By Keith Idec
If you’ve convincingly beaten the man who twice throroughly beat the man you’re about to fight, it’s natural to feel confident about winning.
Mikey Garcia is too smart and too mature, though, to grow overconfident as he prepares for the first defense of his WBO featherweight title against former champion Juan Manuel Lopez on June 15 in Dallas. Garcia (31-0, 26 KOs) realizes Lopez (33-2, 30 KOs) desperately needs to dethrone him if the popular Puerto Rican challenger is to regain his star status and Garcia is approaching their HBO “Boxing After Dark” main event accordingly.
“He’s been in there with Salido,” Garcia, 25, told BoxingScene.com before a press conference Thursday at American Airlines Center to officially announce the fight. “He came up short twice, but other than that he beat every single guy and knocked out almost every guy he faced. He’s strong. He has a lot of power. He’s very dangerous.”
The 29-year-old Lopez’s lone losses were technical knockout defeats to Mexico’s Salido (39-12-2, 27 KOs).
The underrated Salido stopped Lopez in the eighth round of their first slugfest in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He cemented himself as boxing’s best featherweight after that April 2011 upset by stopping Lopez again in the 10th round of their rematch nearly 11 months later in San Juan.
Garcia settled for a technical decision victory over Salido because Garcia suffered a broken nose during the eighth round of their Jan. 19 fight in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. He had dropped the 32-year-old Salido four times in the bout to build up a sizeable lead on the scorecards by the time the fight was halted (79-69, 79-69, 79-70).
Lopez has won both of his fights since the second Salido loss by knockout, but neither Aldimar Sliva Santos (18-4, 9 KOs) nor Eugenio Lopez (31-25-1, 25 KOs) will ever be mistaken for the fast-rising Garcia, of Oxnard, Calif. Though Lopez is considered shopworn by some boxing observers, Garcia recognizes that Lopez’s power makes him highly capable of taking the title Garcia worked so hard to earn.
“He has nothing to lose and really everything to gain here,” Garcia said. “I’m expecting the best JuanMa. He’s going to come 100 percent in shape. He wants to be at the top again. I think he’s going to be very, very hungry to defeat me and show everybody that he can be a champion once again. That’s why I have to make sure I don’t take him lightly. I’ve got to make sure I’m at my best, also.”
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.