For Mikey Garcia, 2013 was a roller-coaster filled with achievement and disappointment. On the positive side he won belts at 126 and 130 against respected titleholders Orlando Salido and Roman Martinez and stretched his perfect record to 33-0 (28 KO) while on the minus column he lost his featherweight belt on the scales after weighing two pounds. But even that negative preamble produced a positive result as he impressively blew out Juan Manuel Lopez in four rounds.
As for Juan Carlos Burgos, 2013 was deeply disappointing in that he earned back-to-back draws in fights many observers thought he should have won. The first outing was the most painful, for despite out-working and out-landing Roman Martinez by a wide margin he walked out of the ring without the WBO 130-pound belt. His next fight six months later against Yakubu Amidu was much closer numerically but the final result was just as stinging.
On Saturday, Burgos will get a second chance to gain the belt he felt he should have won last January while Garcia will begin a new reign at a more comfortable weight class. Statistical factors that may shape the outcome include:
A "Roman" Holiday: One of their three common opponents was Roman Martinez and both fared excellently from a statistical standpoint.
The slow-starting Garcia again had problems getting his engine started as he threw just 21 punches in round one and averaged only 32.8 in the first five. But, as is his wont, Garcia suddenly surged beginning in round six by landing 25 of 67 overall and 18 of 35 power shots to spark a fight-changing surge. From that point forward Garcia prevailed 52-8 overall and 38-4 power and connected on 51%, 58% and 75% of his power shots to Martinez's 27%, 27% and 0%. In all Garcia led 113-45 overall, 53-20 jabs and 60-25 power as dominated in terms of precision (38%-14% overall, 31%-10% jabs, 47%-21% power).
Burgos out-landed Martinez in all phases (286-193 overall, 52-29 in jabs and 234-164 in power shots) and was far more precise (36%-23% overall, 17%-12% jabs, 46%-28% power) but somehow Martinez escaped with his title intact. Maybe it was because he threw more punches (827-805 overall, 576-507 power) or perhaps the Puerto Rican contingent in New York's Madison Square Garden Theater generated enough noise to swing a round or two Martinez's way. What most saw was an injustice.
Opposites Attract: If Garcia has one glaring weakness it is his tendency to start slowly. Meanwhile, Burgos is a punching machine that revs up early and remains in high gear throughout.
Garcia's style mirrors his deliberate and thoughtful personality. He strikes only after gathering exhaustive information on his opponents' habits in the early rounds. As a result, he tends to lose early rounds but he more than makes up for it later on.
That tendency nearly cost Garcia dearly against Martinez as he suffered a second round knockdown and his weight-depleted engine never really got started against Lopez as he threw 36, 41, 46 and 30 punches in each of the four rounds. No matter: Garcia still impressed as he scored knockdowns in rounds two and four, the last of which was produced by a spectacular hook.
Other slow starts were seen versus Orlando Salido (42, 53, 38, 41 and 34 punches in the first five), against Bernabe Concepcion (29 of 142 overall and 7 of 28 power in the first three rounds), Juan Carlos Martinez (39.6 punches per round and being out-landed 50-44 overall and 37-28 power in the first three rounds). But in each of those fights he managed to bail himself out with incredible surges that his opponents couldn't shake. The last three rounds in the Salido fight saw Garcia go 24 of 59, 22 of 62 and 25 of 54 overall while against Concepcion Garcia averaged 71 punches per round from round four onward, outlanding him 83-26 overall and 49-16 power before scoring the seventh round TKO. In round four against Martinez, Garcia went 32 of 69 overall (46%) and 26 of 42 power (62%) in just 160 seconds to register the stoppage. Garcia averaged 38 punches thrown per round over first five rounds vs. Roman Martinez and Salido- then averaged 59 thrown per round the rest of each fight.
Conversely, Burgos is a punching machine that starts fast and stays there. Against Martinez, Burgos threw 69 punches in round one and never dipped below 54 (round two). In the final four rounds Burgos went 24 of 62, 31 of 78, 25 of 65 and 44 of 93 while Martinez landed 16, 11, 9 and 22 respectively. Against Amidu, Burgos averaged 100.5 punches per round -- far above the 57.7 junior lightweight norm -- and achieved perfect balance by throwing 603 jabs and 603 power shots. In that bout Burgos threw 78 in round one (which, along with round nine, was his low output) and in the last four rounds he fired 140, 85, 113 and 137. When he fought Burgos, he threw 63, 74 and 68 and landed 41%, 47% and 57% overall and 46%, 55% and 66% power in registering the third-round stoppage. Win or lose, Burgos will always give hard, consistent effort.
Prediction: Garcia has his hands full here, for Burgos appears to have the perfect style to exploit his one great weakness. However, a deeper look into the numbers reveals the one asset Garcia can use to swing the fight -- accuracy. As previously mentioned, Garcia is an extremely precise puncher once he gets going and for all his volume Burgos is not a consistently great defender and Garcia is. Burgos' last four opponents landed 38% of their power shots, while Garcia's last four opponents landed just 16% of their total punches and just seven punches per round.
Burgos may well win the first three or four rounds but the real test will come when Mikey begins his surge. If Burgos doesn't crumble -- and he's a genuinely tough guy -- he has a real chance to spring the upset. But the most likely result is that Garcia's rally will once again swing the bout violently his way. Garcia by hard-fought 11th round TKO.