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Robert Cartagena is a boxing correspondent for SFBay.ca. He graduated from SF State in 2011 with a B.A. in journalism and spent more than a year contributing monthly articles to The Hudsucker, an online magazine with a blog twist. He has a passion for sports journalism -- particularly boxing -- as well as film reviews. He also enjoys blogging and aspires to be a professional actor one day.

Mikey Garcia’s star shines bright after impressive knockout win

Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia’s spectacular knockout win over Juan Manuel Lopez on June 15 saw the continuing rise of one fighter’s career and the potential end of another.

At 25 years old, Oxnard, Calif., native Garcia has quickly risen to the top of the featherweight division with a string of impressive victories – none more impressive than his eighth-round technical decision of Orlando Salido to win the division’s WBO world title back in January.

Mikey Garcia (left) knocks out Juan Manuel Lopez in the fourth round of their June 15 featherweight bout from Dallas, Texas (Image Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images).

Mikey Garcia (left) knocks out Juan Manuel Lopez in the fourth round of their June 15 featherweight bout from Dallas, Texas (Image Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images).

Against Lopez, Garcia was facing a man who was once considered the future of the division. By age 26, Lopez had already won world titles at junior featherweight and featherweight, blasting through an elite array of talent along the way. But everything came to a screeching halt following devastating knockout losses to Salido in 2011 and 2012. Though he has rebounded with three knockout wins since those lone defeats, Lopez has not been the same explosive fighter.

The main event featured the traditional young lion vs. old lion scenario. Though he will turn 30 at the end of this month, Lopez was the aging veteran who was looking to revitalize his career with one emphatic victory. Garcia, on the other hand, looked to further establish his reign amongst the top fighters at 126 lbs. by taking on an opponent who some still believed was dangerous.

But there was no doubt who the better man was inside the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, as Garcia (32-0, 27 KO) delivered a boxing clinic from the opening bell. He constantly tagged Lopez with his left jab and followed up with stinging straight right hands – one of which floored Lopez in the second round.

Garcia’s jab was key in his victory and the Compubox stats tell the whole story; according to the punch track system, Garcia landed 33 percent of his jabs (40 out of 120) – compared to a measly six percent (4 out of 68) for Lopez.

Lopez (33-3, 30 KO) had some success in the first round landing punches, but he never came close to reversing the tide of battle. He had lost the explosiveness that made him such an exciting fighter, as evident by his inability to get off first against his quicker opponent.

Garcia, meanwhile, continued tagging Lopez with his jab and threw in his left hook for good measure – including one that wobbled Lopez at the end of the third.

Garcia finished the job in the fourth round, staggering a lunging Lopez with a counter right hand and then sealing the deal with a blistering left hook that put Lopez on his back. Lopez was clearly hurt as he got back up on unsteady legs, prompting referee Rafael Ramos to stop the bout at the 1:35 mark.

Garcia was originally scheduled to defend his newly-won WBO title last Saturday night, but he was unexpectedly stripped of the title the previous day when he weighed in two pounds over the 126 lb. limit. After a failed attempt to shed the extra weight, Garcia agreed to pay Lopez $150,000 in order for the bout to go on as scheduled.

Weight issues aside, I think the outcome would have been the same had Garcia made weight. He was simply the quicker, sharper fighter and Lopez never posed a serious threat to him. Though he was disappointed that he lost his WBO world title on the scales, Garcia is still (for the time being) recognized as the Ring Magazine featherweight champion.

So where does Garcia go from here?

He told HBO boxing analyst Max Kellerman after the bout that he can still make 126 lbs. But he also expressed interest in jumping up to junior lightweight (130 lbs.) and seeing how comfortable he feels fighting at that weight.

BoxingScene.com recently reported that a potential title fight between Garcia and WBO junior lightweight titlist Roman “Rocky” Martinez is in the works for Sept. 21. But Martinez (27-1-2, 16 KO) made it clear that if Garcia fails to make the 130 lb. limit, the fight is off.

Nonetheless, the vast array of talent fighting between 122 and 130 lbs. – not to mention 135 lb. wildcard Yuriorkis Gamboa – presents Garcia with plenty of options to choose from should the Martinez bout fall through.

Despite the difficulty making weight this past weekend, Mikey Garcia had no difficulty easily dismantling Juan Manuel Lopez to further enhance his status as one of the best featherweights in the game – and with such an impressive performance, his star continues to shine brighter.

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