By Alex Beard (@alex_beard17)
As you might expect, much of the media focus for this week’s night of fights at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has been on the main event. Rightly so. The first fight between Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz last July was a phenomenal affair and there’s nothing to say the rematch this weekend will be any different.
However, lurking just beneath the main event is a criminally underrated world title bout between WBC lightweight champion Dejan Zlaticanin and fellow undefeated fighter Mikey Garcia. Zlaticanin made history in June when he knocked out Franklin Mamani in the 3rd round to become Montenegro’s first boxing world champion.
Zlaticanin (22-0-KO15) is small for the weight at just 5ft 4in tall, but the southpaw packs a serious punch and is very good technically. He boasts wins over Scotland’s Ricky Burns and Terry Flanagan’s next title challenger Petr Petrov. Garcia will likely be the favourite but there should be no one who writes off the champion.
Garcia (35-0-KO29) has long been thought of as a potential star of the sport. That star waned for a while though, as promotional difficulties kept him out of the ring for two and a half years. He returned in July last year, hammering former featherweight titleholder Elio Rojas in five vastly impressive rounds.
The Californian was a world champion at both featherweight and super-featherweight, and has beaten the likes of Roman Martinez and Orlando Salido. His footwork is magnificent, his punch selection impressive and he hits very, very hard. These two match up perfectly, with Zlaticanin providing the first legitimate test of Garcia’s comeback.
This sort of match-up keeps boxing fans going. As we saw with DeGale vs. Jack recently – and also with the first Frampton vs. Santa Cruz fight – when the best fight the best there is often fireworks. This fight is an intriguing one in a fascinating division. The aforementioned Flanagan is yet to be tested as WBO champion, while IBF champ Robert Easter is a serious talent.
Garcia, though, has his eye on the winner of the Jorge Linares vs. Anthony Crolla rematch – if he is victorious this weekend: “I would really love the opportunity to fight the winner,” he told Sky Sports.
“They have a rematch coming up and the first fight was a great one, and if I can get the winner and claim supremacy of the division, that would be amazing.
“I am also willing to go anywhere to get that fight. That’s what it’s about; you want those challenges and that’s what I am about.”
Zlaticanin is first on Garcia’s agenda, however, and he’ll have to be at his best if he’s to beat the Montenegrin in a bout that may well take some of the limelight off an equally scintillating main event this weekend.by