by Cliff Rold
Navigating the minefield from pro debut to first major title for a blue chip talent isn’t easy. On Saturday night, the expert handling of Mikey Garcia culminated with a four-knockdown WBO title victory.
The future might just be here at Featherweight. Garcia, only 25, is clearly the leader of the pack among young Featherweights in class. Only Indonesia’s Chris John can make any sort of argument in this moment as being the class leader period.
It was everything one could ask for in a breakthrough win short of a satisfying ending.
Oh, that ending.
Let’s go the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Salido B-; Garcia B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Salido B; Garcia B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Salido B+; Garcia B/Post: Salido C+; Garcia B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Salido B+; Garcia B/Post: B+; B+
Salido has been on the deck plenty over the years. In recent fare, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Weng Haya, and Juan Manuel Lopez have all sent him to the floor. Garcia didn’t take as long, dumping him twice in the first, once in the third, and questionably in the fourth. Oddly, none of those moments appeared to leave Salido as hurt as he appeared in some later spots but that can be the beauty of the knockdown.
It doesn’t have to hurt worst to end on the floor. Knockdowns can be generated with precision timing and excellent leverage. Garcia has both in abundance. He can crack so sometimes his boxing ability at range can be overlooked. He employs educated footwork and knows how to control a fight off the jab. It’s solid stuff.
And no surprise. His brother and trainer, Robert Garcia, was an immensely talented boxer. It’s in the genes and passed on in the gym.
Where Garcia still needs work is on the inside and defensively. Salido showed, again, that he can be a sucker for a right hand. When they got close, Garcia mostly opted to hold. He doesn’t seem comfortable getting into close combat yet. It could be a product of strategy. There was no way he was going to fight Salido’s fight. It could also be it’s just not where he excels.
There will be fighters who can exploit that over the years if it’s the case. It won’t be easy.
Salido might be part of Garcia’s ‘over the years’ given the ending of the fight. A rematch at some point might occur, if only because both remain with Top Rank and a lot of other featherweight talent is over at Golden Boy. It’s the reality we live with. It isn’t a rematch that screams must.
Salido has never been the most consistent guy at the top level. His dramatic wins over Juan Manuel Lopez made for short memories and obscured a lot of the rest of his career. He’s a good, game, tough guy but he’s also struggled badly in the past with fighters both elite and not so elite. Weng Haya had him dropped and hurt worse last year. He wasn’t in Garcia’s league and couldn’t make the most of it.
But Salido merits credit for getting up and keeping forward. He looked like he won the seventh and was still trying all the way. It didn’t look like a win was in the cards, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
The headbutt that ended things took away any chance for late drama and was a bad end for the fight. Does anyone recall a stranger technical decision finish? A broken nose in boxing is a fairly common occupational hazard. Garcia’s corner seemed far to fine with letting the fight go to the cards. Garcia said after the bout he “should” have gone on.
He’s right. If the fight was close, would his corner have been so calm about the doctor’s look? Robert Garcia let Antonio Margarito take lasting damage to his eye not long ago against Manny Pacquiao under different circumstances. This was a headbutt, ruled accidental and looking to have been just that on review. It created a situation where a practical option to go home with a win and fight another day opened up.
It wasn’t unreasonable or unintelligent. It also doesn’t deserve any applause. Fighters have been up in fights and suffered wounds (cuts, broken noses etc.) many times over the years due to incidental fouls. They could go on and made clear they wanted to. Moments like that are often where great drama comes from in a fight.
That ending sucked all the drama, or chance of drama, out of the room. Garcia has a long career in front of him and is likely to be in fights that make all of this irrelevant. It still would have been nice to see a little more fire, and a little less pragmatism, on display Saturday.
This should have been a clean 4-0 picks week on winners. The judges didn’t just screw Juan Carlos Burgos against Roman Martinez on Saturday. They screwed up this author’s totals. The Burgos part is way worse...Dan Rafael at ESPN blogged that a Floyd Mayweather-Timothy Bradley fight might be in the works. When one considers how ridiculous the idea of Bradley facing Jr. Lightweight Yuriorkis Gamboa would probably be, it makes one wonder if that ‘might’ is strong. Bradley-Gamboa smacks of a smokescreen. Either that or Top Rank really has a hard on for moving Gamboa way up in weight for some reason.
Report Card Picks 2013: 3-1
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]