Mikey Garcia has been pining away for a blockbuster pairing with Manny Pacquiao for years now. From the moment he hit 140 lbs. and dreamed of going to welter, the Filipino icon has been on the 4-division world champ’s mind.
Who could really blame him? Just facing Pacquiao earns a fighter a hefty payday and a boost in marketability that increases the heft of future paydays. And if one can BEAT Pacquiao, well, that’s a ticket to instant next-level stardom right there.
Some would say that the pursuit of a Pacquiao bout probably brought Garcia to 147 and, ultimately, to his first loss as a pro against world champ Errol Spence. It could also be said that holding on to that Pacquiao dream has kept him at 147, waiting to get the call as other top welters slowly eliminated themselves from the Manny sweepstakes.
But has that waiting around, waiting on Pacquiao, cost Garcia a too-sizable chunk of his athletic prime as a fighter? Well, the answer to that is a for sure “yeah,” if he never gets that big fight– a possibility that seems to be getting greater and greater as time goes by.
As Pacquiao ages and edges closer to the end of his legendary run, he seems to be exploring safer, more lucrative challenges (Ryan Garcia, Conor McGregor). Mikey Garcia would be significantly below both Ryan and Conor on the risk vs. reward scale if big money bouts with either were within Manny’s reach.
This puts the 33-year-old Garcia in a tough spot, trying to wedge himself back into the elite welterweight mix with no belt, little career momentum, and a big question mark over his head when it comes to his ability to actually beat one of the top dogs in the division.
His one-sided loss to Spence in March of 2019 and a tepid decision over Jessie Vargas in February of 2020 don’t make the case that he belongs among the elite. And he doesn’t bring enough money to the table to draw a top star to him so he can try and prove himself again.
Errol Spence currently holds the WBC and IBF titles, two of the four recognized belts, with Terence Crawford holding a third, the WBO. Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas was recently promoted to full champ status by the WBA after Pacquiao was named Champion in Recess due to inactivity. Garcia would be ill-advised to try Crawford and won’t be getting a Spence rematch anytime soon. Ugas, meanwhile, will probably lean into a unification bout with fellow Premier Boxing Champions star Spence.
“I’d be interested in a rematch [with Errol Spence Jr], but he’s not going to be interested in a rematch. I’ve got to earn the spot. I got to win one or two [fights],” Garcia recently told ES News. “Possibly [I might fight Yordenis Ugas] but is Ugas going to fight me? He might be interested in fighting someone else thinking he’s going to get the Spence fight. [Ugas] might decide to take someone else; I don’t know. It’s not just what we want. It’s what other people want. That’s what makes it complicated to get.”
All of this leaves Garcia an odd man out, with a need to get back in the ring, but no big-fight options realistically available to him.
The skilled, talented boxer-puncher known for his patient, focused stalking approach has been too patient and focused when it comes to getting a Manny Pacquiao blockbuster. Having put all of his proverbial eggs in one failed basket, he now has to find some way to pick up his career and move forward.