Garcia needs to prove he can fight well against another bigger opponent
By Allan Cerf
Particulars: On Feb. 29 at Ford Center in Frisco, Texas (DAZN) it’s Mikey Garcia, vs. Jessie Vargas, Las Vegas, NV, welterweights.
Background: The last time I saw 32-year-old Mikey Garcia in a ring, he was getting smacked around by Errol Spence.
He’d prepared himself with high tech training and nutrition for the big opportunity. He has fundamentals and guts in spades. Not for him to blame any boxing factor on a ring walk outfit.
Guess what? It wasn’t even close. High tech nutrition and training didn’t make a damn bit of difference.
Garcia was overwhelmed by Spence.
As I realized years ago, boxing has levels. As does everything else. You might make it to the Amazon Board Room but how’d you get there? Do you deserve to be there? Most won’t get there.
In boxing, hitting another person ‘best,’ in theory, guarantees you get to the top. That’s why we love it. Garcia and Vargas aren’t top of the heap. They’re not Fury or Lomachenko, Inoue or Errol Spence, Jr. But they’re damn good fighter and worth tuning in for.
Can Garcia fight successfully at welterweight, two divisions up from his previous weight class? In these millennial times new belts have emerged- plastic emeritus to gold interim – yeah, a belt can probably be found for him. But let’s cut the B.S. Can Garcia or opponent Vargas trouble the top guns at welter? Bluntly, no. They are solid, entertaining craftsmen in a dangerous game.
Jessie Vargas may be the perfect Garcia opponent. Another 30-something guy with real ability, it’s simply impossible to believe that - outside of an upset, he’ll defeat the top guns at the weight. True, he had Tim Bradley in bad shape when the referee ’accidentally’ stopped the round and the fight four seconds early- having just landed an enormous shot on Desert Storm.
Odds are Tim would have hung on but fair enough, we’ll never know. Prior to that ’Storm’ was cruising to a not-difficult victory.
Vargas came up short in his other big tilt - vs. Manny Pacquiao in a fight in which he was utterly dominated. Despite that, after 12 rounds, Vargas proudly held aloft his hand signifying victory - in his mind. Garcia went further against Spence – raising his hand at the end of every round of a fight in which he was shut out.
Fighter’s Grades: (Speed, Power, Defense, Reach, Age, Stamina, Experience)
Mikey Garcia B- B- B B-C+ B+ B+ (Average of all) B- (2.90)
Jessie Vargas: B C+ B B B- B B (Average of all) B- (2.90)
Reality check: Both of these likeable guys are solid warriors but seem to exist in a parallel 1940’s boxing universe. A time when folks simply enjoyed competitive fights even if the fighters weren’t the cream of the weight class. If these two earn belts it will be one of the strange new ones that abound these days.
Prediction and fight: Garcia really does have formidable fundamentals, better than Vargas’ but Vargas has huge height and reach advantages. Power advantage on paper, is overwhelmingly in Garcia’s favor. I still can’t see Mikey knocking out Vargas though. I’m also not convinced at all that Garcia is a welter and remember, Vargas is a super welter dropping down. In fact, If Vargas’s power wasn’t so pedestrian, I’d say he had an outside shot at stopping Garcia.
I see a close, entertaining fight. But the promotional juice is behind Garcia and expect him to prevail with scores potentially way out of line, in his favor.
Garcia UD Vargas, 12.