LOS ANGELES — Mikey Garcia said he wouldn’t look past Robert Easter Jr., but he also made it clear that the fight he really wanted was with Errol Spence Jr. He may get his wish soon.
The WBC lightweight champion defended his title while claiming Easter’s IBF title with a dominant performance en route to a unanimous-decision victory in Saturday’s main event in front of 12,560 at Staples Center.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Oxnard, Calif.-raised Garcia, who hadn’t fought in Los Angeles since June 4, 2011, when he stopped Rafael Guzman in the fourth round. A lot has changed since then, namely that Garcia has cemented himself as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. With the crowd backing him, the Mexican-American pounded out a decision against a game, but clearly overmatched, Easter.
The victory comes a little over a year after Garcia outpointed Easter’s friend and mentor Adrien Broner. If Broner had any tips on how to fight Garcia, they certainly didn’t come to fruition on this night.
After a tenuous start that saw Easter (21-1) use his 6-0 frame and 8-inch reach advantage to keep his opponent at bay, Garcia quickly adjusted and methodically walked down his taller opponent. As each minute passed, Garcia inched closer and closer until he was in firing range.
In the third round, Garcia cut loose a left hook that dropped Easter and hurt him badly. Although Easter made it out of the round, it was clear that he underestimated Garcia’s power and spent the middle rounds resigned to surviving rather than fighting.
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Garcia brilliantly managed the ring, cutting off Easter’s escape routes and pinning him along the ropes while landing power shots to the head and body.
Down big on the scorecards, Easter changed his approach and fought fire with fire. A wildly entertaining ninth round saw both fighters have their moments. Easter landed a left hand that appeared to stun Garcia and followed with a salvo of punches. Garcia weathered the storm and fired right back, wrapping a left hook around Easter’s gloves and ripping shots to the body.
Garcia controlled what was left of the fight and cruised to judges’ scores of 116-111, 117-110 and 118-109. During his postfight interview, Garcia immediately turned his attention to welterweight champion Spence, an opponent he has been focused on for quite some time.
“I’m here for the biggest challenges,” Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) said. “I don’t know if there is anyone that is a bigger challenge than Errol Spence. I know he’s up to fight everyone, so let’s make it happen.”
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Spence is literally the biggest challenge for Garcia, considering that he’s a 147-pounder who could easily compete at 154 pounds. Garcia started his career as a featherweight and has fought as high as 140 pounds. He would clearly be the smaller fighter in a matchup and there are questions as to whether he can deal with Spence’s power, not to mention that Spence is recognized as the future of boxing with a unique combination of size, speed, power and technical prowess.
None of that matters to Garcia, who has fought most of his career as the favorite and is interested in seeing what it looks like being an underdog.
“I feel I have the power and the skill set to compete in any division up to welterweight,” Garcia said. “He’s the toughest guy at welterweight, so I want to face him”
Spence has a lot of business to handle at welterweight; however, with Danny Garcia facing Shawn Porter in September for the WBC title that Keith Thurman vacated because of injury, Terence Crawford fighting on a rival network and promotion, and the fact that nobody knows when Thurman will be ready to fight, Spence is in a no-man’s land of sorts.
For that reason, Spence is certainly interested in the prospect of facing a fellow pound-for-pound fighter.
“I want that fight,” Spence said during the Showtime broadcast. “I feel like that’s the best fight available for me right now with Shawn and Danny fighting in September. Keith Thurman is still recovering and needs a tune-up.”
The size difference doesn’t bother Spence, either.
“He’s daring to be great,” Spence continued. “He wants to be great. He wants to move up and dethrone me and it’s not going to happen.”
Spence also said that Garcia would be an “easy fight” but did compliment Garcia’s ability. Ultimately, Spence figures, his size would be too much if and when the two step into the ring.
“I don’t really see anything that concerns me,” he said. “He’s technically good, but I don’t see him hurting me at 147.”
With both fighters targeting a December date, it appears as though the boxing world will get a huge showdown between two of the sport’s best.
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