[New York, NY; Mikey Garcia (blue/silver trunks) and Juan Carlos Burgos (red/white/green trunks) box during their junior lightweight bout at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports]
Mikey Garcia and Bryant Jennings went to New York City and earned quality wins Saturday night on HBO, but if the show was a Broadway play, it would've gotten approximately two and a half stars.
Artur Szpilka had his hands full with Mike Mollo in his last two fights, so one might have thought Jennings, one of the top young American heavyweights, might have blown right through him. But Szpilka won a few rounds and proved a bit trickier than he had shown in the past, as Jennings had trouble getting his offense going for a while against the southpaw, who received an energy boost from the large contingent of Polish fans on hand. But in the 6th round, Jennings dug an unpleasant left uppercut into Szpilka's midsection to deposit him on the canvas. In the 10th round, Szpilka, bleeding from his snout, got dropped hard with a head shot this time, another left. The fight probably should've been stopped right then, but Szpilka rose and took a few more shots before the ring doctor climbed to the ring and waved for it to come to a halt. Although Jennings had a pair of "oh wow" moments with those knockdowns, he was taking some heat on Twitter for not being active enough in the fight, thus the mixed review.
In the main event, junior lightweight Mikey Garcia had his second consecutive moment of fright in his second fight in the division, nearly ending up on the canvas in the 2nd round courtesy a Juan Carlos Burgos left — where he actually ended up in the same round against Roman Martinez. But just like Garcia did against Martinez, he firmly reestablished control immediately, nearly dropping Burgos himself in the 3rd with a right. From there, Burgos made things difficult for the naturally counterpunching Garcia by forcing him to initiate. Garcia was dominant still, but his offense, already conservative by nature, didn't exactly shine under the circumstances. By the end of the fight he was getting some boos from the fans.
But look, despite the star push he's getting in some quarters, including from Top Rank, and despite doing some good ratings in his last outing, he isn't for everyone. When he gets a crushing KO, he still hears complaints about his level of aggression and his clinical approach. The Top Rank talk of him facing Manny Pacquiao soon was probably just the old Bob Arum trick of mentioning a less popular fighter in a sentence with a more popular one to make people say, "Oh, really? I should pay attention then!" But if it's sincere, after tonight it's a fight that just moved further back on the calendar. When Pac was at 130, he was dominating Marco Antonio Barrera and stopping Erik Morales. Garcia is getting scares at 130 from far lesser fighters, solid as his subsequent reactions have been and solid though those fighters have been. Better that Garcia focus on the more immediately achievable goal of beating someone like Yuriorkis Gamboa.