By Keith Idec
Mikey Garcia was blunt about why he’ll fight Sergey Lipinets next, not Jorge Linares.
The unbeaten WBC lightweight champion was offered more money to battle Lipinets for the hard-hitting Kazakh’s IBF junior welterweight title than he would’ve earned for moving back down to lightweight to face Linares.
“It’s part of the business of boxing,” Garcia told BoxingScene.com. “Just like I see Golden Boy [Promotions] looking out for the best interests of their company, I also have to look out for my best interests, the best business for Mikey Garcia.”
The best business for Garcia is to challenge Lipinets in a “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event February 10 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, where they went face-to-face during a press conference Tuesday.
Garcia hasn’t confirmed what he’ll make to challenge Lipinets. Multiple industry insiders have informed BoxingScene.com that his total compensation package will be roughly $3.5 million, a concerted effort to keep Garcia affiliated with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions for at least one more fight.
That’s a substantial purse for a non-pay-per-view bout, but it was considered a necessary incentive to keep Garcia from facing Linares in a fight that could’ve been broadcast by HBO, Showtime’s premium cable rival. Regardless, it won’t prohibit Garcia from re-engaging in negotiations with Oscar De La Hoya’s promotional company for a subsequent bout with Linares, assuming he and Linares win their upcoming matches.
“We both want that fight,” Garcia said. “Linares and myself want that fight. It’s hard when the business doesn’t allow it to happen. But we, myself and Golden Boy, said we would both take a fight in between. He’s fighting January 27th. I’m fighting February the 10th. We agreed that right after my fight we would get back together and start having a conversation about maybe getting a fight with Linares sometime in the summer.”
Golden Boy initially offered Garcia a fight against Miguel Cotto on December 2 at Madison Square Garden. Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs) was willing to move up two more weight classes to oppose Puerto Rico’s Cotto (41-6, 33 KOs) in the final fight of his Hall-of-Fame career, but Garcia didn’t want to sign a multi-fight promotional agreement with Golden Boy.
Cotto lost a unanimous decision that night to Brooklyn’s Sadam Ali (26-1, 14 KOs), another Golden Boy boxer who was a huge underdog.
Had Garcia accepted the terms of the Cotto deal, that agreement would’ve included a long-discussed showdown with Linares (43-3, 27 KOs). Garcia, 30, spoke again with Golden Boy president Eric Gomez and De La Hoya about a one-fight deal to face Linares, 32, on January 27, but the three-division champion determined he would make more money to fight Lipinets.
“I’ve spoken to Golden Boy on several occasions,” Garcia said. “Every time we speak we’re moving forward together. We’re working together to get this fight done. The initial discussions were [about me] being under contract. But then they finally came back and said they’re willing to do the fight as a single fight, a stand-alone fight, with no commitment. So that makes it easier.
“However, when we looked at the purses and the guarantees and the percentages and all that, we thought, along with Golden Boy, it’s best to wait. A fight like that is a tougher sell in January than it is in May or June. So that’s why we said, ‘You know what? Let’s both take another fight in between and then we’ll see each other in the summer.’ ”
Garcia also considered another 135-pound championship unification bout against IBF champion Robert Easter (20-0, 14 KOs) and thought about boxing Omar Figueroa (27-0-1, 19 KOs) in a 140-pound fight.
Now that he has chosen Lipinets, Garcia, of Oxnard, California, and Venezuela’s Linares are at least on the same schedule, which will help to make their fight for next summer.
Two weeks before Garcia challenges Lipinets, Linares will defend his WBA 135-pound championship against the Philippines’ Mercito Gesta (31-1-2, 27 KOs). Linares-Gesta will be part of an HBO “Boxing After Dark” doubleheader January 27 from The Forum in Inglewood, California.
“That makes me happy,” Garcia said. “We know we’re on the same plan. We have the same game plan to get in the ring early in the year, so that we could see each other in the summer.”
Linares, a heavy favorite over Gesta, needs to look impressive to reignite interest in his fight against Garcia. England’s Luke Campbell (17-2, 14 KOs) got up from a first-round knockdown and pushed Linares in his last fight, which Linares won by split decision September 23 at The Forum.
Garcia, however, has a more difficult fight ahead of him. Lipinets barely has a third of Garcia’s professional experience (13-0, 10 KOs), yet has heavy hands and is naturally bigger than Garcia.
If Lipinets wins, Garcia still could move back down to 135 pounds for a title unification fight against Linares. Garcia recognizes that Linares has taken a less dangerous path toward their meeting, but Garcia doesn’t want easy fights.
He soundly out-boxed former four-division champion Adrien Broner (33-3, 24 KOs, 1 NC) to win a unanimous decision in his debut at 140 pounds July 29 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Garcia and his older brother/trainer, Robert Garcia, are confident he can succeed as a welterweight, too, but for now are focused on him becoming a world champion in a fourth weight class.
“That’s a good fight for him,” Garcia said regarding Linares’ title defense against Gesta. “He gets to defend his title and gets to be showcased on HBO, so that’s good for him. I’m taking a bigger risk because I want more challenging fights. I want challenges. That’s why I’m going after Lipinets.
“Honestly, I could take an easy fight if I wanted to. The money won’t be exactly the same, but I could still make good money if I take an easier opponent. But that’s not what I want. I want those type of fights, challenging fights. I want opponents that present a challenge that I can actually get more motivated for, work harder and just show the world that I’m a complete fighter.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.