Ryan Garcia still good but needs time; Mikaela Mayer ready for better things

In his first fight since January 2021, Ryan Garcia, right, defeated Emmanuel Tagoe by unanimous decision to stay unbeaten. Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

In his first fight in 15 months, lightweight sensation Ryan Garcia was sharp, but it's also clear he'll need more time with new trainer Joe Goossen before he chases a marquee fight at 135 pounds.

Garcia cruised to victory over Emmanuel Tagoe and had his opponent in big trouble on numerous occasions, but he couldn't put him away and was extended the 12-round distance for the first time in his career.

After two cancelled fights last year -- one in July vs. Javier Fortuna and the other in November vs. Joseph "JoJo" Diaz Jr. -- it's certainly beneficial that Garcia was able to pile up rounds. He might have scored the knockout if Tagoe was willing to engage, but instead the Ghana native was in survival mode from the opening bell, making it a bit more difficult to gauge Garcia's current form.

At 23 years old, Garcia is still scratching the surface of his talent, and he indicated afterward that he wasn't looking to jump into a matchup with lightweight secondary titlist Gervonta Davis in his next outing after the fight was discussed last year.

That's a good idea with all the change going on in Garcia's life. He underwent wrist surgery in October and since has parted ways with Eddy Reynoso, who trained Garcia for his last five fights at Canelo Alvarez's San Diego gym.

The surgery scrapped the Diaz bout, and the fight with Fortuna was canceled for Garcia to address his mental health. With his wrist now repaired, Garcia remains a talent on the rise, but he'll need more time to recapture the momentum he was riding following his emphatic TKO victory of Luke Campbell last January. -- Mike Coppinger

Mayer dominates Han, aims for better and bigger things


Mikaela Mayer retains junior lightweight belts with win over Jennifer Han

Mikaela Mayer retains her junior lightweight titles with a unanimous decision victory over Jennifer Han.

After dismantling Jennifer Han on Saturday night, unified junior lightweight champion Mikaela Mayer is at once a woman waiting but also one with a whole bunch of options.

For years, Mayer has been focused on only taking big fights. It doesn't always happen -- boxing politics and realities being what they are -- but her message has been consistent throughout. And now, after winning a main event fight and dispatching another veteran challenger, she has all the reason in the world to wait and craft her next opponent wisely.

The winner of an eventual unification fight between the other two titleholders in the division, WBC champion Alycia Baumgardner and WBA champion Hyun Mi Choi? The winner -- or heck, even the loser -- of the Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano megafight for all the lightweight world titles later this month? A fight against veteran Belgian Delfine Persoon that could be appealing to Mayer's bourgeoning popularity in the United Kingdom?

They could all be sensible. But it might just take a small bit of patience. Mayer has shown a larger degree of versatility as a fighter in her wins over Han and Maiva Hamadouche back in November.

Against Hamadouche, she showed she could scrap in a non-stop action fight. Against Han on Saturday night, she was more patient, more strategic and still landed 33 percent of her punches against an active, constantly moving Han.

She's one of the most accurate punchers in the sport. For almost anyone she faces at junior lightweight or lightweight, her 5-foot-9 height could be a problem for her opponents, too. Mayer has proven she's one of the best fighters in the world. Now, she just has to let things play out in order to see who her next big opponent may be. -- Michael Rothstein

No doubt, Fundora can beat the top fighter at 154 pounds

Sebastian Fundora has created a lot of buzz since he was featured on a PBC on Fox undercard in February 2019. How could he not with his outlandish 6-foot-6 frame in the 154-pound division?

But it soon became clear that Fundora was much more than just an incredibly lanky boxer. He was someone who could outwill and outhustle opponents with punches from all angles.

On Saturday, Fundora faced his first genuine test and came through with a ninth-round TKO victory over Erickson Lubin in a firefight that guaranteed "The Towering Inferno" a future WBC title shot.

There's little doubt now that Fundora can hang with the class of the junior middleweight division, whether that's Jermell Charlo or Brian Castano, who meet in a rematch for the undisputed championship on May 14.

Fundora packs plenty of pop -- he scored a knockdown in Round 2 and badly disfigured Lubin's face en route to the stoppage -- but he also overwhelms with his incredible height and reach advantage.

By the time Lubin was able to measure the proper distance, he found himself in a brutal fight and the damage was piling up. It's unclear when Fundora will land his shot; with four titles up for grabs, there will be other No. 1 contenders waiting for their title opportunity.

He'll no doubt be deserving when the time comes, and the victory over Lubin will prepare him for the challenge like no matchup has.

Lubin, too, will land another shot when he's recovered from the punishment Fundora doled out. He was able to rally to floor Fundora in Round 7 and was ahead on two scorecards when the fight was stopped.

Lubin was just 21 when he lost to Charlo by first-round KO in his lone title challenge, and if he's able to rebound once again, he should find himself back in the mix in a crowded but entertaining division.

Golovkin starts slow, finishes strong to stop Murata

After 16 months away from the ring and at 40 years old, there were plenty of questions surrounding Gennadiy Golovkin in the lead-up to his middleweight title unification fight with Ryota Murata in Saitama, Japan, on Saturday.

Since suffering a majority-decision loss to Canelo Alvarez in September 2018, Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 KOs) hasn't resembled the same fighter who rose to the top of the pound-for-pound list and established himself as one of boxing's most dangerous punchers.

And in the early going, before he scored a ninth-round TKO to pick up a second 160-pound title, Golovkin was lending plenty of credence to those doubters who claim a third fight with Alvarez, planned for Sept. 17, is far past its expiration date.

Murata was landing at will over the first four rounds and was controlling the action as the aggressor. Golovkin's legs appeared more stiff as he moved around the ring, but he has long been regarded as a slow starter.

Suddenly, in Round 5, Golovkin sent Murata's mouthpiece flying with his signature right hand, and all those memories of GGG's greatest hits came to mind. The impressive offensive attack began to flow, the looping right hands mixed in with patient feints and uppercuts.

Clearly, this isn't the old GGG but an older, more stationary version of the man who became one of boxing's top stars during his torrid middleweight title run.

After that performance, it's hard to believe Golovkin has a realistic chance of defeating Alvarez, who's peaking and currently rated as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter by ESPN. But Golovkin ensured the fight had a conclusive ending, and in doing so, showed just enough to maintain a glimmer of hope that he can fight Alvarez on even terms a third time and be competitive with boxing's top star.

The power is still very real, and as the boxing saying goes, that attribute is the last to erode. Golovkin's chin, too, is still able to stand up to heavy punches. Murata is a formidable puncher who connected plenty, but GGG never wavered.

There's another factor, too, that could help even out what Father Time has taken away: competitive vitriol.

Golovkin told ESPN it's "not personal" between him and Alvarez, but their rivalry and distaste for one another are well-documented. GGG was bitter after his first meeting with Alvarez -- a bout Golovkin and the majority of the viewing public seemed to believe he won -- was declared a split draw. A very controversial 118-110 scorecard from judge Adalaide Byrd in favor of Alvarez only added fuel to the fire.

When Alvarez tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol ahead of the second fight, which was postponed as a result, the feud reached a new level. Alvarez blamed tainted meat, but Golovkin wasn't buying it.

Time and again in sports, the cliché is repeated that when there's a rivalry, you can throw the record books out the window. And that's certainly true in boxing.

Look no further than Juan Manuel Marquez's four fights with Manny Pacquiao or Tyson Fury's trilogy with Deontay Wilder.

Marquez was 38 and had recently been dropped by Michael Katsidis in a win when he met Pacquiao a third time, yet that was his best performance against the legend, a controversial decision loss for Marquez. Of course, Marquez knocked him out in the fourth meeting.

Wilder was counted out heading into his third fight with Fury after he was brutalized in the second meeting. The American was knocked out in the trilogy battle, but not before he floored Fury twice in one of the greatest fights in heavyweight championship history.

Golovkin will now look to add to that long list of aging underdogs looking for one last hurrah, and just maybe, the added 8 pounds for the super middleweight bout will aid him.

After all, Golovkin has fought at 160 pounds most of his career, and it certainly must be more difficult than ever at 40.

Nearing the end of his career, if Golovkin has one great fight left in him, it will need to materialize later this year to stave off Alvarez, who is better -- and more active -- than ever. -- Mike Coppinger