Image courtesy of RingTV.com
When Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia challenges reigning WBO featherweight champion Orlando Salido this Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York, it could mark the culmination of what has seemed inevitable.
Considered one of boxing’s brightest prospects and contenders, Garcia (30-0, 26 KO) becoming a world champion has always been more a matter of “when” than “if.”
Trained by older brother Robert Garcia—a former IBF super featherweight champion—Mikey has boxing in his blood, a fact that RingTV.com’s Ryan Songalia succinctly chronicles. With solid backing and an abundance of natural ability, Garcia appears poised to wrest Salido’s title in what should be a thrilling and competitive fight.
Garcia is both powerful and skilled, but his poise might be his defining attribute. In Salido (39-11-2, 27 KO), Garcia will face—by far—his sternest challenge as a professional. Whether Garcia can cope with Salido’s experience and relentless pressure will reveal much about the 25-year-old Oxnard product.
Regardless of the outcome, Salido will push Garcia and force him to fight. Contrary to what he has experienced thus far, Garcia might not be able to comfortably control tempo against Salido. That said, Garcia’s speed and technical prowess perhaps give him a slight overall edge.
Exploiting the gaps in Salido’s power-punching pressure will be essential for Garcia to win. While Salido-Garcia essentially remains a “pick ‘em” fight, let’s examine the reasons to favor Garcia in this tantalizing bout.
Garcia (right) keeps a tight guard.
For a young fighter, Garcia possesses advanced boxing acumen and is able to sustain his technique and fundamentals. In order to defeat Salido, Garcia will have to rely on this consistency.
Garcia fights behind a compact, tight guard, and he is seldom wild or awkward with his punches. A professional since 2006, Garcia joined the paid ranks at 18 after winning the 2004 National Junior Golden Gloves and 2005 National Police Athletic League Championships (per RingTV.com).
Garcia’s amateur pedigree is evident when he fights, as is the solid experience he has accumulated in a thus-far six-plus-year professional career. Working behind a knifing jab, Garcia throws a precise one-two, avoids consistent punishment and boxes with discipline.
This contrasts with Salido’s more wild—yet still effective—aggression. Salido is able to apply pressure with such abandon because of his resilience, power and excellent chin. However, Garcia can counter with a precise mix of explosive power, precision and discipline to take decisive advantage of Salido’s deficiencies.
Garcia is excellent at dictating the pace of a fight.
Garcia is mature beyond his years. In order to dethrone Salido, he will have to control the ring’s geography with calculated poise. If Garcia abandons his game plan and starts to engage in a power-punching slugfest, Salido will overwhelm him.
Luckily for Garcia, he shows an advanced ability to dictate the tempo and pace of a fight. Granted, he has not fought anyone of Salido’s caliber, but Garcia’s comfort inside the ring cannot be ignored. And it is this stoic confidence that should enable Garcia to play matador to Salido’s bull.
In order to do so, expect Garcia to calmly control the center of the ring, using a combination of precise lateral movement, a stiff jab and bursts of standing his ground to combat Salido’s straightforward pressure. For Garcia to win, he has to avoid the ropes or any situation where Salido can get in his chest and unload heavy hooks.
Consider Garcia’s punch stats in his most recent win, an eighth-round knockout over Jonathan Barros (per BoxingScene.com).
In that fight, Garcia only averaged 45 punches per round. Despite this, Garcia ensured that Barros fought at a similar pace, and Garcia’s advantage in landed jabs suggests that he was in control of range and pace.
While he won’t be able to slow Salido down so easily, Garcia has the tools to effectively disrupt the hard-charging Mexican’s offense.
Despite being on relatively even punch-stat terms against Barros, Garcia scored a sudden and brutal ending to their fight, which I described in a previous piece:
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.
Garcia sports an 86.67 knockout percentage, having scored 26 stoppages in his 30 victories (per BoxRec.com).
As he showed against Barros—a competent fighter and former belt-holder—Garcia packs explosive power. Having also stopped the likes of Matt Remillard, Rafael Guzman and Bernabe Concepcion, Garcia has shown that he can be decisive at a respectable level.
Garcia should be able to harness and use this power to keep Salido honest. If Salido can barrel forward without the threat of decisive consequences, he can get into a frightening offensive rhythm. Fortunately for Garcia, he appears to have the requisite power—and the necessary precision to enhance his power—to stun or even hurt Salido.
Against Barros, Garcia threw 219 jabs (per BoxingScene.com). Jabs accounted for approximately 60 percent of his total punches, and his straight left ultimately served to both dictate tempo and initiate his offense.
In general, Garcia works well behind his stiff left jab, only firing straight rights or unloading with hooks when he has appropriate leverage and openings. While this can sometimes lead to a plodding or deliberate pace, Garcia is always consistently active with his jab.
Using timely movement and a consistent jab will be essential to disrupt Salido’s inevitable pressure. Garcia’s jab should also create instances where Salido is off-balance, which subsequently creates openings for Garcia to counter with his own combinations and forward movement.
Punch stats from Salido’s second victory over Juan Manuel Lopez reveal that his offense is entirely predicated on power punching (per BoxNews.com).
In that fight, Salido threw only 55 jabs over 10 rounds compared to 582 power punches. And consider this: Over the first four rounds, an astounding 90 percent of Salido’s punches were power shots.
If Garcia isn’t jabbing at his normal rate, it will mean he has been drawn into an unwanted slugfest. It will also mean that Salido is dictating tempo and setting a blistering pace. As long as Garcia sticks to his jab and remains calm, he should be able to absorb Salido’s early onslaught.
Defeating Orlando Salido is a daunting task. That said, Mikey Garcia has the tools and intangibles to do so. Whether he can stick to his tactics should ultimately determine the fight’s outcome, and luckily for boxing fans, Salido is just the man to test Garcia’s limits.