Mikey Garcia returns after layoff with dominant stoppage of Elio Rojas
Mikey Garcia barely threw a punch in the first round against Elio Rojas. It was Garcia’s first fight in more than two years because of promotional issues and he was visibly rusty.
When he did warm up, it seemed like old times for Garcia, a former two-division champion who was regarded as one of the top fighters in the sport before his rift with Top Rank. Garcia dropped Rojas four times, finishing him at 2:02 of the fifth round of a junior welterweight bout in a dominant performance Saturday at Barclays Center in the co-feature to Leo Santa Cruz-Carl Frampton.
It took Oxnard’s Garcia (35-0, 29 knockouts) nearly two minutes to throw his first punch. He looked tentative and eager and couldn’t find his range early on. The two hit the canvas in the first round after both got tangled up as Garcia lunged in with a right hand to the body.
Rojas (24-3, 14 KOs) had some success in the second round, landing an occasional right hand as he circled away quickly from Garcia, his nervous energy allowing him to out-quick Garcia. Garcia got back into the fight with a lunging left hand toward the end of the frame.
Garcia, who was cheered loudly throughout, finally found his comfort zone and dropped Rojas with a right-left combination at 1:25 of the third. Rojas rose and fought back well, landing a stinging right hand. But Garcia dropped Rojas again with a big right hand with 27 seconds left in the third. Rojas got up again but he had blood dripping from the bridge of his nose and appeared to be slowing down and frustrated.
Yet, Rojas remained composed, landing a couple flush right hands in the fourth to keep Garcia honest. Garcia shrugged them off and dropped Rojas again in the fifth with a series of right hands. The knockdown was almost cartoon-like as Rojas dove across the ring. He got up, but moments later he was knocked down from a left hand. Rojas pounded the canvas in frustration and got to his feet but referee Eddie Claudio stopped the fight. Rojas slammed his gloves into the ropes while Garcia celebrated a better-late-than never win. Garcia landed 53 of 126 total punches, connecting on 42.1 percent. Rojas was only 47 of 168 for 28 percent.
Garcia wants to fight again before the year is up and has spoken of dropping down and challenging for a lightweight title, mentioning WBObeltholder Terry Flanagan as someone he is targeting.