LAS VEGAS – Mikey Garcia knocked Jonathan Barros out Saturday as viciously as you'll ever see, crushing the Argentinian with a left hook that Garcia seemed to start from his ankles.
Somehow, Barros managed to get up before referee Robert Byrd hit 10, but he was unable to continue and Garcia had a well-earned technical knockout win.
The crowd in the ballroom at the Wynn Resort went wild celebrating the finish after what had been a tentative, slow-paced fight most of the way.
One of the spectators at ringside, though, did little but sneer.
Orlando Salido, the WBO featherweight champion and one of the hardest-edged guys in the business, wasn't particularly impressed by the rising star's performance.
"He started very slowly and if he starts that way against me, he doesn't have the capability to beat me," Salido said. "That was a good left hand. It was a good punch he landed, and it's his signature punch, but [Barros] and I are different fighters. He won't do that to me."
Salido will get a chance to back his bold words on Jan. 19 in the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, when he defends his belt against Garcia. The bout was supposed to have been Saturday, but Salido closed a door on his right index finger during training and had to pull out.
Garcia took the Barros fight to stay busy and earn a paycheck, and he did what he set out to do Saturday. He controlled the action, took little punishment and ended the fight the first time an opening presented itself.
It was far from a dynamic performance, though Garcia just sloughed that off as being patient.
"I wanted to be careful and be safe and make sure I didn't get cut or anything," Garcia said. "I wanted to work behind the jab and that's what we did."
Salido, though, isn't going to be content to paw from a distance the way Barros did. Nor will he let Garcia maintain a slow pace. In a pair of exciting stoppages of previously unbeaten Juan Manuel Lopez, Salido put extraordinary pressure on that made Lopez wilt.
The one edge Garcia has is that he's a multi-dimensional fighter. He's yet to face someone with Salido's experience, but Garcia has lots of punches in his arsenal and, as he proved with the left hook in the eighth, he can punch. He also can box and move.
Though Salido dismissed the win as coming over a lower-level opponent, Garcia, not surprisingly had a different take.
"He's going to come in during the early part of the fight with a lot of pressure and he'll jump on me, probably," Garcia said. "He may think that's a way for him to get ahead, but believe me, I'll be ready for whatever he brings."
Certainly, Barros wasn't ready for Garcia's power. He entered the bout with a 34-3-1 record and 17 knockouts, but wasn't remotely in Garcia's league talent-wise.
He'd been in with better opposition, though, and said he'd never been before.
"I've never been down before, ever," Barros said. "I'm shocked. I'm stunned."
Garcia landed 78 of 371 punches, most of which were jabs. He landed 43 of 229 jabs, according to CompuStrike.
The jab will be a key weapon for him against Salido, but he'll need to throw it with far more authority than he did against Barros. Much of the time on Saturday, he just stuck it out there.
He'll need it to be more of a weapon to be able to get past Salido and win his first world title.
"I have a lot of work to do, but believe me, I'll be ready," Garcia said. "I was just being cautious, making sure there was no cut or any head butt. I will be ready to do what I have to do against [Salido]."
Garcia promoter Bob Arum wasn't particularly impressed with Garcia, saying he felt the Californian fought "a lousy fight," but said he remains excited by the prospect of a bout with Salido.
"That should be awesome," he said.
In a fight that was not awesome, a head butt in the ninth round of a super welterweight eliminator caused a premature end to the bout between Vanes Martirosyan and Erislandy Lara.
Martirosyan suffered a deep gash over his left eye, forcing the bout to be stopped. The judges all had it differently, with the outcome being ruled a technical draw.
The winner was supposed to be the next opponent for WBC champion Canelo Alvarez, but Martirosyan trainer Freddie Roach said, "Vanes is going to be out a long, long time. That's a bad cut."
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