Even in the weeks before Mikey Garcia unified lightweight world titles with his dominant unanimous decision against Robert Easter on July 28, he spoke openly about what he wanted to do next.
Garcia was gung-ho to move up two weight classes to challenge Errol Spence Jr., who, like Garcia, is universally considered one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
Garcia told anyone who would listen that it was the fight he wanted, specifically because he would be such an underdog and would take great pride in pulling the upset. Spence was also into the fight and happy to fight Garcia for a lot of money and a perceived small risk. But when it was clear the fight, pitched as a Showtime PPV this fall, couldn't possibly happen this year because of the crowded calendar, which includes the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury heavyweight world title fight on Showtime PPV on Dec. 1, Garcia had a decision to make: either wait for the Spence fight and the uncertainty of it getting done or fight Richard Commey, one of his mandatory challengers, in a fight that is due.
Garcia opted to fight Commey, and on Tuesday morning the IBF notified its registered promoters via email that the purse bid scheduled for Tuesday at noon ET was canceled because the Garcia and Commey teams made a deal in what came as a mild surprise. They made their deal late Monday night.
There is no set date, site or broadcast arrangement for the fight, but if it comes off, Ringstar Sports promoter Richard Schaefer, who works with Garcia, said it would likely take place in January. Garcia is part of Premier Boxing Champions, which has a deal with Showtime, where Garcia has been fighting, as well as one with Fox that is about to launch. The camps have 15 days to return signed bout agreements to the IBF.
"We had to come to a decision and a conclusion here -- either Mikey would have to give up his IBF title or defend it against Commey and the decision was to defend it," Schaefer told ESPN. "Now we have to select a date and a site. We have a little time to do that. I'll be working on that with (Garcia adviser Al) Haymon and (Commey promoter) Lou DiBella during this week and next."
Earlier this year, Garcia moved up to junior welterweight and won a belt, but ended up vacating it instead of making a mandatory defense against Ivan Baranchyk after initially saying he would accept the mandatory fight. In the end, he returned to lightweight, where he still had a title. The Commey side was happy with Garcia's decision. Commey would rather face Garcia in a lucrative and high-profile bout than face an unknown opponent for a vacant title and small money.
"We made a deal for the fight, a real deal," DiBella told ESPN. "Mikey Garcia isn't walking through Richard Commey. Richard Commey is a tough fighter. He's the kind of fighter who is a high-risk, no-reward type of opponent. But anyone who knows anything about boxing knows Richard Commey is a good fighter and top lightweight contender but obviously he is not bringing big money to the table. But Garcia wants to keep his title so he has to fight Commey. You got to give the guy credit. Mikey's not afraid of anyone. It's a great opportunity for Commey to prove himself."
Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs), 30, of Moreno Valley, California, has won world titles in four divisions -- featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight -- and is line for any number of major fights, including against Spence or a possible unification fight with Vasiliy Lomachenko next year.
It's what makes his decision to accept the Commey bout a bit surprising.
"Mikey has plenty of options at 135, 140 or even 147 pounds," Schaefer said. "But that's the beauty of things when you're a talented fighter like Mikey. He decided to do this fight now but going forward he can have a big fight in any of those three weight classes. Mikey knows this is a tough fight. It's a helluva fight, one of those fights where their styles will make a good fight. They seem made for each other.
"And what it shows you is that Mikey is the kind of fighter who doesn't shy away from fighting anybody. He is willing to take on the best in each division. He's the kind of fighter who is looking for the biggest challenges. So now I will be talking with Lou so we can finalize the details within the IBF time frame."
Commey (27-2, 24 KOs), 31, of Ghana, will be getting his second shot at a world title. In September 2016, he lost a hard-fought split decision to Easter, whom he knocked down, in a hellacious battle for a vacant lightweight belt.
Then Commey lost a highly disputed split decision to Denis Shafikov on his turf in Moscow in December 2016 in a fight many thought Commey clearly won. But Commey has won three fights in a row since, including an impressive sixth-round knockout of then-unbeaten contender Alejandro Luna on March 10, to muscle his way back into the title picture.
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