By Jake Donovan
Mikey Garcia insisted that he had no intention of losing his featherweight title in his very first defense.
That dream died on the scales Friday afternoon, when the unbeaten rising star missed weight by two pounds for Saturday’s HBO-televised showdown with former champ Juan Manuel Lopez.
A six-figure settlement later, the show still goes on live from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. The belt Garcia brought into town is now only at stake for Lopez (33-2, 30KO), who has won two straight since returning from a lengthy suspension following his second loss to Orlando Salido last year.
Lopez ran into trouble when making defamatory comments towards referee Roberto Ramirez Sr., insisting the third man and his son (who officiated Lopez’ title losing effort to Salido the year prior) were on the take and that he was the victim of a premature – and predetermined – stoppage. The comments netted the Puerto Rican southpaw a year on the sidelines, though the suspension was modified to roughly nine months.
Garcia (31-0, 26KO) appeared on the undercard of Lopez’ second loss to Salido, coming up big himself in a dominant stoppage win over Bernabe Concepcion. Much of his career has played out in that fashion, overwhelming opponents without ever looking like he’s expending any energy.
The same was the case in his HBO-televised stoppage win over former titlist Jonathan Barros, setting the stage for his first title claim, a lopsided technical decision win over Salido this past January. Garcia sent the defending titlist to the canvas four times within the first four rounds, but was forced to quit on his stool after eight rounds due to a broken nose that severely impaired his breathing ability.
A lengthy stay atop the featherweight mountain is most likely not in his future. Even with a win tonight, Garcia appears destined for the super featherweight division. So too does Lopez, unless he is able to win the title tonight and then coax Nonito Donaire – Garcia’s stablemate – to move up in weight for his next fight.
Who will get their way tonight and thus setting up a bright feature? Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes the biggest fight of this weekend will play out.
PREDICTIONS – MIKEY GARCIA vs. JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ
“I think that the Garcia-Lopez fight will be more competitive than people expect for the first 5-6 rounds. I think JuanMa will land a couple of big shots early on that get the Mexican-American's attention. Garcia is a very patient fighter and I expect him to be no different in this fight. The second half of the fight will be when Garcia starts to pick apart the Puerto Rican and I think he still stop him in the 10th.”
- Ryan Burton (Garcia TKO10)
“I will go a bit against the grain and predict that this one sees the final bell. Garcia’s where he is by avoiding the type of war that everyone is expecting here. JuanMa will try his hardest to make it a slugfest, to which Garcia will exploit by piling up rounds. Moments of competitiveness will make the bout entertaining, but never truly competitive.”
- Jake Donovan (Garcia UD)
“I know all the reasons why Garcia should win - skill, momentum, a convincing victory over a common opponent. Still, I can't help but think Lopez has at least one more of the efforts in him that made him one of the sport's biggest young stars not all that long ago.”
- Lyle Fitzsimmons (Lopez TKO10)
“I feel Lopez will make this a war while it lasts. I agree with Cliff when he says he may have been written off too soon. Lopez has a lot to lose a challenger. He will be willing to go out on his shield and unfortunately for him he probably will. I expect Garcia to box well early until Lopez drags him into a dog fight. Lopez will have the edge in the middle rounds until fading allowing the younger fresher Garcia to drop him multiple times en route to a 10th round TKO.”
- Tim Kudgis (Garcia TKO10)
“Lopez is still game. Garcia is for real. Garcia bested Lopez's conqueror and he will conqueror Lopez as well, albeit by taking some punishment himself.”
- Richard Nadjowksi (Garcia TKO7)
“A few years back, I liked Mikey Garcia's chances of emerging as a top featherweight champion, and with his and Lopez's careers having been heading in separate directions in recent years, it's hard to go against him here. I like Garcia to stay smart, pick his shots against Lopez, and eventually break through and score a late TKO.”
- Chris Robinson (Garcia late TKO)
“Garcia KO Lopez: Part of me thinks Lopez is being way too written off, and that Garcia is still far from proven. However, in terms of technical soundness, Garcia is rock solid and Lopez still walks into blind shots. Add in worsening reactions to shots over time and this looks like Garcia finding a KO shot sometime in the second half.”
- Cliff Rold (Garcia late TKO)
“Lopez is a heavy underdog but I think the Puerto Rican warrior gives a valiant effort. I expect to see Lopez get off to a fast start and actually find success early on. The success will be short lived as Garcia will begin to figure him out. JuanMa will resort to going to war (what he does best) but will pay the price for it once again as he's stopped late in the 10th.”
- Luis Sandoval (Garcia TKO10)
“Juanma isn't playing it safe, that's for sure. However, after losing in almost back-to-back atomic collisions with Orlando Salido, he would have better be padding his way up with Aldimars and Olivers of the world. Against young, rough and surprisingly calm Garcia, Lopez will be in trouble all night long. He can surely land several nasty blows, but will it be enough to stop Mikey in his tracks? Hardly believable; Garcia, while putting a steady pressure, will (sooner or later) find a great spot for his right hand. Lopez can survive it a couple of times, but the end is inevitable - a kayo win for Garcia.”
- Alexey Sukachev (Garcia TKO7)
"As game as JuanMa is, as willing as he is to engage in highly entertaining fights it's that very reason that I think it end early. Garcia is too precise for JuanMa to go after with any abandon and he catches JuanMa early and often." - Ernest Gabion (Garcia KO4)
Totals: Mikey Garcia 10, Juan Manuel Lopez 1
The featherweight championships between Miguel Angel ‘Mikey’ Garcia and Juan Manuel ‘JuanMa’ Lopez takes place Saturday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. The bout headlines an HBO-televised doubleheader, which begins at 10:45PM ET (9:45PM local time).
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox