How mighty is Mikey Garcia

R.L. Woodson

Cinephile, audiophile, and avid sports fan. I am the creator and host of the Pay Me No Mind sports and entertainment podcast found on TalkLoudRadio.
I podcast and write to cope with my continuing struggle to play guitar.

Garcia’s brutal RD3 KO of Zlaticanin delivers third world title; shakes up 135-pounds

LAS VEGAS – Perhaps this past weekend’s Carl Frampton versus Leo Santa Cruz rematch deserved all of the fanfare it received. After all, it was Showtime Boxing’s main event. It featured the consensus 2016 Fighter of the Year in Frampton. It also included California’s ever-smiling Léo Santa Cruz, an exciting fighter in which many fans expected to see a much improved version in comparison to the one that came up short July 30th at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Frampton-Santa Cruz II possessed the degree of magnitude needed for one to involuntarily neglect giving enough attention to Mikey Garcia’s opener on the same card.

The fact is I’m a Garcia Stan. His opponent, former WBC World lightweight champion Dejan Zlaticanin, while he displayed remarkable punching power in his past victories over Ricky Burns and Ivan Redkach, his game failed to strike me as possibly being transcendent. Garcia, an undefeated two-division champion with 28 knockouts in 34 professional fights, captured the attention of thousands of fight fans before his 30-month layoff following his Jan. 25, 2014 WBO World super featherweight title defense. Garcia had the heater. He had a curveball. A slider and a change-up. The kid could throw all of them for a strike on any count.

In other words Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs) is one of boxing’s most technically sound fighters who can punch with excellent power. He adjusts well. He can control the pace of a fight with his jab, or feints or with good footwork. He’s typically not at a disadvantage in the Tale of the Tape. He’s a smart fighter that rarely allows himself to be forced into a bad position or decision. Lastly, in and out of the ring he appears to be a disciplined 29-year old.

Garcia does a half a dozen other great things in the ring, but he also comes across as a genuine family man, and he’s a fighter that eagerly leans towards the biggest challenges boxing presents to its elite fighters – the ones avid fans clamor to see unfold over a great fighter’s career.

During Garcia’s lengthy hiatus fans wondered whether the business of boxing had foiled the ascent of another talented fighter. His resounding fifth-round technical-knockout victory over Elio Rojas at super lightweight in July of 2016 left some fans questioning whether the seemingly careful Garcia would be the Garcia we would see moving forward. All doubt rapidly evaporated as the 32-year old southpaw Zlaticanin’s motionless body settled onto the canvas under the bottom rope on the edge of the ring in front of 10,000 astonished fans at the MGM Grand.

Zlaticanin (22-1, 15 KOs) entered the ring January 27th as an undefeated, hard-hitting and feared lightweight world champion. The taller, well-rounded Garcia was thought to be still finding his game, and in need of avoiding a slow start versus such a formidable slugger. From the outset Garcia went about whacking Zlaticanin with a solid left jab that neutralized the champion for the majority of the fight’s three rounds. In fact, with 1:45 to go in the first round the right side of Zlaticanin’s forehead visibly showed signs of Garcia’s work. Equally sharp with his footwork, Garcia circled around the ring eluding Zlaticanin’s sweeping right hooks. His left power hand was also ineffective most of the night.

Garcia continued firing his left jab through the second round while mixing in power shots from both hands. His jab attempts over the first two rounds exceeded 90 punches. The frustrated Zlaticanin banged his gloves to his body at the 1:40 mark and motioned Garcia to continue to bring it. Over the balance of the round the champion managed to close the distance a number of times to land a single left hand, but Garcia was rarely present for any follow-up punches.

Garcia’s whole arsenal of punches dominated the action as the fight moved through the early portion of the third round. Zlaticanin’s lack of quickness and shorter arms left him looking desperate for a successful means to overcome Garcia’s movement who was increasingly making Zlaticanin pay for his inability to cut off the ring. The champion’s only hope was to trap Garcia along the ropes, or in a corner, to land the bombs needed to change the momentum of the fight. However, at 2:21 as Zlaticanin lunged in for an unsuccessful flurry Garcia responded with an unseen right uppercut that badly hurt the defending champion.

Zlaticanin’s body went rigid for a split second before staggering forward slightly, possibly reaching out to clinch Garcia who had side-stepped the dazed fighter, and then quickly re-positioned him to unleash a fully leveraged right hook that left Zlaticanin knocked out on his feet. As soon as Zlaticanin hit the canvas veteran referee Tony Weeks knelt down over him, waved off the fight, and motioned to the ringside physician to quickly administer medical attention.

Garcia celebrated his victory briefly before heading to his corner to join his trainer and older brother, Robert Garcia, where they looked on with great concern regarding the safety and well-being of Zlaticanin. The southpaw remained on the canvas for several minutes before finally being helped to a stool for another moment for recovery. Shortly after, the Garcia brothers made their way over to Zlaticanin to embrace him – Robert later helped cut the tape off of the former champion’s left glove while his trainer worked on the right.

Garcia expressed his gratefulness at the fact that Zlaticanin was able to recover from the huge blow he sustained. Regarding his performance Garcia said:

We were controlling the pace and distance right away from the first round. I saw some openings and I thought I could hurt him later down the road, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that soon in the fight.

The new WBC World lightweight champion – his third title in a new division – also explained that his desire is to fight at least one unification fight at lightweight, and then to go up to super lightweight for a title shot in a fourth division. Garcia said the super lightweight bout could happen by year’s end. His knockout victory is the early favorite for the KO of the Year, and will undoubtedly be hard to outdo over the next 11 months. However, the question now is, does the image of Saturday night’s destruction cause other lightweights to avoid him? Or, is there a titleholder who is eager to prove that Garcia can be beat.

Fight fans are already calling for showdowns with Toledo, Ohio’s IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter Jr., 31-year old WBA champion Jorge Linares, or possibly a mega-fight with the current super lightweight kingpin. That’s right, Garcia could go up to 140-pounds to face unbeaten junior welterweight unified champion Terence Crawford for his WBC and WBO titles. We’ll have to wait and see whether Mikey’s might succumbs to the red tape that the networks, sanctioning bodies and promotional companies often allow to hinder the creation of many of boxing’s biggest marquee match-ups.

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R.L. Woodson

Cinephile, audiophile, and avid sports fan. I am the creator and host of the Pay Me No Mind sports and entertainment podcast found on TalkLoudRadio. I podcast and write to cope with my continuing struggle to play guitar.

R.L. Woodson

Cinephile, audiophile, and avid sports fan. I am the creator and host of the Pay Me No Mind sports and entertainment podcast found on TalkLoudRadio. I podcast and write to cope with my continuing struggle to play guitar.

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