Before a two-year-plus layoff, Mikey Garcia showed he was a brilliant all-around fighter, capable of outboxing you, helping you catch some Zs or both in the same night. Guess what? He’s still that guy.
Taking on the #2 man in the lightweight division after just one rust-shedding bout, Garcia scored what will be hard to beat for the Knockout of the Year. And it’s just the first month of 2017.
The Showtime-televised showdown with Dejan Zlaticanin figured to be a potentially tough one for Garcia, simply because Garcia hadn’t been back in the ring much, and Zlaticanin has been seriously underestimated. But Garcia’s counterpunching and jab, combined with his power and speed, were theoretically going to carry the day.
And boy did they. Zlaticanin landed some looping lefts to the head and body in the 1st, but an uncharacteristically hot start from Garcia blunted his attack enough to take the round. And after that, Zlaticanin just couldn’t do anything.
In the 3rd round, Garcia had Zlaticanin in huge trouble with an uppercut, with Zlaticanin stumbling to try to hold on as Garcia landed a glancing shot across the top of his head, followed by a pivot and a brutal flush right hand as Zlaticanin got stiffly upright.
Nasty stuff. Frightening, even, with Zlaticanin on his back out cold for a disturbingly long time. But he was fine leaving the ring, thankfully.
Garcia was a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter before he feuded with ex-promoter Top Rank so long. This was a reminder about how he’s that caliber of talent. With Showtime set to air another top lightweight bout, a rematch between Jorge Linares and Anthony Crolla, odds are at least decent we could see Garcia in against the winner of that bout. It’s hard to imagine Garcia not wrecking either of them. He’s good, y’all.
(LAS VEGAS — Referee Tony Weeks directs Mikey Garcia [R] to a neutral corner after he knocked out Dejan Zlaticanin in the 3rd round of their lightweight fight at MGM Grand Garden Arena; Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)