For defending titlist Orlando Salido, it's another opportunity to prove the doubters wrong. Despite having double-digit losses (11) in an era where a single defeat can derail careers, Salido persevered. His entire reign, now entering its third defense, wasn't even supposed to happen, but his grit enabled him to knock out Juan Manuel Lopez not once, but twice. Although he has continually beat the odds as of late, few will pick him to beat Garcia.
Will this night be one of Destiny or one of Defiance? Their recent CompuBox histories offer the following factors:
Bringing the Firepower: Salido is a warrior's warrior who piles on the pressure from first bell to last. His pressure can be represented two ways -- volume and ratio.
Against Japanese trickster Kenichi Yamaguchi, Salido overcame the challenger's bizarre tactics by throwing 103.2 punches per round (nearly twice the 57.9 featherweight average), limiting Yamaguchi to 44.6 and pounding out connect gaps of 331-80 (total), 51-16 (jabs) and 280-64 (power). Like a motor mouth, Salido's constant punching didn't allow Yamaguchi to get in a word edgewise.
The volume slowed in the two Lopez fights (53.4 in fight one, 69.5 in the rematch) and his off-the-floor eighth-round TKO over Weng Haya (74.1 per round) but his power-punching ratio was off the charts. The typical featherweight throws 57.9 punches per round, of which 34.9 -- or 60.3% -- are power punches. Salido takes this to a completely different level:
KO 8 Juan Manuel Lopez I: 401 total punches, 314 power punches -- 78.3%
KO 11 Kenichi Yamaguchi: 1,135 total punches, 781 power punches -- 68.8%
KO 8 Weng Haya: 533 total punches, 400 power punches -- 75%
KO 10 Juan Manuel Lopez II: 637 total punches, 582 power punches -- 91.4%
Four-fight average -- 77.3 punches per round, 59.3 power punches per round -- 76.7%
Few fighters, much less fighters entering their 17th year in the pro ranks, bring this kind of pressure and to win Garcia must find a way to break it -- and break Salido.
Slow Starts, Faster Finishes: The 25-year-old Garcia's ring style is an extension of his persona -- careful, calculating and cerebral. Most fighters his age like to impose their physicality early but "Mikey" prefers to assess his options. He refuses to speed up until he's absolutely certain he has solved his opponent -- and not a moment sooner. Consider:
In his most recent fight against Jonathan Barros Garcia averaged just 30.7 punches per round but from rounds four through seven he cranked out 58 per round and out-landed Barros 48-39 (overall) before putting him away in round eight.
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 fired 71 punches per round and out-landed 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 Garcia 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 stumbling block against the always-active Salido -- but for now it works for him. 61% of Garcia's thrown punches are jabs. (77% of Salido's are power shots)
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, 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.
Prediction: The big question is how Garcia will react to Salido's attack; will be go punch-for-punch or will he strike only when the iron is hot? Here's the X-factor: Garcia is the only one with one-punch power and if he nails Salido, he'll stay nailed. And Salido's sturdy chin has been failing him as of late, for Haya dropped him twice and Lopez decked him once in the rematch. Look for Garcia to end matters in the 10th.