by Kieran Mulvaney
Three times Juan Carlos Burgos has fought for a world title. Three times he has fallen short. But while he felt aggrieved at the result the last time he fought at the Theater at Madison Square Garden -- when he left the ring twelve months ago with a draw against Rocky Martinez that he and many ringside observers felt should have been a win -- he can have no complaints about the way things ended in the same venue on Saturday night. Despite showing some promise in the early rounds, Burgos was unable to cope with the relentlessness of Mikey Garcia, who won a wide unanimous decision to retain his super featherweight belt.
There is a theory among anthropologists that our earliest ancestors overcame their prey animals by walking them down, by keeping at them without letup for hours and hours and days and days, until they were simply too exhausted to resist. This, in boxing terms, is the essence of Mikey Garcia. He is rarely explosive and isn't one to come charging out of the blocks looking to knock his opponent into next week. He is instead a Terminator, his eyes always fixed on his foe, his feet never out of position, walking forward, probing for weaknesses and gradually breaking his adversary down.
Even when that foe scores some early success -- as Burgos did on Saturday night, landing a big left hook in the second round that buckled Garcia and almost put him down -- Garcia is unperturbed. Instead, he files it away in his mental rolodex, makes sure not to make the same mistake again, and resumes his pursuit.
That is how it unfolded against Burgos. It wasn't always exciting, it wasn't spectacular, but it was ruthlessly effective: Garcia spent a couple of rounds figuring out his foe and deciding how to negate his reach advantage, and once he had done so, he zeroed in and gradually increased the pressure.
By the fifth round, he was in complete control. Having scored some early success in keeping Garcia at the end of his long reach, Burgos was now unable to prevent him from slipping inside and landing straight right hands over his jab. All the challenger could do was move backward, keep as much space as he could between him and his pursuer, and limit the damage. That strategy proved sufficient for Burgos to last the full twelve rounds, but it was progressively less effective as the fight unfolded.
By the eighth and ninth rounds, Garcia was finding Burgos increasingly easy to mark with his combinations, still never over-extending himself but stepping forward and making sure Burgos was just where he wanted him before unloading his punches. There were times in the closing rounds when a stoppage seemed possible, but Burgos did enough to survive, if not much more. By the time the bell rang to end the twelfth round, there was no doubt at all that Garcia had overwhelmed another opponent.
"I feel good and we did a good job," said Burgos afterward. "In the second round, when I landed the left hook, I hurt him. He recovered well. He was prepared. He has a lot of ability. He was fast and strong. Luck was not with us tonight."
"In the early rounds, I was working on getting the right rhythm, timing and distance," said Garcia. "By the final couple of rounds, my brother [and trainer, Robert Garcia], told me to walk him down and put more pressure on him. And I did."