For the final 24 hours leading up to the Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia vs. Juan Manuel Lopez card in Dallas, the talk was all about two pounds. By the time the fight card was over, the talk had shifted to two poundings.
Garcia failed to make the 126-pound weight limit at Friday's weigh-in, coming in at 128 and having to give up his featherweight belt. Speculation swirled about how this might affect the fight. Would Garcia be weakened and more susceptible to an upset loss? Would he have an unfair size advantage? As it turned out the weight was irrelevant, and just like lightweight Terence Crawford in the co-featured bout against Alejandro Sanabria, Garcia was dominant and ultimately destructive in racking up a nearly drama-free knockout victory. The two pounds were quickly forgotten. The back-to-back poundings at American Airlines Arena made a more lasting impression.
If there was a third storyline to go along with the clinically efficient victories of Garcia and Crawford, it was the depressing state of the once sensational "JuanMa" Lopez. Two weeks from his 30th birthday, Lopez's cake needs to feature a few extra candles if it's going to accurately reflect his pugilistic age. A hotly anticipated showdown with Yuriorkis Gamboa wasn't signed back in 2010 when it should have been, Lopez instead fought the all-wrong-for-him Orlando Salido twice and suffered a pair of TKO losses, and Garcia had an easy time on Saturday night with what little was left of the Puerto Rican southpaw.
Five months ago, Garcia elevated himself to the championship level with a technical decision win over the very same Salido who hastened the demise of Lopez, and while results against common opponents can sometimes be misleading, in this case they were flawlessly predictive. Relaxed as always, textbook boxer-puncher Garcia jabbed his way to success in the first round (14 of the 15 punches he landed were jabs), scouted his formerly dangerous opponent for three minutes, and then put together the perfect game plan. Lopez's balance was shot but his heart was not, and the result was a tendency to lunge in awkwardly and leave himself wide open to counters. Garcia happens to throw a world-class counter left hook, so he made the clever decision to take half-steps backward, wait for JuanMa to pursue, then crack him with counters. He led Lopez into one flush shot after another, and Lopez never stopped obliging. JuanMa appeared to either want to turn the fight around with one big bomb or get his knockout loss over with quickly if the big bomb wasn't meant to be.
Lopez's chin has been viewed as a weakness ever since his near-disaster against Rogers Mtagwa in 2009, and midway through the second round, Garcia shifted from measuring Lopez with jabs to blasting that chin with power shots. A sequence of three quick left hooks, each one popping Lopez's chin a bit higher in the air, set the stage for a straight right hand that dropped JuanMa on his rump with about 45 seconds to go in the round. "He wasn't hurt bad, so I didn't go for the knockout," Garcia reflected after the fight. Instead, he calmly circled and waited for Lopez to lean face-first into something.
That something didn't come in the remaining seconds of round two or in round three. But in the fourth, Garcia staggered his man with a pinpoint 1-2 combination, then countered a hopeful Lopez left hand with a left of his own. Moments later, Garcia (32-0, 27 KOs) hurt Lopez badly with a counter right hand to the ear and finished the combination with a hooking left that sent the Puerto Rican crashing to the mat. Lopez (33-3, 30 KOs) beat the count, but couldn't regain his balance and referee Rafael Ramos made an obvious stoppage call at 1:35 of the fourth round.
After missing weight, Garcia paid a reported $150,000 out of his purse to Lopez to convince him to go through with the fight. There will be many fight fans who hope Lopez accepts that consolation prize as part of an early-retirement package.
Garcia told HBO's Max Kellerman after the fight that his weight problems came from getting sick the week before the fight and missing a couple of days of training. "I think I can still fight at the featherweight limit," Garcia said, to the surprise of nearly everyone. "With the proper training and proper diet, I can still do it." Perhaps so. But after missing weight by a full two pounds, he should at least strongly consider a move to junior lightweight.
And if he does move up a division, that will place Garcia just one weight class away from Crawford, possibly a future opponent for him. Both are 25 years old, highly skilled, and among the most relaxed fighters in the game. Crawford is far less proven as a pro, however, and the little-known Sanabria, much like JuanMa in the main event, didn't have the tools to test the Omaha lightweight. Crawford stood in the pocket, showed a willingness to take a few punches in order to impress audiences with his offense, and did just that a few seconds into the sixth round, when a perfect left hook to the chin, followed by a grazing shot to the back of the head, sent Sanabria (34-2-1, 25 KOs) somersaulting to the canvas. The Mexican got up but was in no shape to continue and referee Laurence Cole waved off the fight at the 17-second mark of round six.
"I saw that he didn't want to initiate and come to me, so I had to come to him," said Crawford (21-0, 16 KOs). "I feel like I can be aggressive, I can box, I can do anything in the ring."
Against Sanabria, he certainly could. Garcia was able to say the same of his fight with Lopez. It won't always be this easy, of course, but credit both victors for doing all the right things to make these fights look like mismatches.