Mikey Garcia gets his first welterweight win but Danny Flexen considers if he can push Manny Pacquiao
Mikey Garcia is now a winning welterweight. At the second time of asking, the Californian four-weight world champion - all titles captured south of 147lbs - took a merited and meritorious victory in his current division.
There were both positives and negatives to take from Garcia’s unanimous decision victory over a game and talented, if not elite Jessie Vargas on Saturday in Texas. At the very least it blurred some memories of Mikey’s abject loss to IBF king Errol Spence a year ago, when Garcia decided to dive straight in at the welterweight deep end. Then, he was dominated in a way we had never previously seen at lighter weights.
In the aftermath of the Vargas win, rumours immediately began to circle that Garcia would next challenge veteran WBA ruler and living legend Manny Pacquiao in July. It is a showdown that has long been mooted but was perhaps delayed by the American’s late February date with Vargas and his need, now fulfilled, to enter a Pacquiao match having taken a respectable scalp at welter. They key question now is less when the Pacquiao tilt happens, more if Garcia can be competitive or even upset the Filipino Senator.
In Garcia’s favour is that while Pacquiao has competed exclusively at full welterweight since, he began his career much lighter than Mikey was for his own debut and even now is not the biggest of 147lbers; smaller than Vargas who he clearly defeated, and significantly shorter and slighter than Spence. Manny is also, despite the superb triumph over Keith Thurman last year, past his prime and certainly not the non-stop threshing machine of old.
Garcia showed against Vargas many of the traits that stood out in the lighter divisions remain in his locker. He was patient, maintained a smart defence (which also helped him survice Spence) and displayed excellent variety. He was also able go through the gears explosively and hurt the bigger Vargas in the fifth, scoring a knockdown, and seventh rounds.
That said, Garcia still looked like a podgy lightweight who could doubtless make 140lbs if not lighter. While he had Vargas in trouble on a couple of occasions, Garcia was unable to finish him and actually gave away rounds once it became clear Vargas was going to last the course. He was often clattered by Jessie’s lead left hooks in an overall good performance wherein he started and finished a little slow.
Pacquiao fights in bursts and still has remarkably spry legs and fast feet. It’s easy to envisage him winning rounds due to landing telling shots during his busy spells against the more methodical Garcia. It is also doubtful Mikey can outmuscle the strong Filipino. To win he would likely need to outwork Manny while staying defensively responsible. It’s a big ask though not impossible for a highly intelligent operator like Garcia.
Pacquiao should start as favourite but you cannot wholly rule Garcia out.