LOS ANGELES – Mikey Garcia cruised to a decision win over Robert Easter on Saturday, unifying a pair of lightweight titles and solidifying him as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
And then he called out Errol Spence Jr.
Why, Mikey? Why follow up a brilliant performance at 135-pounds by picking a fight with the young, hungry 147-pound bully on the block? This isn’t a revelation, of course. All week Garcia has told anyone with a microphone that he wanted a piece of Spence, the 28-year old title-holding former U.S. Olympian with the unblemished professional record. This isn’t Garcia jumping up two weight classes to fight one of the best in the division. This is him angling for a fight with arguably the best.
So why, Mikey? This isn’t a pen-toting, out of shape sportswriter declaring this a bad idea. As Garcia told the Yahoo Sports Boxing Podcast this week, everyone in his family thinks a move to welterweight is too much. His father, Eduardo, the patriarch of the great Garcia boxing family has told him not to do it. His brother, Robert, a former titleholder himself and Garcia’s longtime trainer, has declared it a bad idea.
Minutes before Garcia faced Easter, Shawn Porter, arguably the most physical fighter at 147-pounds, was asked about Garcia campaigning at welterweight.
“Mikey is a great fighter,” Porter told Yahoo Sports, smiling. “But I think he should try 140-pounds for a while.”
Garcia craves the biggest challenges. And that’s admirable. But there’s a challenge at 135-pounds that is just as formidable and might even represent more money: Vasiliy Lomachenko. Lomachenko — at worst the co-pound-for-pound king, alongside Terence Crawford — holds a piece of the lightweight title. He’s shelved, for now, with a shoulder injury, and when he returns, his promoter, Top Rank, has earmarked him for the winner of next month’s Ray Beltran-Jose Pedraza fight, which will give Lomachenko a chance to fight for the final piece of the 135-pound crown.
Yes, Lomachenko fights for Top Rank, which is just a few years removed from a bitter split with Garcia. Lomachenko also fights on ESPN, while Garcia has been fighting on Showtime. Still, this is exactly the level of fight that should bring fighters together, promoters together, even networks together. Recently, Robert Garcia has been training fighters on Top Rank promoted shows. Asked by Yahoo Sports if he has talked to Top Rank officials about Garcia-Lomachenko, Robert said he had not spoken to CEO Bob Arum or president Todd duBoef, but claims in conversations with other officials at Top Rank’s shows, he’s told Garcia would win that fight. Still, Garcia-Lomachenko will only happen, Robert says, “when it is too big not to.”
So why not try to make Garcia-Lomachenko? Garcia could return in the fall, perhaps against Richard Commey, the twice-beaten former title challenger who will attempt to pick him his third straight win next weekend. Lomachenko can face the winner of Beltran-Pedraza, and if both come through unscathed, a Garcia-Lomachenko showdown will emerge in the spring as one of the biggest fights in boxing — and arguably its most significant.
Could Garcia face Lomachenko after fighting Spence? Perhaps, but let’s be realistic: If Garcia moves to 147-pounds, his days at 135 are over. Lomachenko’s handlers have been clear that Lomachenko — who had all he could handle against Jorge Linares earlier this year — won’t stray a pound above lightweight. If Garcia jumps up, Garcia-Lomachenko vanishes into the fantasy fight ether.
There’s another reason for Garcia to steer clear of Spence: It’s the kind of fight that could damage his career forever. Too hyperbolic? Flashback to summer 2016. Kell Brook, a reigning welterweight champion, jumped at the chance to fight Gennady Golovkin, the middleweight destroyer. To Brook, Golovkin represented a challenge, and boatload of money. Brook faced Golovkin in September — and Golovkin broke his face. Brook’s trainer, Dominic Ingle, described Brook’s injury — officially a broken eye socket — as akin to one suffered in a car crash. Brook described the surgery as one where doctors literally removed his eye to fit a titanium plate.
In Brook’s next fight, he lost to Spence. At 32, his days as an elite fighter could be over.
A cautionary tale? Maybe. Spence isn’t the savage puncher Golovkin is, but he has prodigious power and knows how to use it. Garcia is a skilled defensive fighter, but he has been down before and admitted this week that against Sergey Lipinets, he felt true 140-pound power.
Spence? He loves the fight. Why wouldn’t he? “I don’t really see anything that concerns me,” Spence said. “It’s definitely going to be an easy fight.” The welterweight division is a deep one, but an injury to Keith Thurman and the upcoming showdown between Porter and Danny Garcia has Spence searching for an opponent. Mikey Garcia represents a big name for his resume — and a big payday for his bank account.
“He will be pound-for-pound No. 1 if he beats me,” Spence said. “But it’s not going to happen.”
Politics makes Spence-Garcia easy, but let’s hope common sense prevails. Let’s hope Lomachenko — who dictates his opponents to Top Rank more often than any fighter in its stable — pushes his promoter to cut a deal with Garcia. Let’s hope Garcia exercises patience for the end of the year. Spence-Garcia is a big fight. Garcia-Lomachenko is much bigger.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Air Force player comes out as gay: ‘I did not think this day would ever come’
• Dez Bryant blames Cowboys ‘garbage ass play calling’ for struggles in Twitter rant
• Is a Jimmer Fredette NBA comeback possible?
• Yankees fans go after pitcher on Twitter who hit Aaron Judge