What’s left in boxing for Mikey Garcia?

Boxers Emanuel Navarrete and Mikey Garcia had major main events, but things went very differently for each of them. Here’s the lesson to be learned. 

Emanuel Navarrete and Mikey Garcia both have a championship pedigree but are at different points in their boxing careers. That fact was made exceedingly clear over the weekend.

Navarrete successfully defended his WBO featherweight title on Friday, Oct. 15, against a game Joet Gonzalez. It was Navarrete’s second title defense, but probably the most challenging fight of his career.

Gonzalez applied pressure and was willing to take it on the chin to deliver his payload to Navarrete. Gonzalez got in his licks but also had his face rearranged by the power-punching Navarrete.

Navarrete vs. Gonzalez couldn’t have been more pleasing to watch. Gonzalez’s heart combined with Navarrete’s unique style and endless stamina turned out a fight that will be remembered for a long time. Navarrete was tested but took his skills to the next level, which a champion is supposed to do.

Garcia’s Oct. 16 contest against little-known Sandor Martin was the opposite of Navarrete vs. Gonzalez.

Garcia is a four-division world champion, but he hasn’t held a title since 2018. We’re not counting the WBC welterweight diamond belt he won against Jessie Vargas in 2020. Any belt with a precious stone, “regular,” or interim in its name should be discounted.

Garcia started his championship streak as a featherweight. As the years went on, he’s tried to make welterweight his home, but not in a natural way. His three welterweight outings have been at a catchweight, and he has a 1-2 record to show for those efforts, including his latest loss to Martin.

Garcia never lost a fight from featherweight through super lightweight but now has two losses in two years in his new division.

Emanuel Navarrete is a young champion still progressing towards his prime, while Mikey Garcia is a former champion on the decline

What’s gone wrong for Garcia?

Everyone seems to have an opinion. Yes, Garcia is biting off more than he can chew by trying to compete as a welterweight. His unanimous decision loss to Martin proved that but what’s the solution?

Many fans and pundits assume that Garcia’s reluctance to move back down to a more natural weight is due to a lack of discipline and effort. That’s a possibility, but there’s no way to know for sure. I haven’t seen his workouts and dietary habits, so I don’t feel comfortable making that claim.

Is Garcia’s inactivity the source of his recent difficulties in the ring? It’s probably part of the problem but not entirely responsible for his boxing regression.

He has only fought three times in a little under three years. Yes, Garcia was rusty against Martin, but he was also slow and either unwilling or unable to increase his punch output. His punch accuracy was also dismal.

When trying to diagnose Garcia’s ring troubles, there are probably numerous causes, some of which have been mentioned.

Garcia is 33 years old. Age impacts everyone differently, but any age after 32 is usually when you see a fighter’s abilities begin to decline. Lennox Lewis and Manny Pacquiao have fought off time better than others, but most start to slide at this age. Others get stuck in freefall before they realize it’s time to call it quits.

This might be the start of Garcia’s boxing freefall. The metabolism slows down a lot once you hit your 30s. Trust me. I know from experience.

Also, this is the time when an athlete’s body starts to betray them. Years of abuse during training and in the ring come back tenfold. Energy gets depleted faster. Joints hurt more, and bones and ligaments break and tear easier. It’s the body’s way of telling the athlete its time to stop.

If Garcia can’t hit a lower weight without putting in a monumental effort, then his body could be telling him that he’s not what he once was and that it’s time to stop. Only Garcia knows if his problems are of the body or his own doing, but he’s getting to the point where he needs to decide how to proceed.

It’s hard for a fighter to take an objective look at their performance. The heart wants to keep on fighting even though the tools are becoming dull. Hopefully, Garcia can offer an honest appraisal of his deficiencies and spare himself the pain of being taught that lesson in the ring.

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