Park baseball stadium in downtown Fresno, CA, live on streaming app DAZN.
He will be taking on the relatively unknown Spanish southpaw Sandor Martin (38-2, 13 KOs) in a ten-round welterweight contest.
Garcia was last seen in the squared circle in February 2020, when he took on former junior welterweight titleholder and WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas. The fight with Vargas took place right before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and is arguably one of Garcia’s most notable victories.
Less than a year earlier, in March 2019, Garcia was in the most important fight of his career from a financial and competitive standpoint when he took on unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr.
The fight with Spence was his first at welterweight, and Spence would prove to be not only too big for Garcia, but also too skilled. Spence won all 12 rounds on the three judge’s scorecards.
Since then, Garcia’s career has been at somewhat of a standstill.
After numerous attempts to make a colossal box-office fight with eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao, the fight never came to fruition. A match with former junior welterweight champion Regis Prograis was talked about taking place as well, but went by the wayside.
Before the fight with Spence, Garcia was seen as one of the best fighters in the world, pound-for-pound. He, along with Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, is the only fighter to become a four-division champion to hold titles at featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, and super lightweight.
The lack of activity and time out of the ring has caused Garcia to lose momentum as one of the premier fighters in the sport. He fought once in 2019, 2020 and will fight just once in 2021. He is not the only fighter to suffer from inactivity and loss of momentum. Well-known fighters like Keith Thurman and Gennadiy Golovkin have also fallen victim to their careers plateauing.
However, for the 33-year old Garcia, this isn’t the first time his boxing career has come to a halt.
From January 2014 to July 2016, Garcia was kept on the boxing sidelines due to a contract dispute with then promoter Top Rank. In April 2014, Garcia sued the promoter in an attempt to get out of his contract. The dispute wasn’t settled until two years later, in April 2016, allowing Garcia to pursue alternative promotional avenues.
This was one of the most challenging portions of Garcia’s boxing career in and out of the ring.
“There were times where it was very tough,” Garcia said to Mark Kriegel in an interview with Showtime Sports in 2016. “Moments where I was pretty stressed out. I didn’t know what was going to happen. You didn’t have a sight of when this was going to be over.
“A lot of money. It cost me a lot of money.”
In 2014, Garcia was seen as one of the next potential upcoming stars in the sport, having won titles at featherweight and super featherweight. A fight with then-undefeated Yuriorkis Gamboa was set to take place, and talks of a potential match with Manny Pacquiao were even discussed.
Fortunately, Garcia’s firm stance on not folding to Top Rank worked out for him when he returned under the Premier Boxing Champions platform as a free agent.
While Garcia made his return in the summer of 2016, scoring a fifth-round stoppage against Elio Rojas, it wasn’t until 2017 where he began to get his career back on track.
Garcia started the year by scoring a brutal third-round knockout over Dejan Zlaticanin to win the WBC lightweight championship. He then headed into a junior welterweight fight with the loquacious and controversial Adrien Broner in July 2017, headlining a card at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The California fighter scored a dominant unanimous decision over Broner. After Broner, Garcia continued to fight in the junior welterweight division, winning the IBF title in the weight class, scoring a unanimous decision over Sergey Lipinets in March 2018.
Following his foray at 140-pounds, there was a call from fans and media for Garcia to return to the lightweight division. Many fans were looking forward to a fight with Jorge Linares or a summit meeting between two pound-for-pound fighters against Vasiliy Lomachenko.
The fight with Lomachenko was always a long shot as the Ukrainian was and still is promoted by Top Rank. Recognizing the history between Garcia and Top Rank, it’s clear that unless one of the two parties were willing to compromise, a fight with Lomachenko would never take place.
Instead of facing Linares or Lomachenko, Garcia took on Robert Easter Jr. in July 2018 in a WBC and IBF lightweight unification match. Garcia scored a knocked down in the third round and outclassed the Ohio native to win a wide unanimous decision.
Following the fight with Easter, Garcia was at the pinnacle of his career thus far. He was recognized as one of the best in the world with multiple options and fights that fans were clamoring for and a legitimate draw in the sport.
However, with the move up to welterweight, the loss to Spence, and his overall inactivity, Garcia finds himself starting back over.
“It’s been a year and a half since my last fight, so I am excited to get back in there,” Garcia stated. “ I am looking forward to giving my fans a chance to see me again, especially here in Cali, it’s my home state, but I haven’t fought much here.
“I want to pursue big fights, title fights, and be recognized as one of the best fighters in the world once again. This is another step in that direction.”
As a four-division champion, Garcia may have already stamped himself as a potential Hall-of-Famer. Still, examining his career, he lacks the credentials and intangibles of being considered great. As of now, he has been good, but not remarkable.
At featherweight in his first title defense, he lost the title on the scales in a defense against Puerto Rico’s Juan Manuel Lopez. He then moved up to junior lightweight and won the WBO title against Puerto Rico’s Roman Martinez by eighth-round stoppage.
After one title defense against Juan Carlos Burgos in January 2014, he went on his two-year plus hiatus. At lightweight, Garcia did become the unified champion; however, at junior welterweight, he never made any defense of his IBF title.
Between four weight classes, Garcia has made two title defenses if you include the unification bout at lightweight against Robert Easter. Garcia’s skill level with the proverbial eye test trumps his resume.
This upcoming portion is the most crucial of Garcia’s career. Going over his relatively less than stellar resume, he now has the chance in what may be the final part of his career to truly establish himself as a great fighter.
There are opportunities presently for Garcia that will give him the chance to be seen as more than just someone who was really good to great. On Saturday night against Sandor Martin, he will take the first step in gaining back his momentum.
“I don’t see myself at Lightweight ever again, but I can see 140,” said Garcia. “There are some very good names at the weight, Josh Taylor is a great champion, and if some of the guys at 135 look to move up, so there are big fights at 140.
“I just have to keep winning. Victory on Saturday and then getting another win against someone like Regis, I think that should create enough attention to land a fight with Taylor. He’s the undisputed champion, and that’s the biggest fight that I could engage in at the weight, of course.”
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