Mikey Garcia made a statement in his last fight when he disarmed tough as nails pressure fighter, Orlando Salido from The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City on January 19th. The same Orlando Salido that took Juan Manuel Lopez’s “0” in a battle of Mexico vs. Puerto Rico in 2011 and followed that performance up just short of 11 months later with another TKO victory. Which Juanma will show up to the ring this Saturday for his fight versus unbeaten Mikey Garcia at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas?
Bob Arum had to have a tear in his eye the night of April 16th 2011. One of his prized pupils from Puerto Rico had his boxing heart ripped out of his chest, in what was a nightmare scenario to any Puerto Rican boxing fan, by the hands of a Mexican fighter. Yes, Bob Arum made money that night and the fight set up a rematch that also filled the Top Rank coffers. Fight fans were happy with the war that added to yet another classic installment to the Puerto Rico vs. Mexico rivalry. But deep down inside, Arum had to feel the pain Lopez felt in his boxing soul, only it wasn’t his soul but a hole he felt in his deep pockets considering what was at stake that night.
After all Bob was the one who groomed him to be the next great fighter to come out of the best pound for pound boxing island in the world. Arum made it clear when he said Lopez has the potential to leap frog Miguel Cotto and stand aside or closer to the great Felix “Tito” Trinidad. With that smile, record setting work rate, and power punching, Bob and Juanma were going to rule the lower weight divisions, and there headquarters for world domination would be stationed in Puerto Rico and New York City.
But in his second fight with Salido, we saw a very different Juan Manuel Lopez. The punch count dropped and his thirst for a war seemed quenched by left hooks and right hands. He was bouncing on his toes from the outside for long portions of the fight trying not to engage. Instead of using smart pressure behind his jab he seemed stuck between styles with no true game plan to speak of. Later in the fight, he did begin to have success but got caught in exchanges with the bigger punches going down and being stopped in the 10th. If he fights with hesitation he could very well make in the full 12 rounds versus the more reserved style of Mikey Garcia. If Lopez wants to regain his footing and climb back up the ladder to the place he stood before the 2 fights with Salido, he must bring pressure.
It doesn’t have to be out of control pressure that Mikey will counter with ease, rather smart pressure to take advantage of his gifts as a fighter. Salido brought his style of pressure but got countered over and over again by the skillful Garcia. Lopez is going to get hit that’s a given. But Lopez at his best brings a different type of pressure that Garcia has never seen before. If Lopez throws a crisp jab and mixes up his punches in combinations, he could push the unbeaten Mexican American. Juanma may not be as crafty on the inside as Salido. When focused he can be a very accurate puncher with good hand speed and long arms that allow him to land on his opponents at the end of his punch. Garcia won’t pressure much unless he smells blood so Lopez should stay busy.
For Mikey Garcia he just has to be himself, something he is very comfortable doing. The Oxnard native is a patient fighter that takes his time and systematically breaks down his opponents. If a fighter wants to push the pace early, Garcia will not hesitate to oblige like he did versus Orlando Salido dropping him in rounds 1, 3, and 4. His skill hasn’t stopped the critics from complaining about his style even with 26 knockouts in his 31 victories. Fans in the boxing forum’s, the HBO broadcast team, heck even his corner jumps on him for being too patient instead of being more aggressive early and midway thru fights. With Lopez come forward style he shouldn’t have to wait long to put his heavy hands on him and will be able to counter, land his left hook, and blister him with right hands.
However every fighter makes mistakes. One of the most common mistakes made by fighter is trying to impress the crowd which should be in his corner. According to Steve Kim from Maxboxing.com, who quoted Bob Arum saying, “We’re already over $200,000(at the gate) right now and we’ll probably be over $300,000.” With a nice crowd maybe reaching a sellout of 8,000 and Lopez’s recent trips to the canvas and suspect chin in recent years, Garcia could push the pace to early and get caught with a game changing type punch from Lopez, who even when hurt has proven he can still dish out some pain.
Another possible weakness for Mikey would be his now healed broken nose from an “accidental” head butt he received in his last fight with Orlando Salido. If Juanma could land a punch and somehow break that nose again it could change the outcome of the fight.
If Lopez is on his game, I see him giving Mikey some trouble and even winning rounds possibly landing some shots that get the crowds and Garcia’s attention. I just don’t see Juan Manuel Lopez sustaining a constant attack without the counter attack of Garcia being too much for him to handle. Be honest and ask yourself do you see Lopez moving his head let alone his upper body on the way inside? I think he can have some success with the jab but I just don’t see him sticking to a smart pressure game plan.
I see this fight going 2 ways; either Lopez fights very conservatively and last the whole 12 rounds but losses clearly or gets reckless and Garcia eats him up with his jab that he will use to set up the left hook and right hands. Mikey Garcia will keep his perfect record with Lopez engaging at some point winning some rounds and making the fight entertaining but not explosive.