Mikey Garcia had huge plans for his future, with battles against the likes of Devin Haney and Regis Prograis. All he had to do was tackle the unknown Sandor Martin at Chukchanci Park in Fresno, California, Saturday night.
Spoiler alert: He didn’t care about the business.
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In a massive surprise, a dormant Garcia dropped the majority decision in favor of Martin in a fight where the four-team world champion couldn’t put the puzzle pieces together. Now Garcia’s plans for big fights have been brushed aside and the 33-year-old will need to reassess his career.
Garcia sought a tuning battle after 20 months of layoffs before seeking challenges against the world’s best 140-pound fighters. Martin was not expected to be a big problem for him. In fact, the fight was treated as a show for Garcia, who had the advantage of a home field complete with fireworks during the extravagant entry. But when the bell rang, it seemed Garcia should have saved some of those fireworks for his opponent.
Martin put in a great performance as he confused Garcia with his movement and amazing boxing prowess marked by clear counter punches. Garcia seemed to be stuck on the fence as the rounds went on and it became clear he wouldn’t give fans much to cheer him on. With the judges recording the fight 97-93, 97-93 and 95-95, Martin achieved one of the biggest upsets in recent memory against the former pound-for-pound prop.
Now the question: Where does Garcia go from here?
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Garcia’s career is complicated. Having started his career 34-0 with victories over the likes of Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez and Roman Martinez, he seemed poised for greatness. But a contractual dispute with his promoter, Top Rank, led to Garcia’s two-year hiatus from the sport. He eventually returned and continued his winning ways while becoming the four-team world champion, with dominant victories over Adrian Brunner, Sergey Leibniz and Robert Easter along the way.
But Garcia chomped on more than he could chew as he rose from 130 lbs to 147 lbs to challenge the Errol Spence Jr. for the IBF Welterweight title. Young Garcia was taken to school by Spence, who made a virtual shutdown and handed Garcia his first loss as a professional. But the defeat was remission given the enormous risks Garcia took in lifting two weight classes and challenging one of the best fighters in all of boxing.
The victory over Jesse Vargas appears to have put him in line to face Mane Pacquiao, but COVID-19 has halted those plans and halted Garcia’s boxing future. He was emerging from the second longest layoff of his career when he made it to the ring against Martin. Nobody gave Martin a chance against the highly skilled tactician. But the demobilization and fighting that took place at 145 pounds ended up being a recipe for disaster. Martin and Spence are now the only fighters who have defeated Garcia.
The top fighters have nights off against an unknown competition. Pacquiao lost to Jeff Horn, Eric Morales was turned on by Zaher Rahim, and James “Buster” Douglas infamously stopped Mike Tyson. Some can come back and their loss is seen more as a whirlwind than a sign of things to come. Garcia will likely get his chance of revenge with a rematch. But the damage has already been done.
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At 33 and having laid off twice, Garcia doesn’t have much time to waste. He has to figure out how to get back on the horse and find out what went wrong. He appeared to be in denial during his post-fight interview and refused to acknowledge that the time he left had an effect on his performance. But the truth is that he must rebuild himself if he wants those battles against class division.
Maybe he should consider dropping down to 140 lbs. Martin fought at 145, and similar to the way he looked against Spence, he felt like he was fighting above his optimum weight. Garcia did his best at 130 and 135 and may have to turn to a dietitian to compete at that weight. But make no mistake: he was overtaken by an opponent whom no one knew before this battle. And it wasn’t close.
Perhaps Garcia will make us all forget this loss with his next performance. But, for now, his future is in question.