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You close boxing analyst for ESPN.com. Rafael began writing for ESPN.com in 2005 after working as a boxing writer for five years for USA Today. You can contact him through Twitter in the danrafaelespn account.RELATED
FRISCO – After what Mikey Garcia called “a horrible performance” in his first fight in the welterweight division last March, he knew he had to answer an important question: he had won world titles in four smaller divisions, but was it A viable contender with 147 pounds?
Garcia responded affirmatively, knocking down former two-division world champion Jessie Vargas and winning by unanimous decision Saturday night before a crowd of approximately 10,000 fans at the Ford Center at The Star, the Dallas Cowboys training facility.
Garcia won with 116-111, 116-111 and 114-113 cards to prepare for a much bigger fight.
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Garcia (40-1, 30 KOs), 32, of Moreno Valley, California, has won world titles in featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight, but wants to claim a welterweight title to achieve five divisions He went from light weight to welterweight in a bold challenge to world champion Errol Spence Jr. on March 16 on a pay-per-view billboard at AT&T Stadium, home of the Cowboys, in Arlington, Texas, but Spence took The triumph by decision.
Vargas is not Spence, who is one of the elite pound for pound fighters in the world, but he’s a long time contender and has won world titles in welterweight and junior welterweight. Garcia, however, handled it without too much trouble.
Vargas took control in the first two rounds thanks to a strong and rigid jab that drove in the center of the head and body against Garcia, but Garcia began to get in rhythm in the third round, landing on the body and reaching the top with a right hand that landed and forced Vargas to back off.
The fight was revolutionized in the fourth round as they exchanged face to face, with Vargas taking the best of the action, including a left hook and a right hook that nailed Garcia and sent him on the ropes.
Vargas (29-3-2, 11 KOs), 30, of Las Vegas, seemed to fade away in the sixth round while Garcia continued to recite right-hand jab-hand combinations that regularly found his mark. Garcia punished him more in the seventh round and hit him with his right hands. He had him tied to the ropes and was hitting when the round came to an end.
The pace slowed in the last quarter of the fight, but Garcia controlled the action as he continued to search for a home for his right hand. Vargas, meanwhile, seemed resigned to go the distance and lose a decision. He had very little left in the final rounds and rarely achieved anything remarkable despite raising his hands in a false victory when the bell rang to begin the twelfth round, during which he showed no hurry. Garcia, however, continued to sink hard body shots into his side and staggered him with a right hand with 30 seconds remaining in the fight.