(Mikey Garcia connects on Orlando Salido; photo credit: Chris Farina, Top Rank)
The cause for doubt — minor though it was — about featherweight Miguel Angel Garcia coming into his HBO main event turn Saturday night was that for all his visible talent, he had not yet been tested. He still hasn't, but this time it wasn't because his opponent wasn't up to snuff; it's because that opponent, Orlando Salido, was up to snuff, and Garcia was just that much better. Garcia's performance was stellar — that is beyond question. But the way he won will leave a sour taste in the mouths of some fans who felt Garcia and/or his corner took advantage of the rules to lobby for the fight to go to the scorecards when it probably didn't need to go there.
On the undercard, middleweight sensation Gennady Golovkin did get a test, unexpectedly, from game junior middleweight Gabriel Rosado, but ended the fight after dealing out his customary all-you-can-eat buffet of punishment. And at least one of the judges for the junior lightweight bout between Juan Carlos Burgos and Roman Martinez needs an eye test before he judges again, after a fight that was scored a draw, for some reason.
MIGUEL ANGEL GARCIA – ORLANDO SALIDO
Now we know: Mikey Garcia doesn't just look good; he is good. Orlando Salido was the world's top featherweight, and for the most part, Garcia kicked his ass. He did it from the opening bell, dropping him twice in the 1st with left hooks and repeatedly making Salido pay when he tried to fight his way in, resulting in two more knockdowns over the course of the fight.
Garcia's always had excellent legs, but after Saturday ZZ Top might rededicate their song about gams to him. Salido couldn't get near Garcia to apply his trademark pressure, and when he did Garcia would smack him around and/or clinch. And Garcia was plenty strong, to the point that Salido couldn't shake him off his hugs. For much of the fight, Salido looked totally flummoxed when he wasn't on the ground or staggering around.
But he kept coming, the grizzled old vet did, to the point that he won the 7th round. It looked like we might see Garcia get tested for real down the stretch, but then he handled himself well in the 8th. That's the round when Salido, rushing forward, rammed his head into Garcia's snozz. Some thought it intentional; I saw no evidence it was. At any rate, in the corner between rounds, Garcia's trainer/brother Robert lobbied for the fight to be stopped once it was clear that Mikey's nose was broken thanks to that head butt, which meant the fight would go to the scorecards, where his pupil would take an easy victory rather than having to fight through a broken nose against a coming-on Salido.
That the doctors recommended stopping it was mystifying. They told referee Steve Smoger that Garcia couldn't continue, but in a post-fight interview, all Garcia said was that he "couldn't breathe a little bit." Boxing's warrior ethos is such that you rarely see a fighter beg out of a fight with a broken nose, because it's just sort of expected that someone fight through it. I've never seen a doctor advise a fight to be stopped over a broken nose. It seems Robert's lobbying swayed the medical opinion this time.
From a pure gamesmanship standpoint, Robert made a smart call. But he made his brother look like a wimp in the eyes of some, and left fans with an unsatisfactory conclusion to what was otherwise a coming out party for Mikey.
Mikey said he'd give Salido a rematch, but that's not really necessary. Garcia was in control, and while things might've gotten interesting as Salido surged and Garcia struggled with a broken honker, there's little reason to think he'd be competitive in a rematch. The other name Garcia mentioned — Yuriorkis Gamboa — is a lot more interesting. Gamboa seems determined to move up in weight like crazy, despite being best suited for featherweight, since he's fighting at junior lightweight now and is talking about opponents at lightweight. But Gamboa-Garcia is a fight I can get behind. Come on down, Yuriorkis…
GENNADY GOLOVKIN – GABRIEL ROSADO
Gennady Golovkin, it turns out, is human, not some living Paul Bunyan. Gabriel Rosado helped expose some holes in his game, and Golovkin's reported illness probably contributed, too. That said, Golovkin dished out a boatload of punishment (contrary to super middleweight champ/HBO commentator Andre Ward's claim that Rosado wasn't taking a "boatload of punishment"), and once the boatload of punishment got Titanic-sized, Rosado's corner wisely threw in the towel.
Rosado's movement and speed caused Golovkin some trouble, which is not the same as saying Rosado won any rounds or even came all that close. He was bleeding from the very first round, and by the end of the fight his cuts were sprouting new cuts. He was a bit too tentative to do very much damage, but he did do some. In between getting battered about by Golovkin's heavy hands, he would find a home down the middle for uppercuts with both hands. Golovkin, who's smarter than your average pure puncher, noticed, and began countering them, but Rosado landed enough of them to bruise up Golovkin's boyish face.
By the end of the 6th, a round in which Rosado was badly wobbled, it was time to consider stopping it. Fortunately, as Rosado tried to survive the 7th, his trainer realized that he was only barely surviving at all, as Billy Briscoe remarked that he was in danger of dying if he didn't throw in the towel. That might've been a slight exaggeration, but stopping the fight was the right call. Rosado had exhibited plenty of bravery. There was no point in allowing him to exhibit anymore. Rosado ought to return to 154 pounds where he belongs, and maybe he can get that mandatory alphabet title challenge he's been waiting on via Cornelius Bundrage, a solid fight worthy of appearing on HBO or Showtime. Showing that Golovkin was mortal was as much as he could've hoped to achieve, and he did.
A human version of Golovkin, in the end, is still not the kind of thing to trifle with. We'll see who else wants to step into the ring with him after a semi-shaky performance; the Dmitry Pirog bout that was canceled last year still holds appeal, and a fighter like Peter Quillin, with his speed and movement, could in theory pose a puzzle for the slowish Golovkin. If he can get and beat one of those guys, then he has an argument for deserving a fight with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez above everyone outside of maybe the rematch with Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., and HBO is clearly grooming the future possibility of Ward-Golovkin, an interesting fight right now but one that gets doubly interesting if Golovkin cleans out the middleweight division.
JUAN CARLOS BURGOS – ROCKY MARTINEZ
Juan Carlos "Mini-Burgos" Burgos was burgled, in miniature, in a fight against Roman Martinez that the judges scored a draw but that most everyone else had wide for Burgos or close for Burgos. How Tony Paolillo had Martinez winning eight rounds is beyond me or anyone else, although John Signorile having it a draw was at least defensible.
Burgos went to Martinez's body like a lumberjack, but apparently they don't score body work in New York unless you're judge #3, Waleska Roldan, who had it 117-111 for Burgos. HBO's commentating team, especially Ward (who's usually excellent behind the mic but was bad Saturday), got far too carried away with all the good work Burgos did and ignored what Martinez did, and the bout was close over the first eight rounds or so and many of the fight's rounds were close overall.
Martinez had success when he would corner Burgos, as he did sporadically throughout the fight, while the taller Burgos naturally did better work from the outside. And there were some rounds that Burgos essentially "took off," something I'm sure he regrets now. His corner advised him he was losing the fight right before the 12th, which at the time appeared to be a standard-issue motivational ploy to get a fighter to finish strong, but that in retrospect showed that maybe they knew the judges might be incompetent.
Everyone ought to treat this as a Burgos win, in terms of future match-ups and Burgos deserving a return on the big stage. It wasn't a typical Martinez fight in that it was a bit more tactical than the pure brawls he usually engages in, but it still was a good fight and Martinez shouldn't be shunned, per se.