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Garcia's Break-Out Gives Way to a Bad Break

Usually that first title victory is cause for jubilant celebration. Tears of joy, excessive whooping, an acceptance-speech-type thank-you list, covering family, friends, and higher powers-these are all standard operating procedure when a young fighter scores his breakthrough victory. But Mikey Garcia's celebration Saturday night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden was a good bit more subdued. Part of that was because Garcia just isn't the excitable type. But mostly it was because his shockingly dominant performance against Orlando Salido ended in anticlimax, a headbutt-induced broken nose causing a strange and premature finish and leaving all parties-even the new top dog in the featherweight division-unsatisfied.

With Garcia ahead 79-69, 79-69, and 79-70 on the scorecards, margins made so unusually wide by four knockdowns of the veteran belt holder Salido, the 25-year-old from California took the business end of Salido's head direct to the bridge of the nose late in the eighth round.

Head clashes happen in boxing. So do broken noses. But in terms of fights being called off on account of a broken nose caused by an accidental foul, this may have been a first. Garcia didn't seem to want the fight to end, but it appeared his brother/trainer Robert Garcia did, and examining the reconfigured proboscis, the ringside doctor obliged and stopped the fight. What was 99 percent certain to be a unanimous decision win for Mikey at the end of 12 rounds became an eight-round technical decision that left observers feeling empty.

"It's not as good of a feeling as I would have had if we'd gone the distance," Garcia, 31-0 (26 KOs), said in the ring afterward. "[The nose is] broken … It's hard to breathe … I was doing everything perfectly fine. I had a game plan, and I was executing it perfectly."

That Garcia was. Salido, viewed by most as the number one 126-pounder in the world coming into the fight, had no answers for anything Mikey did.

Less than halfway through the opening round, Garcia's left hook connected with Salido's jaw and produced a flash knockdown. Moments before the bell, another left hook put the Mexican down. Just like that, Garcia had a 10-7 lead, and it would never get any closer.

A sizzling right uppercut about a minute into the third round put Salido on the canvas momentarily again, and by the time a straight punch knocked Salido off-balance and down again early in the fourth, the defending titleholder's case had become almost hopeless. You hate to diminish Garcia's performance and his moment by saying the 32-year-old Salido got old overnight, but he did look out of sync from the get-go and his inability to withstand Garcia's punches was alarming. It's quite possible that his two wars with Juan Manuel Lopez in the previous 21 months, both victories for Salido, took something out of him.

That said, Garcia's punches were precise and his form near flawless, and you can make a fine case that Salido looked old strictly because Garcia is gifted enough to make an elite fighter look that way. Salido, 39-12-2 (27 KOs), never stopped trying to win, and actually put together a decent rally in the seventh round (hence the not-quite-shutout scores). But the majority of his aggression was of the ineffective variety, and Garcia was the one doing the damage, round after round.

Until Salido's noggin introduced itself, that is. At that point, Garcia became the damaged fighter and his perfect night became highly imperfect. He said he could have continued, but he didn't exactly throw a tantrum when those around him decided to abort the contest with four rounds to go, and as a result, his dominant win does not become the defining win every first-time title challenger seeks.

In the co-featured bout, middleweight phenom Gennady Golovkin produced an ending about which nobody could complain, bloodying the game Gabriel Rosado until referee Steve Smoger called a halt – at the urging of the Rosado corner – at 2:46 of the seventh round. Kazakhstan's Golovkin, so captivating in his U.S./HBO debut last September, didn't have the element of surprise in his favor this time. Instead, he had the element of being really damned good. A pinpoint jab opened a cut on Rosado's left eye in round two, another jab opened the blood gates in the Philadelphian's nose in round six, and though Rosado, 21-6 (13 KOs), put up a formidable enough effort to mark Golovkin up under both eyes, eventually the gore got to be too much.

Golovkin, 25-0 (22 KOs), admitted afterward that he'd been battling an illness in the days leading up to the fight. We'd hate to see what Rosado's face would have looked like against a Golovkin who was operating at full capacity.

The opening bout was the most competitive of the tripleheader – but it wasn't quite as competitive as the judges thought. Juan Carlos Burgos used a balanced body and head attack to seemingly earn Roman "Rocky" Martinez's junior lightweight belt at the end of 12 rounds, winning eight or nine rounds on the scorecards of most media members. Judge Waleska Roldan agreed with that assessment, scoring 117-111 for Burgos, 30-1-1 (20 KOs). But Tony Paolillo inexplicably went the other way at 116-112 for the slower and frequently frustrated Martinez, 26-1-2 (16 KOs), and John Signorile's 114-114 card meant that neither man went home with a victory.

Thank goodness for Gennady Golovkin. At least he gave us one satisfying ending among the evening's three bouts.

Posted 12:00 AM | Jan 19, 2013

Orlando Salido vs. Mikey Garcia

Gennady Golovkin vs. Gabriel Rosado

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