Mikey Garcia vs. Juan Manuel Lopez: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2013

Mikey Garcia vs. Juan Manuel Lopez: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

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    It will be a matchup of two hard-hitting fighters this Saturday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, as WBO featherweight champion Mikey Garcia defends his belt against former two-division champion Juan Manuel Lopez.

    Garcia won his title this past January in New York City, knocking down Orlando Salido four times en route to an eighth-round technical decision.

    Lopez, on the other hand, has only fought twice, both against low-level opposition, since being knocked out for the second time by Salido in 2012. 

    Read on for a complete preview and prediction for what is certain to be an all-action main event.

Tale of the Tape

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    The first thing that sicks out for both fighters is that neither guy particularly cares for the fight to go the distance. Both Garcia and Lopez boast knockout percentages well over 80 percent, which means get your chips and drinks before the fight begins. If you're picking this one to go the full 12 rounds, then you'll probably be in for a disappointment.

    The two fighters are also evenly matched in most other categories, with Garcia holding a half-inch height advantage and Lopez coming in with a slightly longer reach.

    On paper at least, these are two very evenly matched fighters who will come to fight.

    Record:

    Garcia

    31-0, 26 KO

    Lopez

    33-2, 30 KO

    Height: 5'6" 5'5 1/2"

    Reach:

    68" 69"
    Weight: 126 126
    Stance: Orthodox Southpaw
    Hometown: Ventura, Calif.
    Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
    Rounds: 146 158

Main Storylines

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    Mikey Garcia made a huge statement when he won the WBO featherweight title, by dropping Salido four times en route to a unanimous technical decision victory, this past January. It was as dominant a performance as you could ever hope for, but it was also Garcia's first foray into deep water with an opponent that was predicted to give him trouble. 

    Trouble wasn't in the cards that night. Not even close, as Garcia dominated, beating Salido to the punch all night long and using his free swinging ways against him.

    The question now becomes, is Garcia as good as he looked against Salido? Because if he is, then JuanMa could be in for a long, tough night.

    Juan Manuel Lopez seemed destined for superstardom not that long ago. In 2008, he scored his most impressive win to date, a first-round blowout of Daniel Ponce de Leon that netted him the WBO super bantamweight title, and he would also capture a World title at featherweight. 

    But then he ran into Salido, who twice stopped him in brutal fashion. That's the same Salido that Garcia just dominated. Lopez has won his past two fights, since the second Salido knockout loss, but his level of competition is suspect.

    It'll be interesting to see if he can show something of the fighter he was pre-Salido and give Garcia a real test.

Strengths

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    Mikey Garcia is an excellent boxer, with good power and a ton of experience in and around a boxing ring. He is trained by his brother, Robert Garcia, and has a championship pedigree.

    If his fight with Salido is any sort of indicator, he is coming into his own as a fighter, and he's extremely patient, waiting for openings to land his shots. With 26 knockouts in 31 wins, he has very good power and can knock you out with one punch or systematically break you down.

    Juan Manuel Lopez was considered one of the top offensive forces in the sport of boxing before his two losses against Salido. He's a southpaw, can crack with the best of them and has been in with several world-class opponents.

    Lopez also has to figure he's fighting with his career at, or near, the top level of boxing on the line. A loss here could make it difficult to secure another meaningful fight, and he'll need to go all out.

Weaknesses

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    Mikey Garcia was beyond impressive in shredding the usually rugged and game Salido this past January. But other than that, and a few solid but not spectacular names, we haven't really seen Garcia pressured or pushed in a fight. 

    JuanMa might well prove to be the toughest fight of his career, and we don't truly know how he will handle that sort of pressure until it's right in front of him. Let's be clear: Salido is a good fighter, and he handled Lopez on two occasions, but he also had 11 losses coming into the Garcia fight.

    Juan Manuel Lopez was brutally knocked out by Salido in their first contest in 2011. Their 2012 rematch was a Fight of the Year candidate, and while Lopez showed a fierce will, he was stopped for a second time. Those are the types of losses that many fighters never recover from. 

    He has fought twice since the second Salido fight, both against low-level opponents, so we don't know what he really has left. And even in his day he wasn't known as a good defensive fighter. All of which could cause problems against Garcia.

Mikey Garcia Will Win If...

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    Mikey Garcia is a pretty big favorite heading into this fight, and with good reason. At 25 years old, he is both younger and fresher than JuanMa. He showed in his last fight that he can handle an opponent that will bring a lot of pressure, though Salido doesn't have the offensive firepower of Lopez, and passed the test with flying color.

    Garcia's best bet is to make sure that this stays a boxing match and not allow JuanMa to dictate the pace offensively. If he can box effectively and patiently wait for opportunities, of which there should be many against the defensively deficient Lopez, he will win the fight.

Juan Manuel Lopez Will Win If...

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    For JuanMa to win this fight a lot of things have to go right for him. There is a perception amongst boxing fans and media that he's damaged goods after the Salido fights, and he hasn't beaten anyone of consequence since to dispel those feelings. 

    But people count him out at their own peril.

    Sometimes a guy just has another guy's number, and nobody is fighting Salido this Saturday. He is probably the toughest fight, in terms of style, that Garcia has faced to date in his career. He can punch, and if he lands clean, he'll check Garcia's chin. 

    But to win the fight, he's going to need to go for broke and attack, attack, attack. It's his best shot and what made him a fringe top-10 pound-for-pound fighter not that long ago.

And the Winner Is...

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    In the end, Juan Manuel Lopez might prove to be the toughest fight of Mikey Garcia's young career. He has great punching power and is going to fight like his career depends on it, because it just might.

    And don't be surprised if he's able to get to Garcia more than a few times in a fight that should be exciting from the opening bell. Look for Lopez to attack from the onset and possibly win a few early rounds before the younger California native gets going.

    It could be dicey at times, but it's hard to pick against Garcia. He's definitely the younger, fresher fighter, and even if Lopez isn't damaged goods, he's certainly not the fighter whose barnstorming offensive firepower took the sport by storm. 

    Lopez will compete, and he'll fight, but Garcia will overcome him and win by ninth-round TKO.