Garcia outpoints Vargas in bounce-back victory


FRISCO, Texas — 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 in his encore: He had won world titles in four smaller divisions, but was he a viable contender at 147 pounds?

Garcia answered in the affirmative, knocking former two-division world titlist Jessie Vargas down and winning a unanimous decision on Saturday night before a crowd of about 10,000 at The Ford Center at The Star, the training facility of the Dallas Cowboys.

Garcia won 116-111, 116-111 and 114-113 to set himself up for the probability of a much bigger fight. ESPN scored the fight 117-110 for Garcia, who dropped the bigger Vargas in the fifth round.

Garcia (40-1, 30 KOs), 32, of Moreno Valley, California, has won world titles at featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight but wants to claim a title at welterweight to make it five divisions. He went from lightweight up to welterweight for an audacious challenge of world titlist Errol Spence Jr. last March 16 in a pay-per-view headliner at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Cowboys, in Arlington, Texas, but Spence cruise to a shutout decision.

Vargas is no Spence, who is one of the elite pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but he is a longtime contender and has won world titles at welterweight and junior welterweight. Garcia, however, handled him without too many issues.

Vargas took control in the opening two rounds thanks to a strong, stiff jab he powered down the middle to the head and body against Garcia, who often is a slow starter. But Garcia began to get going in the third round, landing to the body and coming over the top with a right hand that landed and forced Vargas back.

The fight broke into a brawl in the fourth round as they traded toe to toe, with Vargas getting the better of the action, including landing a left hook and a right that nailed Garcia and backed him into the ropes.

Garcia broke through in the fifth round when he landed right hand after right hand and finally another one that knocked Vargas down in the corner. Vargas beat the count and had a smile on his face, but his body language made it clear he was hurt. His face was swelling, and he took many more shots over the final 30 seconds of the one-sided round.

Vargas (29-3-2, 11 KOs), 30, of Las Vegas, looked to be fading in the sixth round as Garcia continued to rattle off jab-right hand combinations that regularly found their mark. Garcia put more punishment on him in the seventh round, hammering him with right hands. He had him pinned on the ropes and was teeing off as the round came to a close as referee Jon Schorle was looking closely.

The pace slowed in the last quarter of the fight, but Garcia controlled the action as he continued find a home for his right hand. Vargas, in the meantime, seemed resigned to go the distance and lose a decision. He had very little left in the final rounds and rarely landed anything of note despite raising his hands in faux victory when the bell rang to start the 12th round during which he showed no urgency. Garcia, however, continued to sink hard body shots into his flank and gut and wobbled him with a right hand with 30 seconds left in the fight.

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