Mikey Garcia with options for next opponent but must make a key decision soon
Mikey Garcia, with a swollen left eye, a big smile and smears of blood having been wiped from his face, held his hand aloft with four fingers pointing up.
Those digits had significance Saturday night as Garcia had just won a world title in his fourth weight class by outpointing Sergey Lipinets before 7,805 fans to claim a junior welterweight world title at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio.
It was a win that made boxing history and kept opened the door to more potentially history-making fights for Garcia, which is exactly what he said he wants.
“I’m very happy to get this victory, get this fourth world title. Four divisions means a lot,” Garcia said at his postfight news conference. “I think it’s a step closer to the direction I want. I want to be one of the best fighters of this generation, and I’m on my way to getting that recognition. These four titles does that for me. There’s a lot more to come. We’re on our way to bigger things.”
Garcia now simultaneously holds world titles at junior welterweight and lightweight, though that won’t last for very long as he must decide which belt to hang onto within the next 10 days.
He has also won world titles at junior lightweight and featherweight, making him only the third fighter to win belts at 126, 130, 135 and 140 pounds. The others are all-time greats Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, both locks for the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
“Winning this title is an honor, and to be mentioned with the likes Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez is a huge compliment and huge honor for me,” Garcia said. “I am very grateful for everything and emotional.
“It is an amazing feeling to leave behind a little piece, a little chapter of boxing with my name, along with the names of my brother (trainer and former world titleholder Robert Garcia) and my dad (trainer Eduardo Garcia) so that everybody will remember the Garcia name for years to come.”
Garcia didn’t have an easy time with Kazakhstan’s Lipinets (13-1, 10 KOs), who was making his first title defense, but he took over after dropping him with a counter left hook in the seventh round to go on to win by scores of 117-110, 117-110 and 116-111. Now that Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs), one of boxing’s pound-for-pound best, has the 140-pound belt in hand, he has many options.
“In the immediate future I want to come down to 135 and unify the titles there,” Garcia said. “One last time, (I want to fight) at 135. After that, move up to whatever option is greater — 140 or possibly even 147. I want to take big chances. That’s the only way I’ll be remembered. If I take easier fights, people won’t give you the recognition, people won’t accept you as a champion. But if you take on the biggest challenges available, people will always love you for that.”
So what is next for Garcia, 30, of Moreno Valley, California?
“The fight that interests me the most right now at lightweight is [Jorge] Linares. He’s shown interest in recent times, so I wish we could get that fight,” Garcia said of that potential unification fight. However, that bout is unlikely, as Linares (44-3, 27 KOs) is close to a deal to defend his title against pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs), the junior lightweight world champion who plans to move up in weight for his next fight on May 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Another possibility for Garcia is fellow lightweight titlist Robert Easter Jr., whom Garcia did not mention by name but is a very makeable fight considering their associations with adviser Al Haymon and Showtime. Easter (21-0, 14 KOs), 27, of Toledo, Ohio, who has made three title defenses, was ringside to watch Garcia-Lipinets and reiterated his desire to unify with Garcia on Saturday night.
“We’re looking forward to fighting Mikey Garcia. That’s a fight I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Easter said. “We both have belts, and it’s time to unify. I’m ready to unify all these titles. I’m here to get all the belts.”
Garcia is a promotional free agent and said he is open to any fight that excites him.
“I’m willing to entertain any offer. I’ve been sitting down with different promoters, and I get to hear what they have to offer,” Garcia said. “I have opportunities at 135, 140, possibly 147. No other fighter has those options. Other fighters are limited to one, maybe two opponents [because of promotional ties]. I got two opponents each division.”
Garcia is going to have to quickly make one key decision, however, and that is, of the titles he currently holds, which does he want to hang onto.
On Monday, the IBF, whose junior welterweight belt Garcia holds, sent him a letter via promoter Richard Schaefer’s Ringstar Sports to notify him of his mandatory obligation to contender Ivan Baranchyk (18-0, 11 KOs), 25, of Russia. Baranchyk looked outstanding as he knocked Petr Petrov down three times in an eight-round demolition in a title eliminator on Friday night in Deadwood, South Dakota.
The IBF congratulated Garcia on his victory against Lipinets and reminded him that an exception had been granted for that fight to take place.
“The exception was granted with the condition that the winner must fight the IBF leading available contender in a mandatory defense,” the IBF wrote. “However, you have 10 days or until March 22, 2018 to decide if you want to remain the IBF [junior welterweight titleholder] or go back down to lightweight. Please let us know your decision by March 22, 2018.
“If you decide to remain the IBF junior welterweight champion, you must do the IBF mandatory defense. The leading available contender is No. 2 Ivan Baranchyk. Baranchyk is represented by DiBella Entertainment. … Negotiations would start immediately and be concluded 30 days later. If you were unable to reach an agreement within the 30 days, the IBF would call for a purse bid to determine who will promote the bout, when and where.”