FRISCO, Tx. (FNN SPORTS) – Late Saturday night, The Ford Center pumped with excitement and anticipation of the return of one of boxing’s premier fighters, Mikey Garcia. With a seemingly sold out venue and pro-Garcia crowd, the big questions on everyone’s mind was how would Garcia bounce back after his first loss? And could he prove he belong in a division that seems just a one size too big?
For Jesse Vargas, the question was simple: Can you finally take that step in your career to beat a top contender and get a defining win that puts you over the hump of being labeled “opponent”?
Both men came out focused, but Garcia’s body tightened, once again looking uncomfortable with his opponent. Garcia, known for his rhythm, timing, and great angles, looked out of sorts and took some big shots. Vargas pressed early, fighting with a controlled chaos, determined to take the fight to Garcia. After most of the first three rounds, Vargas was in control, and it seemed like Mikey once again bit off more than he could chew.
By the forth round, however, Garcia seemed to find his timing. His jab landed more effectively setting up his right, and he was moving a lot better, avoiding some of those big punches he was previously taking. It seemed that for every punch Vargas scored, Garcia tried to respond with two or three more of his own, making for an exciting round as both men traded punches.
The tables turned in round five. Garcia used some serious clout to floor and all but finish Vargas, landing multiple hooks to Vargas’ head. It was as if that was what Garcia had been searching for–proof that he could hurt one of these guys, and it gave him all the confidence he needed as he returned into prime Garcia form, pressuring, stalking and punishing Vargas with some heavy blows as he piled up winning rounds. Vargas rallied late, making the fight a bit more interesting, but it wasn’t enough. Mikey Garcia won a unanimous decision victory (114-113, 116-111, 116-111) and gained the WBC Dimond belt.
In what was a decent fight to watch, Garcia did exactly what he was supposed to do, and to Vargas’s credit, so did he. The problem with this fight wasn’t that Garcia looked bad in victory. He didn’t. He actually looked pretty good at points. But therein lies the problem–he looked good at points against a guy who is not great, and he didn’t look complete. It’s hard to remember a time when Garcia, especially over the course of the last two fights, took so many hard punches. In combination with no head movement, and just looking a step behind Saturday night, it’s very possible that whoever Garcia’s next opponent is will once again be too much for him to handle.
This welterweight division is the most stacked division in boxing. The amount of talent in this class, not to mention who can come up from 135, has a lot of boxing fans excited for how this landscape will play out. There was a lot of talk about a potential showdown with living legend and WBA Super Welterweight Champion Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) as Garcia’s next move. But if camp Garcia really wants to cash in on the welterweight cow, it might be smart to look elsewhere first because at this point I cannot see Garcia out-pointing Pacquiao anytime soon.
Antonio Campana is a Florida National News sports contributor. | firstname.lastname@example.org