Mikey Garcia took another step forward on Saturday in his quest to become the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world by unifying lightweight titles against fellow unbeaten Robert Easter Jr. He then boldly called out the most difficult name available to him.
Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) relied on his heavy counter punching to floor Easter in Round 3 and take home an impressive unanimous decision (116-111, 117-110, 118-1109) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. CBS Sports scored the bout 117-110 for Garcia.
But moments after Garcia added the IBF title to his WBC belt at 135 pounds, the four-division champion reiterated his dare-to-be-great intentions of moving up two weight divisions to make his debut at welterweight.
“I’m here for the biggest challenges,” Garcia said. “I don’t know if there is anybody else who is a bigger challenge than Errol Spence Jr. If we are going to fight [it will be] at welterweight and I want to challenge myself to the fullest. I know he’s up to fight any fighter so that’s what I want.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed and I think that’s the next big fight that can be made. I feel that I have the power and the skill set to compete in any division up to welterweight. He’s the toughest guy at welterweight, the most feared man, so I want to challenge myself against him.”
Spence (24-0, 21 KOs), who holds the IBF title at 147 pounds, has quickly become one of the most avid big-name fighters after knocking out champion Kell Brook last year and leaping into the P4P top 10. Spence was ringside Saturday and stood up to smile and clap after Garcia called out his name.
“Definitely I want that fight,” Spence said. “I feel like that’s the best fight available for me right now with Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter fighting each other in September and Keith Thurman still needing a tuneup. [Garcia] wants to be great so he is going to move up and try to dethrone me but it’s not going to happen.”
The 30-year-old Garcia was not only technically brilliant against Easter (21-1, 14 KOs), he continued to show why his power has been too much for any elite lightweight to deal with.
After a slow start in which he took his time to navigate the 5-inch height and 8-inch reach advantages of Easter, Garcia broke through with a straight right/left hook combination in Round 3 that sent Easter to the canvas.
“I like to stay patient early on and figure out my opponent,” Garcia said. “He had a great game plan which was to use that reach and I had to figure out the timing and finding that range that suited me best. Once I started getting that rhythm, it started to work.
“We wanted to land that right hand. I landed it and caught him on the chin with a left hook as he was backing up. It was a perfect punch on the chin.”
Easter, 27, showed great composure in bouncing back from the knockdown to retain his poise and remained a difficult out over the next few rounds. But save for a final stand in Round 9 in which Easter traded heavy shots at close range, he veered too close to survival mode over the second half of the fight as Garcia’s heavy and accurate shots lowered his opponent’s output.
“He was just a better man tonight,” Easter said. “I take my hat off to Mikey as he was a true champion and a true warrior. Whenever we step into the ring, we both put our lives on the line and Mikey was victorious. I just couldn’t find the timing and I couldn’t let it go.”
Garcia outlanded Easter, 176 to 129, according to CompuBox, and increasingly began to walk his opponent down and pin him on the ropes late in the bout.
“I knew he was a tough opponent, a tough champion and a true warrior,” Garcia said. “I prepared for the best Robert Easter. He came in and gave a great fight. He had some good hand speed, so I just had to be patient and be careful. I’m more experienced, I’m a hungry fighter and I’m better than ever. I’m in my prime.”
Garcia is fully aware of those who consider his intention to face Spence an ill-advised one and have criticized him for not calling out fellow 135-pound titleholder and P4P king Vasiliy Lomachenko. But not only does Garcia believe the smaller Lomachenko would be an easier fight, he has done nothing but gain motivation from those who believe the southpaw Spence will be too big, powerful and technically proficient for him.
Spence, who is fresh off a first-round knockout of mandatory opponent Carlos Ocampo in June, could do nothing but agree and took issue with Showtime announcers after the fight relaying comments from Garcia that he believes Spence would be an easy fight.
“It definitely won’t be an easy fight [for him], that’s not going to happen,” Spence said. “He will be pound-for-pound No. 1 if he beat me but it’s not going to happen. I’m a welterweight fighter and he’s a lightweight fighter and they have weight classes for a reason. It will be a challenging fight because he’s technically good and has got great skills, but I see myself winning.
“I don’t really see anything that concerns me. He’s technically good but I’m technically sound too. I have speed and I have power and I don’t see him hurting me at 147 pounds.”