By Allan Fox: In a predictable move, Mikey Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs) has informed the International Boxing Federation that he’ll keep his IBF light welterweight title that he won earlier this month in beating champion Sergey Lipinets by a 12 round unanimous decision on March 3 in San Antonio, Texas.
Mikey will now have to defend his IBF light welterweight title against his mandatory Ivan Baranchyk (18-0, 11 KOs. The IBF ordered the Garcia vs. Baranchyk fight on Thursday. The IBF recently informed Mikey that he had 10 days to decide whether to keep his IBF light welterweight title. If he hadn’t decided by that time, then the IBF was going to strip him of his 140 lb. title and have the 25-year-old Baranchyk face the next available contender, which in this case would be Anthony Yigit.
In Mikey’s two fights thus far at 140 against Lipinets and Adrien Broner, he hasn’t shown the same kind of punching power in that weight class that he’d displayed at 126, 130 and 135. It’s not surprising. Mikey just won his 4th division world title. When a fighter moves up in weight, they often lose their punching power.
If Mikey chooses to fight a unification fight against the other champions in the light welterweight division, he could have some issues. Right now, the current belt holders are 140 are as follows: Jose Ramirez (WBC), Kiryl Relikh (WBA) and Mikey. The WBO title is still vacant. Terry Flanagan will soon be facing Maurice Hooker for the WBO light welterweight title. If Regis Prograis beats Jose Ramirez for the WBC light welterweight title for later this year, Mikey should steer away from that guy, because he’s looking like he’s the best fighter in the weight class. If Mikey faces Prograis, he could spoil his plans of moving up to welterweight and challenging for one of the titles.
Mikey didn’t look great recently in beating Lipinets. Mikey won a 12 round unanimous decision on March 10, but the fight was closer than the scores handed down from the three judges. It was easily the hardest fight of Mikey’s career by far. He took a lot of heavy shots from Lipinets, and he was hurt a couple of times.
It makes sense for Mikey to stay at light welterweight, because the IBF’s top 15 ranking is filled with fighters that he can likely easily beat. With the current IBF rankings at 140, Mikey can likely hold onto his title for the next two years without having to worry about fighting a talented contender. Mikey won’t have problems until #10 IBF Josh Taylor gets ranked higher. He’s the only guy in the IBF’s rankings that would appear to have any chance against Mikey besides Baranchyk. You can argue that Baranchyk is a step down in quality from Mikey’s last opponent Lipinets.
If Mikey had moved back down to lightweight, he would have had zero options for an interesting fight to defend his WBC title one last time. Mikey had said he wanted to make one final defense of his WBC lightweight title before moving up to 140 permanently, but he was counting on facing WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares. However, Linares is now facing Vasyl Lomachenko on May 12, and there’s no longer the possibility for Mikey to face him until later this year. With Mikey moving out of the 135 lb. weight class, it means that if Linares or Lomachenko are to fight him, they will need to move up to that division for it to happen. Lomachenko will likely stay at lightweight for the next year or two before he moves up to 140. By that time, Mikey may have already moved up to 147 to go after a world champion in that division.
Mikey’s choice in staying at 140 is going to look to a lot of boxing fans like he’s ducking Lomachenko. He’s expected to beat Linares next May. If Mikey stays at lightweight, he would be faced with a lot of pressure from the boxing public to face Lomachenko. That would be a tough fight for Mikey due to Lomachenko’s crafty style of fighting. A one-sided loss for Mikey to Lomachenko would spoil his dreams of becoming a pay-per-view attraction. As such, Mikey’s decision to stay at 140 eliminates the pressure from fans for him to fight Lomachenko. It gives Mikey a ready-made excuse for why he doesn’t have to fight him. He can tell the boxing fans that he’s fighting in a different weigh class as Lomachenko, and that he plans on soon moving up to 147 to challenge one of the champions.
The 30-year-old Garcia’s decision to keep his IBF 140 lb. title means his WBC lightweight belt will be lost, because he’s not allowed to keep both titles. With Garcia’s WBC 135 lb. title about to fall vacant, it means that #1 WBC Luke Campbell (17-2, 14 KOs) and #2 WBC Yvan Mendy (40-4-1, 19 KOs) will likely battle for the vacant WBC lightweight strap. Mendy, 32, beat Campbell by a 12 round split decision in December 2015. Campbell, 30, has been interested in avenging that loss ever since.
Campbell has won five out of his last six fights since his defeat to Mendy. In Campbell’s last fight, he was beaten by WBA World lightweight champion Jorge Linares by a 12 round split decision last September at Forum in Inglewood, California. Campbell insists that he did enough to deserve the win, but the judges were impressed with the way Linares dominated the first four and the last four rounds with his hand speed. Campbell’s co-promoters at Top Rank are interested in matching him against Lomachenko. They reportedly signed him to multi-fight deal. Campbell’s next fight could be on the undercard of the Linares-Lomachenko card on May 12. It’s hard to imagine Top Rank agreeing to let Campbell take a risky fight against Mendy for the vacant WBC lightweight title. I doubt that they’ll agree to let Campbell take that fight, because if he loses to Mendy, which is real possibility, then they wouldn’t be able to attract a lot of interest from the U.S boxing fans for a fight involving him and Lomachenko. It’s more likely hat not that Mendy will wind up fighting for the vacant WBC lightweight title against either #3 WBC Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis or #4 WBC Javier Fortuna.