The righteous indignation will likely linger awhile.
Whether it’s from purists, contrarians or habitual haters, now-former featherweight champion Mikey Garcia is going to be labeled for the next few days as someone who cheated the fans and/or the integrity of his sport by failing to make weight for a Saturday night title defense.
The featherweight limit was 126 pounds. Garcia hit the scales at 128 pounds on Friday, failed in a two-hour window to drop the superfluous poundage and ultimately had to sacrifice what promoter Bob Arum labeled “a six-figure sum” to his opponent to make sure the show went on.
It’ll be good for a headline or two—or a snappy tweet here or there—while the iron is still hot.
Boxing folks can be an unforgiving bunch when they feel the code of ethics has been breached.
But when the furor calms down, the song will remain the same: Based on the ease with which he dispatched would-be challenger and former two-division kingpin Juan Manuel Lopez in Dallas, Garcia will be a champion in whatever weight classes he decides to settle.
Though he was 2.75 pounds up on Lopez at the weigh-in and had a 4.5-pound edge come fight time, only the hardest of the beaten Puerto Rican’s hardcore fans would suggest the winner’s waistline had the remotest impact on the one-sidedness of the fray.
Rather, the taller (5’6’’ to 5’5.5”), younger (25 to 29) and less worn (31 fights to 35) man controlled matters from the start, not by bullying a scale-friendly foe, but by using accurate, hard shots to exploit openings, score two knockdowns and prompt a humane referee stoppage after barely 10 minutes.
Some of the instant reaction chose to dwell on the scale soap opera.
In reality, though, the whole thing is the best of all worlds for the winner and his promotional future.
Sure, Garcia loses a trinket of a belt at 126 pounds, but the severity of the beating he laid on a marquee-named opponent both trumps the importance of an alphabet belt and gives him instant street cred at 130 pounds, where his Bob Arum ties could result in immediate title-shot dividends.
As luck would have it, Top Rank stablemate Rocky Martinez, the WBO’s champ at junior lightweight, was in his countryman Lopez’s dressing room before Saturday’s fight. He automatically becomes public enemy No. 1 for Garcia when he confirms that featherweight is indeed in his rear-view mirror.
Considering his skills are the sort that often transcend weight—use fellow Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez’s rise from featherweight to welterweight as a guideline—he needn’t waste any time doing so.
Garcia was coy in a post-fight chat with HBO’s Max Kellerman while claiming he’d just “like to try things out” at 130, but it’s a more sure bet that Arum was already considering TV dates for a Martinez match by the time the premium-cable broadcast faded to black shortly after midnight.
And while Jim Lampley’s praise for Garcia was only similar to the love he’d heaped on undercard winner Terence Crawford to open the night, the live analysis of the Californian’s future was no less valid.
“It remains to be seen whether (Garcia is) a 126-pound fighter or a 130-pound fighter,” Lampley said. “Either way he’ll be the class of the division.”
The words were the network’s most prescient in several weeks.
And once any unnecessary hurt feelings over a victimless crime are gone—it's not as if Garcia was a blubbery mess after all, and Team Lopez didn't have to take the cash to go ahead with the fight—the non-TV folks of the world will hop on board, too.
By the time Garcia is done, the kid will be worth his weight in belts.
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