Mikey Garcia and The Weight Jumping Epidemic
Published: August 01, 2017
This past weekend three division world champion and current WBC lightweight (135) champion Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs) moved up the super lightweight (140) division to take on the enigmatic Adrien Broner (33-3, 24 KOs). Despite claims of the same old song and dance of a more focused Broner that was disgruntled at the odds that at one point made him a five to one underdog, Garcia won a wide unanimous decision by utilizing his greater overall skill set and out throwing the Cincinnati native. No amount of excuses can take away from the fact that Garcia is simply the better fighter.
Now that the fight with Broner is over, everyone’s focus is on the next opponent for Garcia. And not just his next opponent but also the next weight class for the California native. There are certainly many reasons for a fighter to move up to a new weight class. They may not be able to make the weight anymore, or there may be more financial opportunities in one division versus the other. Unfortunately, for boxing fans, this has led to many fighters jumping weight classes after just one or two fights.
Garcia is a three-division world champion having won titles in the featherweight (126), super featherweight (130), and lightweight divisions. He is also ranked as one of the best fighters in the sport pound-for-pound. However, looking at his record carefully, Garcia has yet to establish himself in a weight class in any way historically. He has fallen into the same pattern that many others have used of winning a title and defending it once before moving up to the next division.
At featherweight, he defeated tough veteran Orlando Salido (44-13-4, 31 KOs) to win the WBO title in 2013. He then lost his title on the scales against Juan Manuel Lopez (35-5, 32 KOs) in his next fight. Garcia would then move up to super featherweight and defeated Roman Martinez (29-3-3, 17 KOs) to win the WBO title in the division. Garcia made one successful title defense against Juan Carlos Burgos (32-2-2, 21 KOs) at the beginning of 2014 before going on a two and a half year hiatus from the sport due to promotional issues with then promoter Top Rank. When Garcia returned two and a half years later he decided to come back as a lightweight. At the beginning of this year in January, Garcia scored a vicious knockout over Dejan Zlaticanin (22-1, 15 KOs) to win the WBC lightweight championship.
The fight with Broner for Garcia may have been a way to catch up on lost time in the ring that was missed during his hiatus. As for now if Garcia were to retire today he would not be ranked anywhere near the top ten of any of the weight classes he has campaigned. Of course, this is nothing new and a trend of this current era in boxing.
The two biggest stars of this era Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) and Floyd Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs) did their share of weight jumping. Pacquiao fought once at lightweight to win a title in 2008. Mayweather earned a title at super lightweight only to move up to welterweight in his next fight. Before Mayweather and Pacquiao, boxing’s first two five-division champions Ray Leonard (36-3-1, 25 KOs) and Thomas Hearns (61-5-1, 48 KOs) both moved up and down from the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions on a fight-by-fight basis in the late 1980’s. Hearns at one point won a title at light heavyweight against Dennis Andries (49-14-2, 30 KOs) then moved back down to the middleweight division in his next fight to face Juan Roldan (67-5-2, 47 KOs) for the vacant WBC middleweight title. The protégé of the famed Emanuel Steward then moved up to the super middleweight (168) division for a rematch against Leonard.
In the case of Leonard, Hearns, Mayweather, and Pacquiao having stints and winning titles in particular weight classes is only the icing on a cake of an already established career at other weight classes where they will be ranked as some of the best to ever fight at their respective weights. Mayweather at 130-pounds may only be behind Julio Cesar Chavez and Alexis Arguello as the best to ever fight in the weight class. This kind of foundation is missing from many of today’s fighters.
If Garcia moves back to the lightweight division, he has a chance to create a legacy in one of boxing’s eight original weight classes. Fights with the other champions at lightweight like Jorge Linares (42-3, 27 KOs) who holds the WBA and Ring Magazine lightweight titles would be highly anticipated and allow Garcia to unify for the first time in his career. A fight with IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter Jr. (20-0, 14 KOs) has an inherent storyline written, as Easter is a close friend of Broner.
The two fighters outside of lightweight that are being pushed for Garcia to face are fellow elite practitioners Terence Crawford (28-0, 22 KOs) and Vasyl Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KOs). Crawford will be facing Julius Indongo (22-0, 11 KOs) on August 19 to unify all of the titles at super lightweight while Lomachenko has unfinished business at super featherweight. Like Garcia, Lomachenko has also followed the pattern of winning a title and defending it once or twice before moving up to the next division. These fights may be difficult to make since Top Rank promotes both Lomachenko and Crawford.
There are some exceptions in today’s era of fighters establishing a legacy in a weight class. Japan’s Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-0-2, 19 KOs) has now made 12 title defenses of his WBC bantamweight (118) championship. 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) established himself as the best super middleweight of his era and is now the unified light heavyweight champion. Middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) has made 18 title defenses of his middleweight titles before he faces Canelo Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) in the biggest boxing match of the year.
While winning titles in multiple divisions is an excellent accomplishment, there are roads that can be taken with the number of titleholders per division that diminish its difficulty. It has been well documented that Garcia does not share the same affinity for boxing the way his brother and trainer Robert Garcia does. Even fights at the welterweight (147) division against Pacquiao and Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) have been brought up by Garcia. Possibly for their financial benefits and higher risk versus reward.
Boxing is a sport that changes and evolves along with the fighters that participate in it. The days of having one man rule a division is not as valued today as much as winning titles in multiple divisions. As fighters continue the trend of jumping weight-classes, hopefully, they can remember more often than not to not leave any unfinished business behind them. The fighters alone cannot be the only culprits, as promoters need to be willing to cross the bridge to work with one another. The epidemic of weight class jumping will continue in the sport of boxing for the foreseeable future if nothing changes.
(Feature Photo: Kelly Owen/Frontproof Media)