By Jeff Aranow
A badly bruised Mikey Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs) boasted during the post-fight press conference of all the opportunities he has at 135, 140 and 147 following his grueling 12 round unanimous decision win over IBF World light welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets (13-1, 10 KOs) last Saturday night at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas.
Mikey won the fight by the scores 117-110, 117-110 and 116-111. The fight was a lot closer than those scores would indicate.
Unfortunately for Mikey, he only has 10 days to decide whether he’ll keep the International Boxing Federation 140 lb. title, because they expect a decision from him by March 22 whether he’ll keep the title and defend it against his IBF mandatory challenger #2 IBF Baranchyk (18-0, 11 KOs). That’s probably not the news that Garcia wished to hear, as he seemed to want to freeze the title while he went back down to lightweight to defend his WBC 135 lb. title.
Garcia said he wanted to move back to up to 140 after he fights for a final time at 135. Unfortunately, if Mikey does move back down, he’ll be a challenger when he moves back up to go after one of the champion. That obviously means less money than what he’d make if he were a champion fighting one of the other champions at 140 in a unification fight.
There’s no real reason for Mikey to move back down to lightweight, because the guy that he wants to fight, WBA champion Jorge Linares, will be facing Vasyl Lomachenko next on May 12. Unless Mikey wants to face Linares with him coming from a loss to Lomachenko, there’s no reason to bother with Linares.
Mike had the chance to fight Linares and he decided to let him sit and wait while he moved up to 140 to fight IBF 140 lb. champion Sergey Lipinets. That turned out to be a bad idea for Mikey, because he’s lost the Linares fight and he didn’t look good beating Lipinets. You can say it was an all-around bad idea for Mikey to do that.
ESPN.com has a copy of the letter the IBF sent to Mikey. Here is a portion:
”You have 10 days or until March 22, 2018 to decide if you want to remain the IBF [junior welterweight titleholder] or go back down to lightweight. Please let us know your decision by March 22, 2018. If you decide to remain the IBF junior welterweight champion, you must do the IBF mandatory defense. The leading available contender is No. 2 Ivan Baranchyk. Baranchyk is represented by DiBella Entertainment. … Negotiations would start immediately.”
I doubt that Mikey is jumping up for joy at the prospect of having to face the 25-year-old Russian Baranchyk. That would be another very tough fight for the 30-year-old Mikey. He’d probably beat Baranchyk, but he would know that he’d been in a fight. Baranchyk is no easy out. He would inflict a lot of punishment on Mikey just like Lipinets did. Mikey was battered by Lipinets.
Mikey looked like he was stunned a couple of times by Lipinets’ left hooks, and he absorbed a great deal of punishment. The scores that were turned in by the judges that worked the Garcia-Lipinets fight didn’t tell the story of how close that fight was. The judges seemed to be reacting by crowd noise when it came to them scoring the rounds, as the crowd was fully on Mikey’s side. The actual fight was more of a match that could have swung Lipinets’ way. If not a win for Lipinets, then you can argue that the fight should have been scored a 12 round draw.
Baranchyk is more of an inside fighter. He likes to throw a lot of short looping shots to the head. Baranchyk tends to wear down his opposition slowly with his short blows. Baranchyk looked good last Saturday night in stopping Petr Petrov in the 8th round at the Deadwood Mountain Grand in Deadwood, South Dakota. That was the first time Petrov has been knocked out since Marcos Maidana did it in 2011. The 25-year-old Baranchyk might have too much youth for a fighter like Mikey. It’s unlikely Mikey would even consider facing Baranchyk, because that’s challenging work and there’s not much upside in beating him. But at the same time, Mikey isn’t going to get the fight he wants against Linares at 135 right away. If Mikey’s willing to wait until Linares is done facing Lomachenko in May, he can probably get a fight against him. I’m just not sure how many boxing fans will be excited at seeing Mikey fight Linares with him coming off of a knockout loss to Lomachenko. Under that situation, Mikey would look like a cherry picker fighting Linares instead of Lomachenko.
If Mikey Garcia moves back down to lightweight, he can face Robert Easter Jr. That’s a match-up that can be made immediately. Easter Jr. (21-0, 14 KOs) wants the fight, and it would give Mikey a chance to show the boxing fans that he’s capable of unifying the division against one of the champions. Mikey vs. Easter Jr. wouldn’t attract as much attention as a fight against Linares, but that fight isn’t available right now.
“I’m willing to entertain any offer. I’ve been sitting down with different promoters, and I get to hear what they have to offer,” Garcia said. “I have opportunities at 135, 140, possibly 147. No other fighter has those options. Other fighters are limited to one, maybe two opponents [because of promotional ties]. I got two opponents each division.”
Mikey has options, but they’re not all great ones. He blew it with the Linares fight by moving up to light welterweight to face Lipinets instead. So, if Mikey goes back down to 135, his options are these fighters:
• Robert Easter Jr.
• Vasyl Lomachenko – Mikey already said last Saturday that he won’t be fighting Lomachenko. If Mikey changes his mind, then Lomachenko is an option
• Jorge Linares – Mikey can fight Linares, but it’ll likely take place with him coming off of an embarrassing loss to Lomachenko. It’s not a win-win situation for Mikey if he gets Linares after he’s been beaten by Lomachenko
• Alberto Machado – This is not a great option for Mikey.
• Kenichi Ogawa – He’s not a well-known fighter. Mikey won’t get much attention for beating him.
If Mikey chooses to stay at 140, then he’ll have to defend his IBF title against mandatory Baranchyk. Like I said, that’s a hard fight for Mikey. Even if Mikey wins, Baranchyk will get his pound of flesh and make it a hard fight. There’s no glory for Mikey fighting Baranchyk. Mikey won’t be able to fight any of the other champions at 140 in a unification fight until he defends against Baranchyk. If Mikey gives up his IBF belt, he’ll be the challenger when he faces the other belt holders at 140. It’s not a good idea for Mikey to move up to 147 right now. He didn’t look good against Lipinets.
”If I take easier fights, people won’t give you the recognition, people won’t accept you as a champion,” Mikey said. ”But if you take on the biggest challenges available, people will always love you for that.”
Mikey can always fight the winner of the Lomachenko-Linares fight if he’s serious about wanting to be remembered by the boxing public. I don’t think he’ll do that. When Mikey was asked at the post-fight press conference last Saturday if he’d be willing to fight Lomachenko, he said that he called him out for a long time, and that they have “their own agenda.” It sounded like Mikey wants no part of fighting Lomachenko. If Mikey isn’t going to fight Lomachenko, then there’s no real reason for him to mov ebakc down to lightweight. Linares will soon be facing Lomachenko on May 12, and he probably won’t win that fight. Mikey’s ego won’t let him face Linares with him coming off a loss to Lomachenko. Given that he doesn’t want to fight Lomachenko, the options at lightweight are less than desirable for Mikey. He should either stay at 140 or move up to 147.