NEW YORK – Mikey Garcia barely cracked a smile Saturday after a surgical destruction of Orlando Salido netted him his first world title.
Garcia won a technical decision after eight one-sided rounds in the theater at Madison Square Garden before a crowd of 4,850, winning the WBO featherweight title.
He knocked Salido down four times and was evoking memories of a young Floyd Mayweather, when Mayweather won his first title by routing Genaro Hernandez.
Garcia's nose was broken when he was head-butted late in the eighth round and ringside doctor Robert Polofsky decided it was too dangerous to continue.
While there was chaos in the ring and then later in a brief meeting with reporters, Garcia was the epitome of calm. He fought smart, patiently and with a high degree of skill.
He vowed he would handle the moment and was true to his word.
"I told everybody it was just another fight for me," Garcia said after running his record to 31-0. "I'm not so worried about what's at stake. I just want to show everybody the fighter I am."
It didn't take long to do that, as he dropped Salido twice in the first round, once in the third and once in the fourth. He used Salido's aggression against him and ran the tough Mexican into numerous hard shots.
Salido tried weakly later to argue he was coming on as the fight was ended, but he wasn't remotely in Garcia's class. He took enough clean shots to the head for three fights, and his face bore the marks of his losing battle. He didn't expect Salido's power to be as big of a factor as it turned out to be.
"His speed was a problem and it was very hard to recover from the first knockdown," Salido said.
Salido entered the bout with 52 fights, but it was the 25-year-old Garcia who showed the poise and cool under fire.
Even in the sixth and seventh rounds when Salido began to mount a bit of pressure, Garcia never wavered. He simply used his superior footwork to slide away and get the fight back at a comfortable distance.
Salido was doing his best work when he was in Garcia's chest, so Garcia kept him back by firing a hard and accurate jab that blunted his charge.
Salido was the best opponent Garcia ever faced, and Garcia rose to the moment.
"I wanted to show all my skills and how good I can really be," Garcia said. "I knew a guy like Salido would really test me and would allow me to do all that. Other fighters haven't done everything like they're supposed to, and they allowed me to work comfortably without doing so much. Salido made me do more, and allowed me to do a lot more."
He joined his older brother, Robert Garcia, as a world champion. But Robert, who trains his brother, was not nearly the complete fighter that Mikey Garcia is.
Robert Garcia marveled at the completeness of his brother's game.
"He fought exactly the way we trained," Robert Garcia said. "We trained for that for over two months and he executed the game plan exactly the way we told him. The punches that we practiced are the punches that we hurt [Salido] with. The movements he did, really, everything he did in the fight, it was all done in the gym."
The only downer was that he didn't get the opportunity to finish his masterpiece. Salido's head cracked him on the nose as Salido was following through with a punch in the eighth.
Garcia was having difficulty breathing and Polofsky wouldn't allow him to go on.
"We went up to check him and it is very broken," Polofsky said. "It was too dangerous to have him continue like that, so we made the decision to stop the fight. He couldn't breathe. He's having trouble breathing. It was too dangerous to have him fight like that."
Garcia shrugged his shoulders when asked if it bothered him that he didn't get to finish.
He said he would have liked to have the opportunity for the knockout. But he's a pro and he understands that winning is the most important thing.
He issued a challenge to former featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa, who is reportedly close to a fight with Timothy Bradley.
A win in a fight like that could be the one that propels him to stardom.
"I just want to keep doing my job," he said.
He was hardly the only impressive young fighter in the ring on Saturday. Gennady Golovkin retained his WBA middleweight title with a seventh-round stoppage of Gabe Rosado.
Golovkin, who was fighting a virus, was brilliant in taking Rosado apart. He was punching so hard that Rosado's cornermen were wincing early in the fight.
He was aggressive and active and tore into Rosado. Like Garcia, he's not easily impressed with himself.
"I can do much better," Golovkin said. "This was not a statement. It was just a win. I wore him down in the fifth and sixth rounds like I said I would. It was a good win for me. Gabriel is a strong man, but I was able to wear him down with my punches."
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