By Jake Donovan
When does it make sense for two fighters of Mexican heritage primarily based on the West Coast to fight in an East Coast venue?
The answer: it doesn’t have to make sense when the venue is Madison Square Garden.
Mikey Garcia returns to MSG Theatre on January 25, just over one year since his featherweight title-winning effort over Orlando Salido. The unbeaten Californian hits New York City as a 130 lb. titlist, defending his crown versus Juan Carlos Burgos in their scheduled 12-round main event, which airs live on HBO.
Given the history of the sport within the building and its accompanying venues (such as the Theatre), it remains an honor for any fighter to appear at the world’s most famous arena. That history isn’t lost on either main event fighter, each of whom take as much pride in where they fight as whom they are fighting next weekend.
“It's good to be back (fighting) in the East Coast,” Garcia (33-0, 28KO) says of his third trip to the venue. “New York is a big boxing venue. It's important that I can be remembered as a big fighter in that arena.
“New Yorkers are real boxing fans. They don't just show up for the main event. They show up to the arena early.”
Mere hours before Garcia was crowned a featherweight titlist at the venue last January, Burgos (30-1-2, 20K) was denied similar glory. The lanky super featherweight contender delivered a championship-level performance versus then-titlist Rocky Martinez, only to have to settle for a highly questionable split decision draw.
Still, the memories of being denied his first major title hardly leaves a bitter taste in Burgos’ mouth.
“It's an honor and privilege to fight at Madison Square Garden, a historical venue where legends are made,” Burgos notes. “It's an honor to fight there a second time, especially against a great fighter like Mikey Garcia.”
Often associated with fights at Madison Square Garden is its rich involvement in boxing history. Once upon a time, it was considered taboo for any potentially great fighter to not appear at the venue at least once in his career. All of the (retired) all-time greats on this side of the world have played The Garden, as has nearly every lineal World heavyweight champion in boxing history.
One of the few old enough to appreciate such events is Bob Arum, whose Top Rank Inc. presents next weekend’s show. Ironically, the Hall-of-Fame promoter is among the small few who seems a bit underwhelmed by the thought of the building receiving as much attention as the main event.
“The Garden, let's be honest, isn't as important as it was when I first started in boxing (nearly 50 years ago). It used to be "the place to be." The place to be now, can be anywhere in the world,” Arum points out, a claim highlighted by his recent interest in promoting boxing events in Macau, among other worldwide locations. “But it's nice to bring a big fighter to Madison Square Garden and to New York City.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.