By Keith Idec
Rocky Martinez is the defending world champion and has boxed between junior lightweight and lightweight throughout his 12-year pro career.
Much to Martinez’s disbelief, Mikey Garcia is still a heavy favorite to defeat him as they approach their HBO “World Championship Boxing” main event Saturday night in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“I feel that I should be the favorite,” Martinez, 30, said on a conference call Wednesday. “I am the champion. I’m the naturally bigger guy. I’m strong. I’ve prepared myself well and I feel I’m going to win this fight because of that.”
Puerto Rico’s Martinez (27-1-2, 16 KOs) won the then-vacant WBO super featherweight title against Mexico’s Miguel Beltran Jr. (27-2, 17 KOs, 1 NC) nearly 14 months ago in Las Vegas. Martinez bounced back from a draw with Mexico’s Juan Carlos Burgos (30-1-2, 20 KOs) in his first defense Jan. 19 in New York to deal Diego Magdaleno the Las Vegas fighter’s first defeat, a split-decision win for Martinez on April 6 in Macau, China.
The undefeated Garcia figures to emerge as Martinez’s toughest opponent, but Garcia’s trainer and older brother, Robert Garcia, expects a difficult debut at 130 pounds against a champion eager to pull of an upset and prove he’s not a steppingstone for one of boxing’s rising stars in the sport’s lower weight classes.
“We’re training for the best Rocky Martinez out there,” Robert Garcia said. “We know everybody’s counting him out and we know those are the most dangerous opponents. So we’ve got to be ready for a great champion that’s going to go in there and do everything possible to defend his title.”
Mikey Garcia (32-0, 27 KOs) lost his WBO featherweight title at the scales the day before he knocked out another Puerto Rican opponent, Juan Manuel Lopez, on June 15 in Dallas. The 25-year-old Oxnard, Calif., native anticipates much more resistance in first fight since demolishing Lopez (33-3, 30 KOs), especially since Martinez has never been knocked out.
“I feel I’m the smarter guy,” Mikey Garcia said. “I feel I’m just as strong. I’m faster. The possibility of me winning is very high. I know it’s not an easy fight, not an easy fight at all. I know how strong he is and that he comes to fight and win. But that’s why I worked so hard and why I probably had the best training of my life. I know how important and how difficult this fight’s going to be.”
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.