Mikey Garcia had huge plans for his future, with fights against the likes of Devin Haney and Regis Prograis. All he had to do was take care of business against the unknown Sandor Martin at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, Calif., on Saturday night.
Spoiler alert: He didn’t take care of business.
In a massive upset, a lethargic Garcia dropped a majority decision to Martin in a fight where the four-division world champion couldn’t put the puzzle pieces together. And now Garcia’s plans for big fights have been tossed aside and the 33-year-old will need to reassess his career.
Garcia sought a tune-up fight after a 20-month layoff before seeking challenges against the best 140-pound fighters in the world. Martin wasn’t expected to be much of a problem for him. In fact, the fight was treated as a showcase for Garcia, who had the home-field advantage complete with fireworks during an extravagant entrance. But when the bell rang, it seemed that Garcia should have saved some of those fireworks for his opponent.
Martin put together a fantastic performance as he befuddled Garcia with his movement and surprising boxing prowess marked by crisp counterpunching. Garcia appeared to be stuck in neutral as the rounds went by and it became apparent that he wasn’t going to give the fans much to cheer for. With the judges scoring the fight 97-93, 97-93 and 95-95, Martin pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent memory against a former pound-for-pound mainstay.
The question now is: Where does Garcia go from here?
Garcia’s career is a complicated one. After starting his career 34-0 with victories over the likes of Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez and Roman Martinez, he appeared to be primed for greatness. But a contractual dispute with his promoter, Top Rank, led to Garcia taking a two-year hiatus from the sport. He eventually returned and continued his winning ways while becoming a four-division world champion, with dominant victories over Adrien Broner, Sergey Lipinets and Robert Easter along the way.
But Garcia bit off more than he could chew as he climbed from 130 pounds to 147 pounds to challenge Errol Spence Jr. for the IBF welterweight title. The undersized Garcia was taken to school by Spence, who pitched a virtual shutout and handed Garcia his first loss as a professional. But the defeat was forgivable given the massive risk Garcia took in going up two weight classes and challenging one of the best fighters in all of boxing.
A win against Jessie Vargas seemingly put him in line to face Manny Pacquiao, but COVID-19 derailed those plans and put Garcia’s boxing future back on hold. He was coming off the second-longest layoff of his career when he stepped in the ring against Martin. Nobody gave Martin a chance against the highly skilled tactician. But the layoff and the fight taking place at 145 pounds ended up being a recipe for disaster. Martin and Spence are now the only two fighters to have defeated Garcia.
An odd pair.
Great fighters have off nights against unknown competition. Pacquiao lost to Jeff Horn, Erik Morales was upended by Zahir Raheem and James “Buster” Douglas infamously stopped Mike Tyson. Some are able to come back and their loss is viewed as more of a hiccup than a sign of things to come. Garcia will likely get his chance at vengeance with a rematch. But the damage is already done.
At 33 and after having had two long layoffs, Garcia doesn’t have much time to waste. He has to figure out how to get back on the horse and figure out what went wrong. He appeared to be in denial during his postfight interview and refused to admit that the time away had an effect on his performance. But the reality is that he has to rebuild himself if he ever wants those fights against the class of the division.
Perhaps he should consider a drop down to 140 pounds. He fought Martin at a catchweight of 145 and, similar to how he looked against Spence, it felt like he was fighting well above his optimum weight. Garcia did his best work at 130 and 135 and he may have to look to a nutritionist to compete at that weight. But make no mistake: He was outclassed by an opponent nobody knew prior to this fight. And it wasn’t close.
Maybe Garcia will make us all forget this loss with his next performance. But, for now, his future is in question.