Featherweight...er...junior lightweight Mikey Garcia put the beatdown on Juan Manuel Lopez Saturday night in Dallas in front of a nationwide HBO television audience as well as a boisterous, Texas-sized crowd of fight fans. It was a decisive victory over a dangerous opponent who both has a big name and loyal fanbase.
Were you impressed? You shouldn’t be.
Ring Magazine’s Bart Barry called the win only “partial redemption” for Garcia, and he’s absolutely correct. In fact, it might not have been any sort of redemption at all:
After assuring his public he was a better prizefighter in every way than Juan Manuel “Juanma” Lopez, Monday through Thursday, and after an unpardonable indiscretion on the scale Friday, Oxnard, Calif.’s Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia redeemed himself as best he was able Saturday night. He proved himself the better prizefighter than Lopez in every way, just as promised.
Every way but one, because that “unpardonable indiscretion on the scale” was Garcia’s inability (or perhaps unwillingness) to come in under the contracted weight limit for the fight: 126 pounds. Because of it, Garcia was stripped of his WBO title belt, essentially going from champ to chump in the blink of the eye.
Only Lopez had the chance to win the belt Saturday night, but all that flew out the window almost the moment the bout began. In addition to being more technically proficient than Lopez, it was difficult not to notice from ringside the tremendous impact Garcia’s punches were making on his smaller opponent.
Even jabs from Garcia seemed to snap poor JuanMa’s head back with real force.
Weight classes exist for a reason in boxing. Because of Garcia’s failure on the scales the day before, Saturday’s win can only be considered ugly and cheap.
Garcia will pay for it in more ways than one. After Friday’s weigh-in, Bob Arum and company had to re-open negotiations with Team Lopez. The fight was in real jeopardy (subscription required), but everything was smoothed over by a few hundred thousand dollars. After all, this is prizefighting.
Michael Woods of The Sweet Science laid it out for his readers on Friday:
Garcia had two hours to get to 126, but wouldn't try and do the cut...so a cut was taken out of his check. He handed over six figures to Team JuanMa, to even the playing field. JuanMa can win the WBO featherweight pound crown Garcia held, and if Mikey wins, the title is vacant. JuanMa was 125 1/4.
That’s some serious moola. Garcia is a top-level boxing talent, but he’s not quite made it to the point in his career where missing out on that kind of dough is pain free.
Perhaps even more damaging to his livelihood, though, is that Garcia’s lack of professionalism is sure to haunt him going forward. Most ringside fans and observers seemed to consider Garcia a class act before this debacle, but can that continue now? Should it?
Boxing isn’t just sport. It’s combat, and placing one’s opponent further into harm’s way unnecessarily simply cannot be tolerated. Garcia should’ve made weight Saturday night. If he was unable to do so, he should have contacted Juan Manuel Lopez’s team as soon as he realized it would be an issue (which had to be before Friday afternoon) so that Lopez could come in the same.
Moreover, Garcia should’ve used the two hours afforded him by the rules to try and make weight. Minimally, he could have pretended to do so. Missing contract weights in boxing should not become a normal or acceptable behavior. It’s not a minor foible. It’s a big deal.
Look, Garcia’s a superb talent, and he has the best promotional team in the business behind him in Top Rank. He’ll be successful. What he does inside the ring on fight night is quickly becoming a must-watch for all fight fans. To go along with solid power in both hands and enthusiastic offense, Garcia is as proficient technically as a fighter could hope to be at his young age.
But Garcia’s bludgeoning of Lopez, which probably would’ve happened at any contract weight set beforehand, cannot be celebrated or appreciated. Instead, Garcia robbed himself, Lopez and fight fans of the whole darn thing.
And that’s just lousy.