SAN DIEGO, Calif., February 29, 2020 – Mikey Garcia insisted on continuing his campaign in the welterweight division despite a sound defeat in 2019 at the hands of Errol Spence, Jr.
Garcia’s single-mindedness paid off with a unanimous decision victory over Jessie Vargas of Las Vegas (29-3-2, 11 KOs), winning the WBC World Diamond Welterweight title. The title pales in meaning against the real prize, a potential matchup with resurgent WBA Super Welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines during his break from his duties as Senator later this summer.
In the early rounds, it seemed Garcia (40-1, 30 KOs) might have made a mistake not dropping back to the 140-pound division. Vargas, the naturally bigger man in the ring, started off the fight strong, using creative punch selection and crisp jabs to keep Garcia off balance and struggling to find his own rhythm.
Garcia decided in the fourth round it was time to turn the fight into a brawl, a risky strategy. But changing the style of the fight was exactly what Garcia needed. Vargas was forced to slow down and adjust, and it gave Garcia the opening he needed to start making Vargas pay the price.
Fifth-round knockdown turned the fight around
In the fifth round, Garcia changed the course of the fight as he landed multiple hard right hands. One finally sat Vargas down in the corner of the ring. Vargas took the count with a rueful smile on his face. For the remaining 30 seconds of the round, Garcia took it to Vargas, and his body language signaled a serious reversal of fortune.
This is how quickly a fight’s tone can change. Vargas went from being in control of the fight to fighting to stay on his feet. Knockdown aside, Garcia put in his best rounds of the fight through seven, relying on his right hand to beat up Vargas and stop any return offensive output as he covered up on the ropes. Referee Jon Schorle was lurking. Would he stop the fight?
Vargas showed grit, perhaps deciding he’d rather go out in style and returned fire at Garcia. He was surprisingly effective, and the Mexican style firefight thrilled the crowd of 10,000 fans in Frisco, Texas. But it was not quite enough to overcome the rounds Garcia rolled up, including the edge from the knockdown. Judges scored the fight 116-111 on two cards, and 114-113 on the third.
After the fight, Garcia said to the fans, “I do all of this for you, I hope you guys enjoyed tonight’s fight. I feel very happy to be back and excited to be here.”
Garcia: ‘I carried the weight a little better’
Garcia admitted Vargas forced him to rethink his original game plan. “I did have to make adjustments, get adjusted to his height, reach, natural size. As the fight went on, I started closing the gap a little more, pick up the timing, and I think it worked real well.”
Garcia said he was pleased with his second outing at 147 pounds. “I think I carried the weight a little bit better, it allowed me to perform better. I was light on my feet when I had to be. (Vargas) is the bigger guy. I could feel the size difference, but my talent overcame that. I started to hurt him as the rounds went by. took his close to the corner, put a right hand on him that hurt him and put him down. My rhythm, my speed, my power was perfect, and all effective against a bigger guy.”
Garcia’s trainer, his brother Robert, agreed. “We broke him down little by little, it was just a matter of time.”
Garcia landed 151 of 478 total punches (32 percent); Vargas landed 142 of 671 punches (21 percent). Garcia landed 96 power punches to 101 for Vargas.
Vargas: ‘He had good pop’
Vargas said his fast start gave him confidence, perhaps too much. “I seemed to lighten up. Mikey fought a good fight, his timing was precise.
“I think the knockdown made the difference,” said Vargas. “He had good pop, credit to Mikey. Credit to my team, they guided me well but I didn’t follow their instructors exactly. I should have followed instructions exactly. It was a very close fight, very entertaining for the people in Frisco. I gave them their money’s worth.”
Will Vargas return to the super welterweight division? He said he would talk to his team about it. “No complaints .. we put on a good show here in Frisco. I fought my heart out. I hope I gave the fans all I could,” said Vargas.
Welterweight sweepstakes: Manny Pacquiao is the prize
Garcia can now turn his attention to some lucrative options, led by, the potential fight with Pacquiao. Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn has made little secret of his hope to stage the bout in Saudi Arabia, permitting a major payday for both Garcia and Pacquiao.
“I think I have great options,” said Garcia. “I’m ready to get back in with the best. Pacquiao, a rematch with Errol Spence. I’m getting better in this weight class. I hope to search for a title in my fifth division.” Either way, it will give Garcia more than enough money to add to his growing car collection.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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