Mikey Garcia vs. Manny Pacquiao in 2015?
It is not clear when “The Mikey Project” began, but certainly it took off in full sometime in the first few rounds of his breakout win over Orlando Salido about one year ago. What is The Mikey Project? It’s Top Rank’s plan to make Mikey Garcia the heir apparent to Manny Pacquiao, a pay-per-view caliber star and a fighter you can’t miss watching. Now, this project is without a doubt entering its most pivotal phase, calendar year 2014.
Bob Arum has an aging superstar on one end of his stable and several young former Olympians and high-end prospects on the other. In the middle is Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia, the most viable option to become Top Rank’s next main attraction.
For the better part of six years, Manny Pacquiao has controlled Top Rank’s pay-per-view market. Now, the Filipino superstar is coming off an unanimous decision victory over Brandon Rios, an important comeback win over his devastating knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez. Still, Manny’s reign is nearing its end and there is no young heir apparent waiting in the wings, or is there?
Superstars are hard to come by, and while Top Rank has an excellent group of former amateurs with gold medals and other credentials, they are simply not ready to assume such a role. Timothy Bradley is still undefeated and has earned some cred with his brawl against Ruslan Provodnikov and win over Marquez, but the casual fans have not gripped onto him. Elsewhere, Nonito Donaire suffered a setback, and the man who beat him, Guillermo Rigondeaux, has had even more difficulty becoming an appealing attraction than Bradley.
In order for Top Rank to continue to compete in the PPV market against Golden Boy Promotions they need someone to crossover from being an elite fighter and become a superstar, exactly what Pac-Man did almost six years ago — to the Golden Boy himself.
Garcia took major strides in 2013, and was in fact a runner-up for the 2013 Fighter of the Year, but it’s up to Arum and his team to properly lead him through the ranks in order to arrive at the right moment on the biggest stage, and it is no easy task. The project continues on January 25th, when Garcia (33-0, 28KO) faces off in New York City against fighter Juan Carlos Burgos.
Burgos is a game contender who will not be afraid of the stage nor of the champion in front of him, he has been there before. He is a two-time world title challenger, losing via unanimous decision to Japanese featherweight Hozumi Hasegawa and coming up on the wrong end of a controversial draw against Puerto Rican slugger Roman “Rocky” Martinez. He can box and he can brawl, a tough out any way you look at it. Regardless, Garcia needs to win convincingly on the 25th, and it cannot be by unanimous decision.
Whether we like it or not, knockouts make fans, and the average Pacquiao PPV purchaser is not looking for a Bradley-Marquez boxing match, he or she is looking for Marquez-Pacquiao IV, Round 6. If Garcia can succeed in getting Burgos out in impressive fashion, he will continue his move up, winning some fans along the way.
He has already made it clear he has eyes on a jump to 135 pounds, and if all goes as planned his stay there could also be quick Next, it would be 140 pounds sometime by the end of the year, or perhaps the beginning of next. With a victory at 140 it would be the last step to set up the blockbuster for early to mid 2015 — Manny Pacquiao vs. “Mikey” Garcia. There is sure to be an alphabet title or two up for grabs, but the only one that would matter would be for the PPV future of Top Rank.
The promotion would have all the necessary story lines to sell. Mikey’s revenge for the beat down Manny laid on his teammate Brandon Rios, and another Freddie Roach vs. Robert Garcia pairing. Then you have the Roach vs. Alex Ariz feud which would once again rear its ugly head. But most importantly of all, the young undefeated champion versus the legend, a potential changing of the guard. It’s either a passing of the torch match, a la Pacquiao vs. De La Hoya, or a legend’s last stand against an up and coming star.
In the fight game it is not difficult for a fighter to blow up his record, fighting tomato cans and taxi drivers for years, but it is not the way to create a superstar. A superstar needs to be tested, he needs to be put into battles, perhaps even wars, with the ability to come out on top and shine on the big stage. Garcia needs to be challenged this year, he needs to be put in against top level competition and he needs to fulfill his talent by taking each one of them out in order to successfully position himself as the next PPV attraction.
If all goes well in 2014, he can arrive to 2015 with a loyal fan base, a developed brand, and most importantly of all, what it takes mentally and physically to be crowned king.