By Keith Idec
Glen Tapia’s win in his last fight marked the most important, impressive victory of his four-year pro boxing career.
Stopping previously unbeaten Abie Han after eight rounds in an entertaining, bloody brawl broadcast by ESPN2 established Tapia as a legitimate contender at 154 pounds. Passaic’s Tapia responded exactly the way his handlers at promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. had hoped when faced with an opponent clearly better than anyone Tapia had fought in his first 18 professional fights.
Tapia’s next opponent, Elco Garcia, is 42, has lost eight fights, and has been knocked out five times during a pro career that began when Tapia was 7. In certain respects, that makes Tapia’s task Saturday night in Atlantic City almost as challenging as fighting Han (19-1, 12 KOs) — perhaps even more demanding mentally.
Tapia was a slight favorite over Han. Against Garcia (27-8, 13 KOs), he is a heavy favorite entering a 10-round bout designed to make Tapia (19-0, 11 KOs) look good in front of his growing fan base at Bally’s Events Center.
Tapia thus must beat Garcia at least as impressively as when he hammered Han into submission. Preparing properly is the best way to ensure such results, and Tapia avoided the training trap fighters often fall into when getting ready for less imposing opponents.
"You should actually work harder for a guy like this because you don’t want to lose to a guy you’re supposed to beat," Tapia, 23, said. "Even if you win and don’t look good, people look at that and say, ‘He looked bad against a guy he was supposed to beat.’ You don’t want that."
Garcia, of Ignacio, Colo., has won his last two fights and is 9-2 since former junior middleweight champion Raul Marquez knocked him out in the seventh round of their September 2006 fight.
"He’s a veteran," said Tapia, who’s No. 10 in the WBO’s junior middleweight rankings. "You’ve got to watch out against guys like this because even though he’s older, he knows how to survive. He’s strong and he puts good pressure on guys."
Tapia’s responses to pressure thus far indicate that the former National Junior Olympic champion could be ready for a world title shot by the end of 2014.
"I know everybody’s judging every little step I take, everything I do," Tapia said. "I have to show that I’m a great fighter."