On a frosty January evening two years ago in the Theater at Madison Square Garden, reigning WBO super featherweight champion Mikey Garcia successfully defended his crown against Mexican challenger Juan Carlos Burgos via 12-round unanimous decision. This marked his first defense of the title he had originally won by knockout over previous titleholder Roman Martinez.
At that moment in time, young Mikey had accomplished much in the sport. At age 26, he was already a two-division champion and was in the discussion in the mythical pound for pound ratings. However, after a longstanding legal dispute with his promoter Top Rank, Garcia’s career has stayed dormant and out of the public eye. Now, at age 28, he hasn’t fought actively in close to two years.
In April of 2014, Garcia sued the aforementioned Top Rank in civil court. Attempts on both sides to renegotiate their contracts have become futile. Although we do see clips of Garcia staying gym active via video, nothing official has come to fruition.
In a recent interview, Tha Boxing’s Voice’s own Anthony Rodriguez was able to catch up with Robert Garcia, Mikey’s brother and trainer, to give us an update on his younger sibling. “He’s going to come back at 28 and he could have another 10 years in boxing if he wants to, he’s very talented”, Robert pronounced. The obvious implication from Robert is that Mikey will return to the ring this year. “When he comes back, which I expect soon, we’re going to have Mikey for a while. I think he’s one of the best ‘pound for pound’ fighters in the world.”
If we rewind back to 2014 then I would certainly agree with Robert that Mikey’s pound for pound material. However, after two years of inactivity we just don’t know what Mikey we will see. There are whispers that Mikey is not necessarily in love with the sport, confirmed by his brother, “everybody knows Mikey not that fighter that really loves the sport, he does it cause he’s really good at it.”
That is the kind of comment some might view as alarming. However, let’s not forget Mikey’s an offspring from a boxing family. The sport has been ingrained in him since a tender age. He’s not only guided by his brother, who was once a world champion, but also his father, Eduardo, a longtime fixture in the game. Boxing is the Garcia’s stock and trade, their family business.
Throughout the years, there have been many world champions that aren’t necessarily obsessed with the sport and maintain great careers. There is not always a direct correlation for your love of the sport and your performance inside the ring. The questions regarding what version of Mikey Garcia we will see are not based on his penchant for boxing, but more based on his activity, much like Andre Ward for example.
So if we take Robert’s word for it and Mikey does indeed return in 2016, where will he be positioned?
That’s a real arduous question to answer. Does Mikey bolt from Top Rank or can they patch things up? If not, what promotional group signs him (if allowed)? What about his management? Does he continue to work with his previous manager Cameron Dunkin or does he restructure his management team? Is he still a super featherweight, or will he return at another weight class? How will he adjust to bigger foes?
Fortunately, we do have clarity regarding what precise division Mikey will return to. Robert told Tha Boxing Voice, “140 is a very hot division and 140 is where Mikey feels comfortable. He just can’t lose that weight to come down to lightweight or junior lightweight. I think 140 is the weight division to be at.”
Ok, now we can start piecing things together. Not only did Robert identify the weight class for Mikey, but hinted at an ambitious return, “when he comes back, two or three fights he’ll be up there, (as) one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world.”
So in order to be considered “p4p” status at 140, Mikey’s comeback must culminate in defeating one of three current belt holders, Terence Crawford, Viktor Postol, or Adrien Broner. In order to stay on the Crawford / Postol track, Mikey most likely will have to return to Top Rank, or can align himself with Golden Boy or upstart Roc Nation (who’s displayed ample “generosity” in signing bonuses). If Garcia dumps Dunkin and signs with Al Haymon, he positions himself for a potential Broner battle.
Mikey theoretically could achieve “p4p” status in two to three fights on the non-Haymon path. Hypothetically, victories over a Lucas Matthysse and Terence Crawford could do it in two fights. Although we can probably expect a nondescript foe for the first return bout. The task on the Haymon side would be more difficult as of now as the quality of opposition is weaker. There’s a high stake promotional chess game occurring in all weight classes, and at 140, the advantage leans on the non-Haymon side.
The good news is all signs point to the return of the super talented Mikey in 2016. Will he end up in “p4p” consideration by year’s end as his brother proclaimed, too many obstacles, so most likely not, but certainly headed in the right direction.