Last night in Texas, Mikey Garcia picked up a solid win over Jessie Vargas in his second welterweight outing, shaking a bit of a monkey off his back following his move up to 147 in 2019, where he was frankly embarrassed a bit over 12 rounds by Errol Spence Jr.
Personally, I left the Spence-Garcia fight thinking Mikey is simply not a welterweight and the going was going to be damn rough for him at this weight against anyone. That meant Vargas, too. In the staff picks, I picked Garcia to beat Jessie in a close fight. That’s what we got.
Watch Garcia vs Vargas highlights here!
Mikey did look better against Vargas than he did against Spence. He was not exactly cut at 147, and he never will be, but he looked a bit less soft around the midsection. His timing seemed better. Obviously, too, Vargas is not Spence. That goes without saying. And there are still, I think, legitimate concerns about Garcia (40-1, 30 KO) being able to compete against elite welterweights.
But let’s make something very clear: he’s going to fight at welterweight. He’s not moving back down to 140, and he’s definitely not moving back down to 135. Mikey Garcia wants to be a welterweight, wants to win a world title in a fifth weight class (and bless him, he’s not counting the WBC “Diamond” belt he took last night). This may be borderline obsession for him, honestly. He really thinks he can win a world title at this weight, and for everyone who thinks he can’t, he wants badly to prove them wrong.
But that fight with Vargas was not easy, and he knows that very well. So he’s also not going to waste any more time if he can help it. There will be no more “tune-ups”; he will look for a world title fight.
The current world titleholders at 147 are Spence (WBC and IBF), Terence Crawford (WBO), and Manny Pacquiao (WBA). There is also secondary titleholder Alexander Besputin, but that’s a whole other mess as of now, and at any rate the only person in the world who considers Besputin a champion at 147 is Besputin. Garcia wants a world title everyone will count as legitimate.
There’s been no mention of Crawford, for what it’s worth. “Bud” is with Top Rank, and while Mikey isn’t currently with PBC, he’s also not exactly top pals with Bob Arum. The two sides had a really nasty falling-out years ago, and while Garcia has said he’d be willing to do business with Arum again, and Arum has certainly buried the hatchet on deeper rivalries, there’s no indication that Crawford-Garcia is on anyone’s mind.
Garcia mentioned wanting a rematch with Spence, who is currently on the shelf but expected to return late in the spring, perhaps. Spence was in attendance last night, but that’s probably just because it was near where he lives in Texas.
The fight Garcia sees as most likely — and perhaps most winnable — would be against Pacquiao, the 41-year-old Filipino Senator who regained a piece of the pie last July with a decision win over Keith Thurman.
Like Garcia, Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO) is not a natural welterweight. The fact he’s competed at welterweight since 2009 and been as successful as he has been is still insane, we’ve just gotten used to the idea. Manny would not have the size advantages that Spence or even Vargas had against Garcia.
But Pacquiao has shown over the years that he has the A+ abilities and intangibles that have made him an absolute icon for the sport, a true all-timer. Garcia, while a terrifically skilled boxer, doesn’t have those enormous standout attributes in any area that make the transition as “easy” as it was for Pacquiao.
Pacquiao, when he officially moved to welterweight, blitzed Miguel Cotto right off. Cotto had a little early success in that fight, but Pacquiao’s speed and angles wound up too much for the Puerto Rican, who was a legitimate star and top fighter.
Even today, Manny is able to rely on his natural athleticism and unique style. Garcia, meanwhile, is a pretty classic boxer-puncher. He’s great at it through 135 pounds. He’s good at it at 140 and maybe pretty good at it at 147.
Size starts to matter for everyone at a certain point, even Pacquiao, whose limitation at welterweight has been that his once-shocking power is a bit more human at 147. Since stopping Cotto in the 12th round in 2009, Manny has only put away one opponent inside the distance, which was Lucas Matthysse in 2018.
Pacquiao is, without question, old. He just is 41 years old, and he’s not who he was before. He’s still a terrific fighter, mind you, and based on his recent outings — particularly the Thurman fight — you’d have to strongly favor him to beat Mikey Garcia should they meet.
Pacquiao has seemed fixated on fighting UFC’s Conor McGregor in a big novelty pay-per-view. Manny’s not getting any younger and the chances for mega paydays are running thin. He recently signed with Paradigm Sports Management, who work with McGregor, giving the indication that he’s extremely serious about making that fight a reality. And quite frankly, unless the McGregor fight just can’t happen, I don’t see Mikey Garcia being a huge part of Manny’s thought process at the moment.
Now, if the McGregor idea is a no-go, then sure, Garcia becomes a viable option. It’s a winnable fight for Pacquiao, and it can be sold on pay-per-view (Manny remains one of the biggest box office draws in the game, and Garcia would be a solid B-side bringing some Mexican fans in).
If Mikey were to strike out landing either Pacquiao or a rematch with Spence I doubt many are dying to see, then things get interesting. He worked with Matchroom on the fight with Vargas, but as he made abundantly, repetitively clear, it was a one-fight deal with options on both sides. If Garcia finds a bigger fight with PBC or someone else, he can do that.
And since PBC still more or less own the welterweight division, then their non-titleholders like Danny Garcia (who also wants Spence or Pacquiao next), Thurman, Shawn Porter, and even Yordenis Ugas could be of interest. Matchroom don’t really have any welterweights of note, and neither do DAZN partners Golden Boy, save for prospect Vergil Ortiz Jr.
That said, Garcia’s also shown he’s comfortable waiting. If he can’t get someone this summer or fall, maybe in the winter, maybe even early 2021. Maybe he winds up making some goofy deal to fight Amir Khan in Saudi Arabia.
Time will tell for sure. There are options for Mikey Garcia, whether you think this whole welterweight mission is deranged or not.