By Jake Donovan
Mikey Garcia is prepared to defend his featherweight title against former two-division champ Juan Manuel Lopez. All he’s waiting on is for his potential future opponent to live up to his end of the bargain.
“I signed my contract. He needs to sign his,” Garcia (31-0, 26KO) told BoxingScene.com Wednesday evening, while providing online proof .
The bout – once official – will take place at American Airlines Arena in Dallas, at the 126 lb. featherweight limit. Garcia will make the first defense of the title he won from Orlando Salido earlier this year in New York City.
Lopez (33-2, 30KO) reigned as a 122 lb. titlist before moving up in weight to capture a belt at featherweight in January 2010. The Puerto Rican southpaw made two successful defenses before suffering a shocking knockout loss to Salido in April ’11, a bout that was recognized by Boxingscene.com as the 2011 Upset of the Year.
A failed attempt at avenging the loss was doubly punishing for Lopez. Not only was he knocked out in their rematch last March, but his post-fight inflammatory remarks towards referee Roberto Ramirez Sr. earned a lengthy suspension.
Lopez returned to the ring earlier this year, having scored two straight wins. His most recent victory came on April 20 in Mexico, though both bouts took place within the super featherweight limit.
There exists growing concern about his ability to make the featherweight limit. Weight served as a breaking point for a planned showdown with fellow Boricua brawler Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., a bout that would have landed on the same January card as Garcia’s win over Salido.
A catchweight of 128 lb. was suggested for this particular fight, but the contract signed by Garcia states a maximum weight of 126 lb., thus making it an official title fight.
Such a matchup was floated last year, had Lopez managed to defeat Salido in their rematch. Garcia fought on the undercard, tearing through Bernabe Concepcion in seven rounds to establish himself as the top non-titlist in the division.
He has since gained recognition as the best featherweight in the world, on the strength of his four-knockdown performance against Salido. The only letdown was their bout being cut short when a headbutt left the Californian with a broken nose and thus unable to continue following eight rounds.
The technical unanimous decision serves as the biggest win of his still rising career, though it snapped a streak of eight consecutive stoppage wins. The first knockout in the previous streak also serves as his last trip to Texas, when he stopped Cornelius Lock in 11 rounds.
With everything bigger in Texas, Garcia is looking for bigger and better things in his return to the Lone Star State.
“I’m very excited to be back in the ring,” Garcia stated. “I know it’s going to be a good fight. I’m (gonn)a do all I can to give a great fight for the fans.”
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