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Mikey Garcia vs. Top Rank

(Photo © German Villasenor)
(Photo © German Villasenor)

By Steve Kim

It turns out that the big fight for WBO super featherweight titlist Mikey Garcia in 2014 will not be against Yuriorkis Gamboa but against his own promoter, Top Rank Promotions, who he recently filed suit against in a story broken by ( You could see this coming a mile (or least a month ago) away when Garcia accompanied his brother/trainer Robert Garcia to Las Vegas for the Saul Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo fight, which was promoted by Top Rank’s archrival, Golden Boy Promotions.
At that point Garcia, Top Rank and HBO were in the midst of trying to iron out a bout against the undefeated Cuban but could never come up with a price that would satisfy Garcia. His presence in Las Vegas only fueled speculation that Garcia was not only unhappy with the money being offered (he was said to be looking for in excess of $1.5 million to face Gamboa) but also with how Top Rank was guiding his career.

With papers now being filed, both Garcia and Top Rank have lawyered up with Bryan Freedman coming out with bold statements to ( on behalf of the fighter and David Marroso steadfastly defending the promotional firm’s position (
So as this is battled out in court, look for Garcia - who, last year, made major strides with three strong performances on HBO (winning belts at 126 and 130 pounds) - to be sidelined for the better part of the rest of 2014. At the beginning of the year, as he was preparing for his late January outing against Juan Carlos Burgos, he was openly bandied by Bob Arum as a potential foe for Manny Pacquiao in early 2015. The plan was for Garcia to perhaps fight as much as four times in 2014, steadily moving up in weight, racking up more victories while improving his Q-rating.
Now it will be up to the gaggle of high-priced attorneys to determine the short-term fate of Garcia and Top Rank while he sits on the sidelines. It continues a troubling trend of fighters attempting to flee existing contracts with their promoters that includes the likes of Andre Ward, Robert Guerrero and now Garcia. Boxers looking to leave their promoters have provided consistent storylines for years but these situations are odd in that none of the three were particularly being exploited by their promoters. This wasn’t the dastardly Don King fleecing his clients or Murad Muhammad taking the lion’s share of the money available from Manny Pacquiao.
Dan Goossen had done an exemplary job in guiding Ward since the 2004 Olympics and placed him in the most advantageous situation of anybody in Showtime’s “Super Six” super middleweight tournament. Since signing with Golden Boy, Guerrero has been a staple on HBO and Showtime and landed the fight he yearned for so badly against Floyd Mayweather last year for a few million. Garcia, under the stewardship of Top Rank, was firmly entrenched as part of HBO’s foundation and had made eight appearances on the network the past few years and got paid over 700-large to face Burgos, a heavy underdog, at the Theater of Madison Square Garden.
Not every break-up or attempt at extricating from a promoter is the same. There are variables that exist in every situation. With Garcia, you have an individual with whom boxing is strictly professional and not a particular passion. He does it for a living because it’s very lucrative and he happens to have a certain acumen for the sport. While the rest of the Garcia family loves boxing, Mikey just happens to be very good at it. And if he’s not paid what he feels he’s worth, he simply won’t do it for the love of the game. This is strictly business to him and more than one observer has noted that while his recent paydays have been sizable, the problem is that Garcia’s pie is sliced up pretty well with the likes of his brother, his father, Eduardo and his manager, Cameron Dunkin all getting their percentages - not to say anything of the cut taken by the IRS.
Yeah, $700,000 can become less than $200,000 really quickly in this racket.
Garcia is a gifted technician. You see him and you see another version of Juan Manuel Marquez, a patient craftsman whose style didn’t really resonate to even the hardcore Mexican fans till much later in his career. At age 26, Marquez wasn’t earning anything near what Garcia is now. It was going to take time but as the fights got bigger and the opposition more dangerous, you could easily envision Garcia getting to that financial plateau and clout he yearns for - just like “Dinamita” did. Except his opinion of his market value differs greatly to that of HBO (who really controls the purse strings here). There’s no doubting that Garcia - who has a sterling record of 34-0 (28) - is one of the elite prizefighters in the sport. The problem is, as a ticket seller and attraction, he’s still in the incubation stage.
And despite some solid ratings on HBO recently, one insider pointed out, “It took all of three fights for Sergey Kovalev to put up better ratings than [Garcia] did,” -- and Kovalev was getting paid a lot less than what Garcia has throughout this stage.
But money is just one of the issues in which Garcia seems to have a problem. It’s clear that like many other fighters/athletes, he’d like his chance at free agency. Right now, Top Rank is going through a similar situation regarding another long-standing client, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who is hesitant to re-up with the company as a precursor to facing Gennady Golovkin on July 19th. Many times, a promoter will reward a fighter with a big fight but with the caveat he signs a contract extension with them. They’ll even overpay to make sure a client stays in the fold. For some fighters, it’s worth it. Tim Bradley, for example, who was looking at impending free agency, decided that the promise of a $6 million guarantee to rematch Manny Pacquiao and built-in financial minimums for certain bouts moving forward were more than worth it for him to remain with Top Rank.
This is common practice in boxing. Not saying it’s right but that’s life in the big city. There simply aren’t a lot of fighters who have the cache or leverage of Sugar Ray Leonard (who truly was the most independent of contractors during his lucrative career) and more recently, Miguel Cotto, who’s been the one fighter to successfully navigate on both sides of the “Cold War.” And speaking of which, with the current climate of the business in which there are essentially two leagues of boxing played out at HBO and Showtime (with Top Rank and Golden Boy being the main providers of content, respectively), fighters are more than ever mindful of which side of the street you are on. These leagues will determine which opportunities exist for you. If you’re with Top Rank/HBO, you’re not in the Mayweather mix. Play ball at Showtime, you’re not anywhere near “Pac-Land.”
This is why the aforementioned Marquez and Shane Mosley ditched long-standing relationships with Golden Boy to face Pacquiao in recent years. They simply had no other choice. It was rumored that Guerrero wanted to make a similar move but so far hasn’t had any success. Beyond the potential fights, boxers are very well aware of what others are making as they are aligned to certain entities and appear on particular networks. And Showtime particularly has been very adroit at procuring talent to make sure the boxers who appear on their airwaves have plenty of big opportunities awaiting them. Case in point: Adonis Stevenson, who was snatched away by Showtime after making consistent appearances on HBO last year.
Does Garcia see greener pastures across the street? Could somebody be whispering in Garcia’s ear? (well, duh). Will he be the next Stevenson or will be become the next Nonito Donaire?
This week’s edition of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly:
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