By Jake Donovan
It wasn't a spectacular follow up to his stellar 2013 campaign, but Mikey Garcia was effective in dominating Juan Carlos Burgos over 12 rounds Saturday evening at Madison Square Garden Theatre in New York City.
Scores were 118-110 (twice) and 119-109 in favor of Garcia, who made the first successful defense of the 130 lb. title he acquired last November.
There was no feeling out process in the opening round of the main event, with both fighters making their presence felt. Garcia was quicker to the draw, scoring with a left hook midway through the round for the first big punch of the fight. Burgos took the shot well, but wasn't able to score anything of note in return, instead settling for a series of range-finding jabs while coming up short with his right hand.
The closest to a threat of an upset came in round two, when Burgos connected with a right hand that briefly caused Garcia's knees to buckle. The unbeaten Californian rode out the scare, making it out of the round but receiving a lecture from his corner urging him to not grow overconfident.
Garcia offered a more disciplined performance in subsequent rounds, fighting at a steady pace and coming back to stagger Burgos in round three. A constant stream of jabs kept Burgos off-balanced, accentued by the occasional right hand to draw a rise of the capacity crowd on hand.
As the rounds progressed, Burgos' confidence and ring activety plummeted. The three-time title challenger reached a point where he knew - or sensed - that he wasn't going to win the fight.
Meanwhile, Garcia was content with what he had to offer over the balance of the fight - his complete arsenal, even if didn't result in a memorable finish.
"His height gave me difficulty," Garcia would admit at the end of the fight. "But I found my range and I found my distance and that was it."
Unfortunately for the fans in attendance, that was it for the remainder of the fight. Garcia pressed the action as best as he could, shooting straight right hands behind his purposeful jabs. It was a brilliant display of dominance, but not necessarily something the rabid, sold-out crowd of more than 5,000 was in the mood to see after such a lively undercard featuring several highlight reel knockouts.
Still, it was enough for Garcia to remain perfect as a pro, rolling to 34-0 (28KO) with the win.
Burgos comes up well short in his third - and possibly last bid at a major title. The rangy Mexican boxer falls to 30-2-2 (20KO), suffering his first loss since coming up short in his featherweight title bid versus Hozumi Hasegawa more than three years ago.
Garcia makes the first successful defense of any title reign enjoyed, having never been able to properly carry out his featherweight title reign, which began in this very venue with a win over Orlando Salido exactly 53 weeks ago. His stay atop the division was short lived, conceding the crown at the scales prior to his 4th round knockout of Juan Manuel Lopez last June.
An off-the-canvas 8th round stoppage of Rocky Martinez last November announced Garcia's arrival in the 130 lb. division, a weight class suddenly bursting with potential from fighters all around the globe.
Fortunately for the Californian, he needn't travel very far for future lucrative paydays. One such possibility for a future fight was present just on the other side of the ropes, with unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa in attendance at ringside.
The two have jawed at each other in the past, though with most of his recent attention directed towards Garcia's training stable mate Brandon Rios via their ongoing social media feud.
Such a fight would make far more sense than the idea of Garcia leaping in weight at a pace rapid enough to land as an opponent for Manny Pacquiao anytime in the near future. Such a float was once floated by promoter Bob Arum, but merely in passing yet now becoming a storyline that is being irresponsibly carried by far too many in the industry; Garcia himself is on record stating such a fight won't happen until he's ready to move up that far in weight.
Pacquiao, in the meantime, has his hands full with a recently signed rematch versus Tim Bradley, set for April 12 in Las Vegas. It's very possible that Garcia will know his next opponent by that point; just don't expect him to go on the hunt looking for his next paycheck.
"It doesn't matter to me who's next," Garcia confidently states. "If (Gamboa or any other top challenger) wants to sit down and put (a fight) on the table, that's what we will do. They know what they got to do, we know what we have to do."
For now, Garcia just has to keep winning. As evidenced Saturday night, he continues to do it as well as the best of them in the game today.
The bout served as the headlining act of the 2014 season premiere of HBO's Boxing After Dark series.
Bryant Jennings enjoyed a sensational network debut with a 10th round stoppage of Artur Szpilka. The battle of unbeaten heavyweights was a bit tepid early on, but quickly picked up steam and served as the perfect primer for the evening's nightcap.
Jennings (18-0, 10KO) scored two knockdowns, including a left hook upstairs to floor Szpilka (16-1, 12KO) in the 10th and final round. The blow was enough to force the stoppage, at 2:20 of round ten.
A full recap of the bout can be found HERE .
The balance of the undercard, which was carried live on Top Rank's website, was highlighted by Felix Verdejo exploding with a 1st round knockout of Lauro Alcantar. The sensational lightweight prospect from Puerto Rico, who was named Boxingscene.com 2013 Prospect of the Year needed just 21 seconds to deliver the knockout blow, a left hook that put Alcantar down and out.
The feat provided a common theme on the card, with all but one fight ending in knockout or stoppage. The lone bout to go to the cards saw Jesse Hart score a six-round shutout over Derrick Findley in their super middleweight bout. Hart, a second-generation boxer from Philly, unloaded for the duration of the bout, but cruised towards the end once it was realized that the iron-chinned Findley wasn't going anyhwere.
All of the action on the Top Rank-streamed undercard can be found HERE .
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox