When reigning WBO featherweight champion Orlando Salido was forced to withdraw from a title defense against Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia due to injury, it was a major disappointment, as the fight promised to be a tremendous display between one of boxing’s best action fighters and perhaps its most polished prospect.
Undeterred, Garcia (30-0, 26 KO) actually made use of his frustratingly cancelled title shot by opting to fight former WBA featherweight belt-holder Jonathan Victor Barros in a bout that was the co-feature on the HBO card headlined by the Erislandy Lara-Vanes Martirosyan title eliminator.
Barros (34-4-1, 18 KO), who represented Garcia’s most accomplished opponent to date, briefly held the WBA 126-pound title from 2010-2011 in a run that concluded with a unanimous decision loss to Celestino Caballero in a rematch of a fight that Barros had won via split decision.
For Garcia, the fight against Barros offered him a chance to solidify his world-level credentials in front of a significant audience. In scoring a thunderous, one-punch knockout in Round 8, Garcia did just that.
After absorbing a brutal left hook from Garcia, Barros—who had never been stopped—reeled backward before falling forward, though he did manage to rise on unsteady legs at the count of eight.
But how devastating and explosive was Garcia’s fight-ending shot? When referee Robert Byrd asked Barros if he wanted to continue, the Argentine fighter literally responded, “no mas” and turned his back to Garcia.
As impressive as this finish was, it came as a somewhat abrupt end to a fight that had competitive moments, even if Garcia was winning most of the rounds.
So, with Garcia having won and his title shot against Salido (39-11-2, 27 KO) slated for January 19 at Madison Square Garden in New York, what can Salido take away from Garcia’s recent performance?
At his best, Garcia is a precise, calculated fighter who picks his shots with tremendous accuracy and can explode with bursts of power. The type of poise Garcia exhibits for a 24-year-old fighter is admirable and unusual, and he rarely gets drawn out of his game plan or falls prey to traps.
Against Barros, Garcia worked behind a stiff left jab, slowly picking his power punches and only delivering straight right hands and hooks at the most opportune moments. Garcia’s meticulous approach to initiating his offense is also a credit to his latent power as Barros seemed stuck in neutral during the fight’s first third.
One element Salido will look to capitalize on is seizing the early opportunity to set a blistering pace. Barros allowed Garcia to dictate tempo and find his rhythm, which is an extremely dangerous prospect when facing someone with as much controlled power-punching ability as Garcia.
When examining the CompuBox statistics for Salido’s second victory over Juan Manuel Lopez, Salido, in Rounds 1-4, threw 28, 49, 66 and 72 punches, respectively. Now, consider this: of the 215 punches Salido threw during that stretch, 193 (or almost 90%) were power shots.
In order to defeat Garcia, Salido will want to duplicate this steady progression of power punches. Against Garcia, Barros was drawn into a cagey jabbing contest early, and Garcia was clearly able to get the better of these exchanges because it allowed him to pick his shots.
Conversely, Salido has the stamina and power to perhaps negate Garcia’s cerebral advantage. During the HBO telecast, Max Kellerman alluded to the fact that Garcia seemingly wants to throw the “perfect” shot after taking his time to study and dissect his opponent; for Salido to be successful, he will have to crowd and pressure Garcia.
A crucial aspect of pressuring Garcia is refusing to stay at the end of his jab. Salido, who seldom throws jabs (he was only 5/55 against Lopez in their second fight), will obviously need to work his way inside, and emulating much of what he did against Lopez (31-2, 28 KO) will serve Salido well.
Advancing with feints and head movement will be essential for Salido to avoid Garcia’s accurate shots, and once he gets his head in Garcia’s chest, Salido can go to work. From this inside position, Salido should replicate his plan against Lopez of digging to the body and working his way upstairs with hooks and uppercuts. If Salido can take away Garcia’s legs and force him to drop his hands, he could perhaps hurt Garcia later in the fight.
Barros had his best success against Garcia when he applied pressure and threw three or four punch combinations. Barros managed to draw Garcia into a brief slugfest in Round 6 of their fight, though Garcia showed he is adept at fighting in the pocket. That said, Barros perhaps let Garcia off the hook by not sustaining his pressure; Salido will not make this mistake.
Also encouraging for Salido is that Barros stunned Garcia at the beginning of Round 7 with a left hook. While Barros was unable to capitalize, it showed that for all his maturity and solid fundamentals, Garcia is hittable and can be hurt.
Despite all the talk about Salido’s clubbing right hand, his left hook did extensive damage against Lopez. Salido is able to lead with the punch, and look for him to try and catch Garcia off-guard with this shot.
When Lopez knocked Salido down with a precise, right-handed check hook in Round 5 of their second fight, it landed because Salido was opening up to punch while standing too far away from Lopez. If Salido wants to get inside against Garcia, he will have to avoid leaning forward and exposing himself to an abundance of shots as he advances.
Salido-Garcia could be the ultimate bull vs. matador contest. Unlike Barros, Salido cannot allow Garcia to think and pick his shots. If Salido can impose his will and fight at his usual torrential pace, he could very well leave MSG with his title.