Saturday, September 30, 2023  |



Mikey Garcia seeks pay-per-view stardom on road to greatness

Photo by Esther Lin/SHOWTIME
Fighters Network

LOS ANGELES — Mikey Garcia seems to always wear the smile — smirk, even — of a man who knows the best is yet to come.

He joyfully throws punches as he shadowboxes in the ring. He happily answers questions. This is the journey he envisioned those years he sat on the sideline during his court battle with Top Rank.

If he could wait it out and gain his promotional freedom, Mikey just knew he would make his dreams come true.

The second phase of his career started in earnest with a spectacular knockout of Dejan Zlaticanin to earn him a title at lightweight, a third weight class where he can call himself champion. A subsequent lopsided decision over Adrien Broner at junior welterweight proved he has what it takes to be a force there, too.

At 30, he’ll seek to become a four-division champion when he meets Sergey Lipinets on Saturday in San Antonio, Texas. Garcia is a major favorite to take out the Russian, and the fight will be televised on Showtime.

If Garcia (37-0, 30 knockouts) has his way, his days as a premium cable fighter are nearing the end. Soon, he hopes, he’ll be a pay-per-view star with his eyes set on the elite at welterweight.

“I’m really excited, mostly for the fact that if I do win this title, it’s a step closer to being champion in four, five divisions where I wanna be — I wanna be there,” Garcia told THE RING following a recent workout. “That’s when I will finally get the recognition, admiration that we deserve.

“I’m telling you guys, you guys don’t take me serious, because I’m too small right now in weight, but give me by the end of this year, I might be there at welterweight, or early next year. But we’re coming, we’re definitely coming to the welterweight division soon. And I think once I’m there, people will finally be able to see and really be able to give me that credit that I think is so much deserved.”

This fight against Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs), then, isn’t so much about gaining a title at 140 pounds, but a harbinger of what lies ahead for Garcia. If he can grab a title in a fourth weight class as expected, then soon the chase for a title in a fifth division will begin in earnest. And that’s when everything will become that much tougher.

Lipinets isn’t considered a elite fighter by any stretch of the imagination. After all, he was a kickboxing champion first, and he struggled in his lone title fight, a decision over obscure Japanese fighter Akihiro Kondo in November.

If Mikey wants to be crowned champion at 147 pounds, he’ll likely have to fight the likes of Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr. or Keith Thurman. The first two names sit inside THE RING’s pound-for-pound top 10, with Thurman on the outskirts.

Garcia is rated No. 5 regardless of weight, and if he’s truly able to fill the void created by Floyd Mayweather as American pay-per-view star, a victory over any of that trio will help vault him onto that path. He realizes as much.

“I think the right matchups will allow me to do that, I think we’re only a fight or two away from joining pay-per-view status,” said Garcia, who trained by his older brother, former titleholder Robert Garcia. “I think we need the right dancing partner first to do a successful pay-per-view, but we’re on our way.

“These matchups, this opportunity to win a fourth division title, sets me apart from a lot of the other guys and helps me grow that status of fighting on pay-per-view and I think the fight fans will definitely appreciate my history, my accomplishments and abe able to really want to see me with the right matchup on a pay-per-view show.”

Garcia doesn’t necessarily need to compete at welterweight to headline a PPV show, though. He sees matchups with RING lightweight champion Jorge Linares and Vasyl Lomachenko at 135 pounds as fights where he could “test the market.”

At 147 pounds, Garcia mentioned Spence, Thurman, Crawford and even Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter as “matchups that could be on a pay-per-view show. … If I accomplish enough, then I think it will be a big enough fight where it will land on pay-per-view.”

He hopes to make history in the process. Henry Armstrong is the only boxer ever to hold titles in three weight classes simultaneously, though he did so in the eight-division era. Garcia already owns a lightweight title, and after Saturday, he should add another to his collection. He has no problem bouncing around in weight while hoping to add a welterweight title, too.

“That’s not the goal, but if the opportunity’s there, I’ll take it just to make history,” Garcia proclaimed. “I’ll do it.”

His outline of a plan to accomplish the goal? A summer unification matchup against Linares, and then a move up to 147 in the fall in a title fight. “That would be pretty impressive,” he said.

Garcia insists he’s now overlooking Lipinets, but that he must plan for the future so there are no surprises.

“I’m just going to do as well as I can,” he said. “I want to be the best fighter ever, I want to be the best fighter of this generation.”

Garcia wasn’t ready to project how many pay-per-views he could sell once he’s on that level, but that didn’t stop his de factor promoter, Richard Schaefer of Ringstar Sports, who knows a thing or two about the model, hyperbole be damned.

“Who’s going to be the next big pay-per-view star? I see a fighter who is very charismatic, bilingual, undefeated, 37-0, and is already a three-division world champion, dares to be great, become a four-division world champion, that is Mikey Garcia,” Schafer, who promoted most of Mayweather’s biggest PPV fights, told THE RING.

“If you watch and see, MIkey Garcia is going the break the pay-per-view record established by Floyd Mayweather. Records are made to be broken, and I believe that Mikey Garcia is going to break the 50-0 record as well.”

If Garcia can simply establish himself as a PPV attraction, that should be more than enough to make that smile even wider.

Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger