Record: 38-0 (30 KO) ... Streak: W38 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’6” / 68” ... Age: 30
Thoughts: Garcia has become one of the best fighters in the world over his career, though he’s never become a proper star. Maybe he doesn’t have the style for it. He definitely doesn’t have the bombastic personality for it. But if he keeps winning titles and showing the ambition he’s shown in his career, he’ll always have a chance of breaking out. He’s still just 30, and on paper has a lot of good years left.
Garcia won his first world title in 2013, a largely dominant technical decision over Orlando Salido to claim the WBO featherweight title. He never did defend that, missing weight for an easy win over Juan Manuel Lopez five months later, which necessitated a move up to 130.
At super featherweight, he immediately beat Roman “Rocky” Martinez for the WBO title by knockout in November 2013, and defended once against Juan Carlos Burgos. Then he got into a feud with his former promoters at Top Rank, and didn’t fight for two-and-a-half years.
We all wondered how he’d fare coming back from that long a layoff in his prime years. He beat Elio Rojas in a 140-pound return, then moved to 135, where he thrashed Dejan Zlaticanin to win the WBC lightweight title in January 2017. He took a money fight at 140, beating Adrien Broner, and stayed at that weight, winning the IBF title from Sergey Lipinets this past March.
Garcia has chosen to go back to 135 and defend his WBC belt against Robert Easter Jr’s IBF title on Saturday. His big goal, of course, is to move up to 147 and fight Errol Spence Jr later this year. But that has to wait.
Garcia is a terrific boxer-puncher, a fine technician who doesn’t make many mistakes and doesn’t beat himself. There’s a lot to be said for that — in a sense, Garcia doesn’t jump off the screen plying his trade, but he does everything right. Technically, he’s got it all over Easter, and will against most opponents he faces.
Robert Easter Jr
Record: 21-0 (14 KO) ... Streak: W21 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’11” / 76” ... Age: 27
Thoughts: The thing that jumps out, of course, and always does, is Easter’s height and reach at 135 pounds. He’s a big, lanky, rangy lightweight.
Or at least he should be rangy. That doesn’t always work out once the bell rings. This time, he swears that trainer Kevin Cunningham has him set to use his tools properly, which you’d think would mean trying to keep Garcia at bay with the jab, use his length, generate some power from a distance, and try to dominate the range at which the fight is fought.
But we’ll see. It’s the right thing to say, but it’s not like we’ve never seen this before. In fact, it’s a fairly routine thing with fighters who are long and tall for their division, or at least it seems to happen frequently. These guys just aren’t wired to use their tools to their advantage, often preferring to scrap in closer quarters, giving their opponents a better chance than they really should have.
The thing is, Garcia is so good that even if Easter does try to use his physical advantages, Mikey might box his way around it anyway. Easter has some advantages in dimensions, but it’s hard to say he can really box with Garcia, even if he does everything right.
Easter has failed to impress in title defenses against Luis Cruz, Denis Shafikov, and Javier Fortuna, going the distance with each of them, killing some of the buzz he had coming up. Once upon a time, there was word that Easter was the best of the recent Ohio fighters. Even while winning, he hasn’t looked like that sort of talent. There’s a chance that if he fights well against Garcia and loses, he could up his stock more than he has in his last three wins. And if he wins? Well, he’ll have everyone’s attention.
Matchup Grade: B. It’s a good matchup, arguably the best fight that can be made at 135 right now that doesn’t involve Vasyl Lomachenko. I suppose you could say Garcia-Jorge Linares would still be more interesting, but whatever. It’s a short list, at worst. Easter is younger, probably fresher, more natural at 135, undefeated, and has a world title. Garcia has shot up pound-for-pound lists over the course of his career, and this is another strong test for him. Good fight.
- Luis Ortiz vs Razvan Cojanu: Ortiz (28-1, 24 KO) should absolutely wreck Cojanu (16-3, 9 KO), but (1) it’s the heavyweight division, (2) Cojanu did go a full 12 with Joseph Parker last year, and (3) Ortiz is coming off of a loss where he took a lot of punishment. So we’ll see. It could be more fun than expected. But yeah, on paper it’s Ortiz, a real contender, against an also-ran. Grade: D+
- Mario Barrios vs Jose Roman: Barrios (21-0, 13 KO) is another big guy for his division. At 5’10½”, he was huge at super featherweight, but he’s settled in at 140. So he’s not a mega monster at that weight, but still big. I’ve just never been bowled over by Barrios, but Roman (24-2-1, 16 KO) is coming off of a wide loss to Wilberth Lopez, who was 18-8 coming in. On paper, it’s safe matchmaking by Barrios’ handlers. Grade: D+