By Jason Pribila: In the early 2010’s Mikey Garcia (36-0, 30 KO) was being groomed by Hall of Fame Promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank to be their next Pay Per View attraction. He had just won his second title at junior lightweight, and despite the weight difference, Arum suggested that Garcia could be a future opponent to Manny Pacquiao. Everything seemed to be going according to plan until Garcia decided that he did not want to fight Yuriorkis Gamboa or anyone else under the Top Rank Banner.
Two and a half years passed before we saw Garcia back in the ring on July 30 as the main support for Carl Frampton. Garcia took little time in dispatching Elio Rojas, and was prepared for a title shot against hard-hitting Dejan Zlaticanin (22-1, 15 KO).
Garcia took little time to make a competitive fight on-paper and turn it into a mis-match.
Garcia controlled the pace and distance from the opening bell, keeping his shorter foe at the end of his punches. When Zlaticanin did attempt to land single punches, they were often telegraphed and thrown as he was off-balance.
Two minutes into the third round saw Zlaticanin threw a wild off-balance right hand from the outside. Garcia countered with a clean right uppercut that had Zlaticanin out on his feet. Zlaticanin was facing the ropes with his arms at his side. When he turned to his right he was hit cleanly by a vicious Garcia right that knocked him out at 2:21 of Round 3.
Simply put, had this punch been thrown anywhere other than in a boxing ring or MMA cage, Mikey Garcia would have been arrested for assault and possibly attempted murder.
Zlaticanin lay motionless for several minutes as he was given oxygen. Finally ringside mics picked up someone informing Zlaticanin that he had been knocked out.
Deep sigh of relief.
Garcia seemed pleased and a bit surprised that the end came as soon as it did.
"I’m very happy with the performance," Garcia said. "We were controlling the pace and distance right away from the first round. I saw some openings and I thought I could hurt him later down the road, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that soon in the fight."
Garcia accomplished much when he landed the hellacious two-shot combo. He will not only be on the short-list for “Knockout of the Year”, but he should also be very high on the “Pound for Pound” list. He may have also ensured that he will be elevated to Main Event status sooner than later.
Garcia is trained by his brother Robert Garcia, who is well-respected, but who has also been called out for the discipline and behavior of some of his fighters. Mikey has always come across as very likeable, and the concern he showed for his fallen foe following the fight.
"I’m very happy he’s OK and I’m glad he was able to recover from that," Garcia said. "The natural response is to be celebrating and to be cheerful, but then concern does kick in when I saw he was still laying there for a few minutes. I’m glad he’s OK."
Garcia hopes to unify belts at lightweight before moving up to junior welterweight.
With the multi-year hiatus behind him, fight fans should be hopeful to see Garcia in the ring 2-3 more times in 2017.
I wonder if Bob Arum would let him anywhere near Manny Pacquiao or even Terence Crawford any time soon.
Jason Pribla is a full voting member of the BWAA. He could be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on twitter.com @PribsBoxing.