Unlike most young fighters, Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia is never in a hurry. Since turning pro in 2006 Garcia has methodically dismantled every hurdle set in front of him, resulting in a 29-0 (25 KO) record and a top spot in the world rankings. The final step toward his first chance at a major belt will take place Saturday against someone who has already held a strap -- former WBA "regular" featherweight king Jonathan Barros, who lost by decision to IBF junior lightweight titlist Juan Carlos Salgado in his last fight.
Will Garcia successfully clear this last hurdle or will Barros force him to stumble? Their respective CompuBox histories offer the following points for consideration:
Garcia's Slow Boil: The 24-year-old Garcia prefers to start slowly and refuses to speed up until he's absolutely certain he has solved his opponent -- and not a moment sooner. Against Bernabe Concepcion, Garcia averaged 47.3 punches per round over the first three rounds, going 29 of 142 (20.4%) overall and just 7 of 28 (25%) in power shots. But from round four onward Garcia turned up the heat, firing 71 punches per round and out-landing Concepcion 83-26 overall and 49-16 in power shots to register the seventh round TKO.
Five months earlier against Juan Carlos Martinez Garcia averaged 39.6 punches per round over the first three rounds, a span that saw the prospect out-landed 50-44 overall and 37-28 in power punches. Once Mikey turned on the jets in round four, Martinez's fate was sealed. In 160 seconds Garcia went 32 of 69 (46%) overall and 26 of 42 (62%) in power punches while Martinez could only muster 6 of 42 (14%) and 6 of 23 (26%) power before crumbling under the avalanche.
Garcia's tendency to take his time could be a source of frustration for his fans -- and a potential flaw against elite opponents -- but for now it works for him. One fight, however, proves that Garcia is capable of fast starts and maintaining the high-octane pace from first bell to last. When he forced Matt Remillard into a 10th round corner retirement, Garcia averaged 94.3 punches per round (far above the 58 featherweight average), out-landed his rival 266-162 (total) and 203-83 (power) and threw a fight-high 104 and 122 punches in rounds nine and 10. In the 10th alone Garcia cranked up 107 power shots, more than triple the 34.9 featherweight norm.
Tripping Over the Best: When Barros faces domestic opposition, his kinetic style and unpredictable punching angles are more than enough to string together Ws. During his rematch with Gustavo Bermudez (a man he starched in one round 20 months earlier), Barros' dervish-like 67.9 punch per round attack piled up huge connect advantages of 204-62 (total), 84-20 (jabs) and 120-42 (power) and limited Bermudez to 35.4 per round and low accuracy across the board (17.5% overall, 12.3% jabs, 22% power). But when he took his game to higher levels, it was found wanting.
The first step-up fight was against an unusually cautious Yuriorkis Gamboa (55.6 per round), who nevertheless won a 118-109 (twice), 116-111 decision and racked up connect gulfs of 151-84 (total), 35-27 (jabs) and 116-57 (power). After splitting two fights against Celestino Caballero (a hotly dispute split decision on home turf in fight one, a convincing loss in Luna Park in the rematch three months later) and beating Bermudez in a tune-up, Barros rose in weight to challenge Salgado in Mexico. The defending titlist's 79.8 punch-per-round attack (of which 50.8 were power shots) limited Barros to 47.3 per round and created decisive connect gaps of 240-132 (total) and 204-72 (power) that neutralized Barros' 60-32 jab lead.
Barros, not an accurate puncher under most circumstances, connected on a combined 20.4% overall and 23.1% power against Gamboa and Salgado, far below the featherweight norms of 30.2% and 36.6%. Garcia is a good defensive fighter (a nine-fight average of 19.3% overall, 11% jabs and 30.2% power) so it appears Barros again will have trouble breaking through.
Prediction: Barros is a durable character who will try to take the fight to Garcia as long as the fight lasts. Also, his unusual punching angles and pugnacious attitude will test Garcia's patience and boxing IQ -- for a while. Once Garcia figures out his foe sometime in the middle rounds he will turn up the heat and scorch the Argentine. Garcia by TKO in round 10.