Mikey Garcia’s stock remained sky high even after he lost every round to Errol Spence Jr. during his first career defeat in March.
Indeed, it appears the loss couldn’t come at a better time for the Ventura, Calif.,-born fighter. Garcia, a natural 135-pound fighter, jumped two weight divisions to 147 and unsuccessfully challenged Spence in his pay-per-view debut. Yet, soon after the loss, the free agent started getting offers from every major promoter.
Over the weekend, Matchroom Boxing struck a one-fight deal that will pay Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs) around $7 million for a fight Feb. 29 against Jessie Vargas (29-2-2, 11 KOs) at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas.
Garcia, a four-division champion who’s trained by brother Robert Garcia in Riverside, where he lives now, will resume his career as a welterweight for a fight that will stream on DAZN.
“I’m excited to get back in the ring,” said Garcia, whose 32nd birthday was Sunday, the same day his new promotional deal was announced. “I’m looking forward to the next stage of my career and grow my legacy. I want people to look back at my career and say, ‘That guy never backed down from anyone.’ There’s still a lot more I can deliver.”
Garcia’s quest to continue fighting at 147 in the prime of his career is an interesting decision considering his poor performance against Spence. Garcia is five inches shorter than Vargas, who has a three-inch reach advantage.
“I had a horrible performance against Spence, and there are a lot of questions I still have to answer,” Garcia said. “A lot of fighters are counted out after a loss, and it’s really what you do afterward that offers an explanation to your career. I’m going to bounce back and deliver.”
Garcia will get a fresh start in a new stable. Eddie Hearn, head of Matchroom Boxing, said he sought Garcia’s services because he still is a star attraction and a fringe top-10, pound-for-pound-ranked fighter. Hearn also has a $1-billion budget to burn through, thanks to the eight-year deal he signed last year with DAZN.
“As a fight fan, this is a fighter I have watched for years and I’m so happy to welcome him to the team,” said Hearn, who first pitched the idea to Garcia 18 months ago. “Mikey is a standout star and I’m looking forward to working with him on big fights moving forward.”
Hearn is OK taking it one fight at a time with Garcia because the promoter has to deliver competitive fights to DAZN on a monthly basis to grow the streaming platform’s subscriber base. He’s also playing the long game in potentially pitting soon-to-be free agent Manny Pacquiao against Garcia on DAZN.
“It’s not going to be an easy fight with Jessie,” Garica said. “I don’t take easy fights. I actually turned down other opponents because I wanted an opponent who can motivate and excite me. He’s fought some of the best fighters of this era.”
Looking to disrupt Garcia’s plans is the 30-year-old Vargas, a two-division champion who’s best perhaps known for a pair of notable losses, the first to Timothy Bradley Jr. in 2015 and the other to Pacquiao in 2016. After back-to-back majority draws in 2018 against Adrien Broner and Thomas Dulorme, Vargas scored a knockout of former titlist Humberto Soto in April at the Forum.
Garcia had no answers for the since-unified welterweight titleholder Spence during his decision defeat. He landed just 75 punches and absorbed a debilitating 345 shots, more than twice his previous career high.
“He’s a tough, talented fighter and is a warrior, just as I am,” Vargas said. “The fans are going to be the ones who benefit. It’s going to be an action-packed fight. I have to prepare properly to come out victorious.”