Mikey Garcia wants Linares-Crolla II winner for unification fight

Lightweight titleholder Mikey Garcia hopes to unify the title with the winner of the Jorge Linares-Anthony Crolla rematch. Ed Diller/DiBella Entertainment

Lightweight titleholder Mikey Garcia will be thousands of miles away when world champion Jorge Linares squares off with former titlist Anthony Crolla in a rematch on Saturday, but he will be paying as close attention as if he were sitting ringside at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.

Garcia will be in New York in the Showtime studios to serve as a guest analyst on the network’s coverage of the fight (6 p.m. ET) while also sizing the fighters up and hoping that he will get a unification fight with the winner, particularly if it’s Linares, later this year.

Garcia, a former featherweight and junior lightweight titleholder, looked sensational when he obliterated previously undefeated Dejan Zlaticanin by third-round knockout to take his 135-pound belt on Jan. 28 in Las Vegas in just his second fight since ending a 2½-year layoff related to his legal fight with former promoter Top Rank over his contract.

Linares (41-3, 27 KOs) beat Crolla (31-5-3, 13 KOs) by unanimous decision in a competitive and action-packed fight on Sept. 24, also at Manchester Arena, in Crolla’s hometown, to win the WBA’s version of the title. However, Linares had previously been stripped of the WBC belt Garcia won from Zlaticanin and given recognition as the organization’s “champion in recess.”

Sanctioning body nonsense aside, the upshot is that the Linares-Crolla winner, in addition to holding a world title, will be the mandatory challenger for Garcia, which could help facilitate making the fight.

Mandatory or not, it is a fight that Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs), 29, of Oxnard, California, very much wants. Presently, Ringstar Sports promoter Richard Schaefer, who works with Garcia, is in talks with Showtime for a fight for Garcia in June or July, but Garcia has the Linares-Crolla winner on his mind.

“I want to fight this summer, whether June or July, or maybe even August if the Linares-Crolla winner doesn’t come out injured or cut and we need to go to August so they can be ready for me. That’s fine by me. If it’s October or November, though, I’d like to fight [somebody else first] in June.”

Linares-Garcia is the best fight that can be made in the lightweight division, a notion Garcia agrees with. It’s also a fight Linares has not shied away from saying he wants.

“I think it’s also probably the best fight,” he said. “Linares has proven himself in three different divisions by winning world titles. Even after being stopped he bounced back and regains another world title and was looking great. It shows you the caliber of fighter he is. He has proven himself and he has the skills. There’s no other match that’s as competitive [at lightweight] as that can be.

“I think Linares wants to fight me and prove himself and make a great fight for the fans.”

Garcia knows a thing or two about promotional politics, given that his own battle cost him two-plus years of his prime, so he is well aware that Linares is promoted by Golden Boy and he is working with Schaefer, the former Golden Boy CEO with whom Golden Boy boss Oscar De La Hoya and president Eric Gomez had a bad falling out with.

But Garcia said it shouldn’t matter when it comes to make the right fights.

“My brother [trainer and manager Robert Garcia] and I were speaking about that fight with Oscar and Eric a few weeks ago. I’m pretty sure we can get that fight done,” Garcia said. “I think it’s a very, very possible fight this year. I don’t see why not.

“Let’s make it happen. Let’s not let any promoter or network get in the way. Linares is fighting on Showtime [on Saturday] and that makes it even easier. I spoke to Golden Boy and they’re excited for it. Let’s get it done.”

As for another potential summer fight, Garcia also has his eye on the winner of the bout between lightweight titlist Terry Flanagan (32-0, 13 KOs) and Petr Petrov (38-4-2, 19 KOs), who meet April 8, also at Manchester Arena.

“I spoke to [Showtime Sports boss] Stephen Espinoza and Richard and they feel that I could be on in June or July, but we’re waiting for results of [Linares-Crolla] and I’m also keeping an eye on Flanagan-Petrov. Depending on how these two matches go, I will have a better idea of what my future will be like. There are options there. We can definitely get to work on them.”