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Mikey likely Manny’s next challenger


PhilBoxing.com




A date has been floated for super WBA welterweight champion Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s next fight and although nothing is confirmed, there appears to be some clarity that he will defend his crown against former WBO featherweight, WBO superfeatherweight, WBC/IBF lightweight and IBF superlightweight champion Mikey Garcia at the 62,345-seat King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 11.

MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons was recently in Las Vegas to pursue negotiations for Pacquiao’s first bout this year. Talks reportedly involve Matchroom Sports managing director Eddie Hearn who signed a $1 Billion contract with streaming service DAZN in 2018. Hearn, an Englishman, represents Garcia and has staged fights in Saudi Arabia, including the world heavyweight championship rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz last December.

“At this moment, the Senator is in discussions with the Kingdom and is hopeful for a bout to push through,” said Gibbons. “The bus is moving slowly along, trying to navigate things. The Senator himself and MP Promotions are handling things with our promotional partner TGB.” The California-based TGB Promotions is owned by Tom Brown who gained a glowing reputation as a matchmaker with the Goosen brothers’ Ten Goose Boxing.

Garcia, 32, is fresh from defeating former world champion Jessie Vargas by a unanimous 12-round decision in Frisco, Texas, last Saturday. The American of Mexican descent floored Vargas with a right hand in the fifth round but couldn’t close it out. The scorecards were 116-111 twice and 114-113 so the competition wasn’t lop-sided. Garcia scaled 145 3/4 for the fight, only his second as a welterweight. In March last year, he made his welterweight debut, scaling 145 1/2 pounds, and was swept by Errol Spence who took every round in the judges’ scorecards. It’s the only loss in Garcia’s record of 40-1, with 30 KOs.

Like Pacquiao, Garcia isn’t a full-blown welterweight. Last July, Pacquiao tipped the scales at 145 1/2 pounds for his fight against Keith Thurman in Las Vegas. Only twice has Pacquiao weighed at the welterweight limit of 147 and he lost both fights to Tim Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012.

Saudi Arabia isn’t a stranger to professional boxing. In 2018, Callum Smith and George Groves squared off in the World Boxing Super Series supermiddleweight final in Jeddah. Last year, Amir Khan disposed of Australia’s Billy Dib in four rounds in Jeddah and was paid a purse of $12.5 million. The Joshua-Ruiz rematch was held in Diriyah, outside of Riyadh. Hearn described a duel between Pacquiao and Garcia as “a monstrous fight” and said he’s putting a deal together to make it happen.

Garcia has fought only one Filipino, Bernabe Concepcion, in his career and won by a seventh round knockout in Puerto Rico in 2012. He was one of Pacquiao’s sparmates in preparing for the rematch with Erik Morales in 2006. According to writer Michael Rosenthal, “Garcia learned a great deal and swears he held his own (against Pacquiao).” Garcia was 19 then.

The youngest of seven, Garcia made his amateur ring debut at 14. He didn’t like boxing at first and it took a lot of prodding from his father and brothers to put on gloves. Garcia eventually started to box, inspired by his brother Robert who won the IBF superfeatherweight title in 1998. Robert is his chief trainer and has traveled to Manila to work the corners of Brian Viloria and Nonito Donaire, Jr.

“It’s a great matchup and I think we could win,” said Robert. “It’s not going to be easy. Pacquiao’s a legend but at 41, he dominated Thurman the way he did. It’s very, very dangerous for Mikey because Manny is very fast and very strong. I still see little things that Mikey needs to improve and if we improve them, we got a really good shot at beating Manny. But Manny’s dangerous, Manny’s the real deal.” If the fight is sealed for July, Pacquiao will begin training in April.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.


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