At the Barclays Center of Brooklyn, New York, highly regarded Mikey Garcia met perennial troublemaker Adrien Broner in a bout that came together unexpectedly, adding a little extra sizzle to an unusually active boxing summer. For fans of the notorious Broner, the appeal of this fight resided on the expectation he might finally fulfill long dormant expectations with a win against one of the most talented boxers he’s ever faced. For Garcia’s fans, the bout represented the chance to see Mikey turn in a potential star-making performance, as this would be his highest profile main event. A victory for Mikey would become a first major step towards the sort of career that his skills have long deserved. For Broner, a loss would represent an epitaph for any dreams of super-stardom he might still have held. It’s not often that a bout conceived and realized within a span of three months carries so much consequence.
In front of a two-thirds full arena, the fighters pretty much stared at each other for almost the entirety of the first round, offering much feinting and posturing and little more. Things picked up in the second when Garcia asserted his body punching and became more willing to throw combinations upstairs. As rounds went by the fight kept going down that path, with Broner inactive for long stretches and Mikey throwing more and more precise combinations coupled with solid body work.
While Broner landed the occasional hook or eye-catching right hand upstairs, most of the time his strategy wasn’t clear at all. He would inexplicably stay on the ropes, the only apparent intent being to give Mikey the chance to land beautiful uppercuts, or stand in front of his opponent with a high guard, leaving his body open to Garcia’s hard shots, and then get tagged upstairs with a one-two, only to shake his head and say something, but rarely retaliating. When he did throw something back, he gave Mikey something to think about, but Broner simply didn’t do enough work to sustain any kind of meaningful offence.
Mikey had his best round in the seventh, leaving Broner perplexed and paralyzed with one combination after another. Jab-jab-hook. Jab-jab-right hand. Jab-uppercut-hook. Everything off the jab, textbook boxing, executed to perfection by one of the most talented fighters in the game today. At that point it wouldn’t be outlandish to have Mikey pitching a shutout. A confident Garcia allowed himself to toy with Broner a bit in the eighth, lowering his guard, feinting and still outworking the inexplicably inactive Broner as chants of “Mikey! Mikey!” echoed throughout the arena. Between rounds, a closeup look at Broner’s visage revealed a demoralized, if not resigned, fighter.
Broner’s best–or least bad–moments of the night came in rounds nine and ten, when he started stalking and throwing hard body shots, even clipping Garcia with sharp left hooks, but his quarry always fought back and never seemed particularly troubled. In the eleventh and twelfth rounds, it was Mikey back in control, dictating the pace of the fight, outworking Broner, and landing the more precise shots.
It all ended in a clear unanimous decision for Mikey Garcia, who has now arrived in style at the 140 pound division, and whose record has improved to 37-0. Broner, on the other hand, has suffered the third defeat of his career, and the first at junior welterweight, with all three losses due to a lack of clarity in his plan of attack, inconsistent pacing, and an inability to mix offense and defense effectively.
Perhaps the only thing to begrudge Mikey’s first foray into the junior welterweight division is that his power didn’t seem to faze Broner much, but this is nitpicking. Garcia looked ready to take on anyone at the weight, and while Terence Crawford would be considered the favorite if that match were ever signed (although boxing politics might make it a non-starter), the result wouldn’t be a foregone conclusion. Mikey’s fighting attributes are not confined to the merely physical–quickness, precision, stamina and durability–but extend to the mental–poise, adaptability, use of angles and a carefully calibrated mixture of head- and body-work. If there’s an area where he is perceived to be at a disadvantage, he is smart enough to come up with a way to overcome it, and disciplined enough to know how to implement it. Against almost any name near his new weight division, that will be more than enough to carry him to victory.
In the post-fight interview Mikey declared–as he did several times before the fight–that he is focused on making only the biggest fights available from now on. It’s as if he feels he is done paying his dues, and is ready to cash in. But to do that he will have to keep winning, and looking good doing it. Even though he just defeated the biggest name he’s faced, Mikey does not have an attention-grabbing personality, and his personal life is not likely to generate headlines at TMZ. Thus, to secure big fights with big names, he’ll have to sweeten the pot by giving up some of his edge. The easiest way to do this is to keep facing bigger names, either by climbing up in weight or agreeing to catchweights. His Showtime shout-out in the post-fight interview narrows his choices to Al Haymon’s stable so we are left to wonder if Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter or Danny Garcia might be willing to face Mikey. Time will tell.
As for Broner, who before last night had been out-hustled by both Marcos Maidana and Shawn Porter, he might have lost more than just a fight in being outclassed by Garcia. Specifically, “The Problem” has missed his last shot at becoming a member of boxing’s elite. Once again, when he faced something he didn’t know how to deal with, there was no real attempt to adapt or throw caution to the winds. When outscored or outfought, Broner invariably goes into a shell from which it takes him a long time to venture out, his only response to punishment being a shake of the head and some spoken inanity. This might seem a way for Broner to reassure himself that everything’s okay, that no damage was incurred, but in truth it’s a clear indication that he has no answers when facing a superior opponent.
Were Broner a different fighter under contract to a different manager, at this point he’d have to go back to the drawing board and see where things went wrong, undergo a rebuilding period, and eventually work hard to try to land a title shot. But since we’re talking about Adrien Broner, and given that his manager is Al Haymon, don’t be surprised to see “The Problem” in a headlining spot again soon, against another big or up-and-coming name, cashing a preposterous paycheck, displaying the same deficiencies that have already led him to three (official) defeats. If at that time you once again fall for the “he’s taking things seriously now” line, then you aren’t really paying attention.