Discounting last weekend’s Montreal grudge match, which had waning significance in the light heavyweight division and was aimed squarely at the Canadian market, this Saturday will see Mikey Garcia take on Juan Carlos Burgos in the junior lightweight class, in what amounts to HBO’s first showcase of 2014. Not that it’s a total mismatch or anything, but more an opportunity for Garcia (33-0-0 with 28 KOs) to grow his presence on the East Coast, rather than an occasion for him to be seriously tested, which says a lot about both the network’s faith in him as a potential star, as well as the dearth of top contenders in the 130 pound weight class.
In short, it’s a fight that’s both notable and insignificant, both recommended viewing and a relative foregone conclusion. It has moderate significance within the division, in which Burgos is only a minor player despite high rankings with certain organisations, and doesn’t do much for Garcia’s resume, which is developing to the point of pound for pound contention in the eyes of many. It’s more of a pitstop on a journey towards higher weight classes and bigger name opponents, or at least that’s what his promoter Bob Arum would have you believe…
A technician, first and foremost, Mikey Garcia cuts an irrepressibly cool figure in the ring. Considering he’s a trained policeman, who comes from a family ensconced in the Mexican fighting tradition, he has almost none of the macho posturing shared by many of his contemporaries. His power comes from his near perfect timing. He sizes opponents up with cold, surgeon-like eyes, then alleviates their consciousness with a venomous dexterity.
Across the ring, Burgos (30-1-2 with 20 KOs) is busy, tough, and certainly not out of his depth fighting at this level. He arguably should have won against Rocky Martinez (Garcia’s most recent victim) in January 2013, and is coming off that rarest of boxing conclusions — a draw that was actually a draw — against short notice opponent Yakubu Amidu in July. He works the body well, is far from easy to hit cleanly, and is tall at the weight, an inch and a half more so than Garcia. He also has undoubted heart, having not only traveled to Japan aged just 23 to take on then-titleholder Hozumi Hasegawa, but also come back from that decision loss and worked his into contention once more.
Those labeling this a pure showcase bout are a little off. After all, in another life we could be talking about Burgos as a two time beltholder in the division. He’s not spectacular, by any means, but few are within the current junior lightweight ranks. In other words, outside a meeting with the mercurial Yuriorkis Gamboa, or a trip to Japan and unification fight against either one of the Takashis (Uchiyama and Miura), both of whom seem equally disinterested in fighting in the United States, he’s not a bad option for what effectively amounts to a routine defence for a fighter as talented as Garcia.
Simply put, if Garcia’s half as good as the bosses at Top Rank think he is, Burgos will have little chance. In a strangely cyclical manner, as the buzz around Garcia continues to grow, the fighter himself only seems to increase in composure and a jarringly singular sense of focus. This in turn ensures he keeps winning, which compels his promoter to speculate further on mega fights with guys like Manny Pacquiao in the not too distant future.
It’s an odd situation, one Garcia seems nonplussed and even a little embarrassed by when questioned. From his perspective, he’s simply there to work. And that’s what we’ll see on Saturday night. Having had his fingers burnt in the past, Burgos will likely be more aggressive than in previous title challenges, while Garcia will wait for him to make errors and punish him severely when he does so. He will seek, circling constantly and sizing up his opponent, before he destroys in the mid to late rounds.
Prediction: Garcia by KO, somewhere around the 8th or 9th round.