By Keith Idec
Mikey Garcia could’ve pursued a shot at a less formidable featherweight champion than Orlando Salido.
The unbeaten contender from Oxnard, Calif., wants to be acknowledged, however, as the 126-pound champion in boxing, a distinction defeating Salido can earn him Saturday night in New York. The 25-year-old Garcia (30-0, 26 KOs) will challenge Mexico’s Salido (39-11-2, 27 KOs, 1 NC) as part of HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” tripleheader from The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
“We could’ve been a champion maybe a year ago or more, but you would’ve had to look at the right opponent, try to pick the right title defenses,” Garcia told BoxingScene.com. “People won’t really recognize you as the champ until you beat somebody who’s well-deserving of that, so you can be recognized as the champion. Right now, the man to beat is Salido.
“If [promoter] Top Rank, my management team, my brother [trainer Robert Garcia] and everybody believes in me, that I have what it takes to beat him, and I also know that I have enough to beat him, let’s do it. It’s just the perfect time. They believe in me and I know it’s the right moment.”
Garcia is completely confident he can overcame the experienced Salido because he hasn’t been rushed into a title fight. He believes beating Jonathan Barros (34-4-1, 18 KOs), Bernabe Concepcion (31-6-1, 17 KOs) and Matt Remillard (23-1, 13 KOs) over the past two years has more than readied him for facing Salido, who upset Puerto Rico’s Juan Manuel Lopez (31-2, 28 KOs) to win the WBO featherweight title in April 2011 and stopped him again in their rematch March 10.
“I’m definitely very excited, not just because I’m fighting for a world title, but because I really feel that I earned it,” Garcia said. “It’s a great opportunity and I believe I have everything it takes to win and to become a world champion. It’s what I’ve worked for, I’ve earned it and I don’t plan on wasting this opportunity. I plan on taking advantage of the opportunity that’s in front of me.”
The mild-mannered Garcia realizes, though, that Salido is the best opponent he’ll have faced since he turned pro in July 2006.
“He’s definitely the champion right now in the division,” Garcia said. “He’s recognized as the best, probably, in the division. He’s had victories people weren’t expecting. He upset Lopez twice. He’s tough. He’s fought everyone in the division. He’s a very experienced fighter. He can do a lot of things. He can box, he can brawl, he can exchange punches and he can come back from getting knocked down and still win a fight. He’s a champion for a reason and he deserves respect.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.