By Chris Robinson
To say that trainer Robert Garcia has been a busy man these days is an understatement. The Oxnard-based coach has a fine core of talented prizefighters and is often the case in the sport, he recently saw his time divided between two of his prized pupils when bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire and lightweight contender Brandon Rios had their bouts scheduled a week apart from one another.
Rios, originally from Garden City, Kansas, challenges WBA champion Miguel Acosta this Saturday night at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Speaking at the today's final press conference for the clash earlier today, Garcia admitted that the Venezuelan won't be easy work his his 24-year old charge.
"We know we have a hard fight against Acosta," Garcia opened up. "To me he's the best lightweight in the world. If [Juan Manuel] Marquez decides not to fight at lightweight anymore than I feel Acosta is the number one lightweight in the world."
Rios' path in the sport has been far from straight, as his past days were often checkered with much partying mixed in between his contests. However, in the past year he has seemed to gain a newfound commitment, with a recent marriage and the birth of his first child seeming to mature him.
Garcia speaks more like a father than a trainer when speaking on Rios' progression.
"Not only as a fighter but as a person is where he has made a big change since he's been with his girlfriend, now wife," Garcia said of Rios' wife Vicky. "A lot of things have changed. He's just a totally different man. He's not out partying, he's not out drinking or getting into trouble. He's focusing on his career and it has to do a lot with his wife supporting him and pushing him to do his best."
Last Saturday night Garcia could be found inside of the Mandalay Bay as he assisted Nonito Donaire in his dramatic 2nd round knockout over proud champion Fernando Montiel. Garcia has always been a huge believer in Donaire and seeing him add the WBC and WBO bantamweight titles to his collection was something that got close to his heart.
"He had a great win and I'm very, very proud of him. He did what he had to do and he's a great listener. He listens in the corner, so I am very proud of him," Garcia reflected.
Garcia and I discussed the possibility of Donaire returning to the Bay Area in California for his next bout. Donaire trains out of the Undisputed Boxing Gym in San Carlos and Garcia says a return to the area would be perfect because of all of the support he has in the region. For the moment a May showdown with WBA champion Anselmo Moreno seems to be on tap for the 'Filipino Flash'.
Garcia definitely feels that Donaire has unfinished business in the bantamweight class but entertains the thought of going after one of the sport's top junior featherweight champions near the end of the year.
"That would be nice," he continued. "I know that Nonito has no more than two fights left at 118. Unless there is a unification title and the winner of the tournament. If not we'll move up to 122 and go after [Wilfredo] Vazquez."
Donaire's victory over Montiel was so impressive that people have been buzzing about an eventual move up to 126 pounds to face off with formidable WBO king Juan Manuel Lopez. In return, Lopez has said that Donaire should be staying away from his weight class for the time being, an obvious forewarning.
Giving his take on things, Garcia feels that his brother Mikey, one of the top contenders in the weight class, is the man Lopez should be concerned with.
"In reality we are talking about maybe a year and a half, two years for that. I think my brother Mikey will get to Juanma before Nonito ever does. Juanma shouldn't be worrying about Nonito. He should be worrying about Mikey Garcia."