Hedge Your Bets: Mikey Garcia Vs. Rocky Martinez Preview And Prediction

Sometimes more is better. That's what Showtime has been thinking this year with multi-fight cards where the individual bouts are of questionable entertainment value, and that's what HBO seems to be thinking about this Saturday with its tripleheader. The junior middleweight clash between Vanes Martirosyan and Demetrius Andrade is unlikely to produce anything like enjoyable action because of the style match-up, although the winner could emerge as a force in the division, especially if it's American ex-Olympian Andrade. I don't personally know many people juiced about the rematch at featherweight between Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan, although Vic always comes to fight and Nonito is at his best with a come-forward opponent like "The Raging Bull." (I've got Donaire and Andrade in those two, although neither figures to be a wipeout, despite what happened in Donaire-Darchinyan I and despite Andrade's superior physical qualities.)

The bout of the tripleheader with the best chance of hitting paydirt is the main event between junior lightweight Rocky Martinez and upward-moving featherweight Mikey Garcia. Garcia is one of the finest young fighters in the sport. Martinez is one of the best men in the shallow 130-pound class. Competitively speaking, whether Garcia is equipped to deal with a full-fledged junior lightweight is the big question here, because as solid as Martinez is in many ways, there's a gulf in class between the two men. Entertainmentingly speaking, Garcia's surgical power punching isn't for everyone, while Martinez has dialed back his brawling tendencies considerably in recent fights. But of the three HBO fights, it has the best mix of potential meaning and adrenaline escalating.

And if none of it works for you, there's an additional backstop: the debut episode of HBO 24/7 for Manny Pacquiao/Brandon Rios. It's not an unwise strategy, if a less than ideal one, to just throw so much boxing at people that it increases the odds of any of it ending up being compelling television.

We'll focus our attention on Garcia-Martinez, however briefly. Garcia has all the appearances of a top fighter of the future, no matter how odd it is to see him trying to gain a foothold in one of the most cobweb-covered divisions in the sport. It's a maneuver born of necessity; Garcia struggled badly to make featherweight in his last bout, to the point that he didn't make it at all. The featherweights have better and bigger names — like Donaire, say, not that the two would ever meet given their shared trainer, Robert Garcia — while junior lightweight has one elite-level Japanese fighter, Takashi Uchiyama, and a bunch of meh. Yuriorkis Gamboa could have some name value, but the next biggest name in terms of HBO exposure is Martinez. Rocky has been on the network's airwaves in each of his last two, a win against Diego Magadaleno in a competitive bout and a draw against Juan Carlos Burgos in a bout where Burgos deserved the decision.

The track record on Martinez is that he can hang with anyone at 130, win, lose or draw. In 2010 he engaged in one of the brawls he once liked so well with Ricky Burns, and lost a unanimous decision by very close scores. His chin and heart are top notch, which is a good enough start for a fighter. He has a baseline level of technical competence to accompany that chin and heart,  not that he's very good at anything. He defies categorization of late — he's neither boxer nor puncher nor boxer-puncher. He will probe with his jab like a proper boxer, and do things brawlers don't, like throw right crosses to the body, or counter with his left. His defense is not atrocious, even if he can be hit fairly easily — he is slow, for sure. His defense does get sloppy when an opponent shows a willingness to trade with him, and he can get overeager while on the attack, leaning the top of his body too far over. When he traps a taller opponent on the ropes he's at his best against that type, not that he needs to worry about it with the shorter Garcia. He can compete with boxer types or brawler types alike. He's simply solid, unspectacular, and when he opts to trade, things can get dicey for everyone involved.

The only confirmed edge Martinez has in this fight, though, is size, both in being a junior lightweight already and height. Garcia is one of the sport's sharpest counterpunchers, and at 126, he hit exceptionally hard. Given how he literally grew out of the division, you have to assume he carried some of that two-fisted power up with him to 130. He's faster than Martinez, more efficient, smarter. There are questions still about his toughness, given how willingly he followed trainer Robert Garcia's lead to seek an "out" against Orlando Salido once he broke his nose, taking advantage of the head butt-induced injury to force the bout to the scorecards just when Salido was turning it on and Mikey was slowing  down. The answer to those questions could prove crucial for Garcia's advancement. Martinez might not be technically proficient or speedy enough to ask them the way he usually does, simply because Garcia is so much better by appearance than anyone he has yet faced. But if Martinez does find a way to ask those questions, Martinez is game enough to either win the fight or give Garcia a chance to answer them to to the satisfaction of an audience that's wondered whether his trademark composure is a facade when the going gets rough.

I'm more inclined, though, to think that Martinez doesn't have the proficiency to put Garcia in a place where we find out how dig he can deep. Martinez might have success in a few rounds, but I expect Garcia to control the action and win the bulk of the 12 rounds Saturday.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.