By Francisco Salazar
Nothing comes easy for professional prizefighters. Grueling training camps. Early morning runs. Aches and pains that may or may not go away.
One would think that undefeated featherweight Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia would have it better than other fighters. Both of his older brothers boxed professionally, with Robert becoming a world champion. His father Eduardo, who picked strawberries in the Oxnard Plains, trained Fernando Vargas to a world title.
However, Garcia, poised in the ring beyond his 25 years of age, has worked just as hard, if not harder, to demonstrate that he deserving of being called the best. After this Saturday night, he would just be content to be called a world champion.
Garcia will challenge Orlando Salido for the WBO featherweight title at the Theatre of Madison Square Garden in New York City. The bout will be televised on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” at 9:45 PM ET/ PT.
It would be an understatement that Garcia has been around boxing his whole life. Whether he would be watching his brother train, around his Dad when he barked instructions to Vargas, or as he carved out a decent amateur career, Garcia absorbed a great deal of knowledge of the sport.
All of his boxing knowledge will be put to use as he takes on the formidable Salido, who knocked out Juan Manuel Lopez twice within a year. Lopez was looked at as a top featherweight and was unbeaten when Salido defeated him both times.
Garcia, who was raised in Oxnard, but trains in Riverside, was scheduled to face Salido on November 10th. However, one month prior to the bout taking place, Salido allegedly slammed a car door on his right hand, breaking his right index finger.
Garcia (30-0, 26 KOs) went ahead with fighting on November 10th at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, fighting and defeating late replacement Jonathan Victor Barros in the eighth round of a scheduled 10 round bout.
Despite the delay in fighting Salido, Garcia remained in good spirits.
“I’m very happy with the camp we had,” said Garcia over the phone Thursday from his New York City hotel room. “I’m more excited for this fight and the opportunity that it brings. I’m very motivated and am mentally ready to go. I’m not nervous at all. I’m very relaxed.”
With the amount of experience and the face that Garcia has excelled in the sport, some boxing writers have analyzed that he could have fought for a world title earlier in his career. He was slated to fight WBA featherweight champion Celestino Caballero on June 30th, but Caballero backed out of a verbal agreement. After Caballero’s and Garcia’s representatives failed to arrive to a proposed September 8th bout, Garcia and Salido agreed to fight each other.
Salido has won his last five bouts in a row, is coming off a third round knockout over Moises Gutierrez on July 28th. The fighter from Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico has complimented his power with more boxing ability, making him a more dangerous and versatile fighter.
However, Garcia is ready for any style Salido brings to the fight on Saturday night.
“We worked on many things in the gym and simulated many scenarios,” said Garcia, who is co-trained by Robert and his father Eduardo. “We moved on sticking and moving, pressing the fight. We did a lot of stuff. I’m very confident of all the work I did in camp to prepare for him.”
Garcia is no stranger to the trials and politics of boxing. Having been around the sport, Garcia has always understood the notion of expect the unexpected.
However, what has remained consistent are the people whom he surrounds himself with. Hard work and dedication have been mainstays in boxing, but motivation and past experiences is what molds champions.
Having seen his father work in the strawberry fields of the Oxnard Plains has enabled Garcia to remain humble and never forgetting his past. It is a testament of why he believes he has been successful and why he will be the fourth fighter representing Oxnard to win a world title, after his brother Robert, Fernando Vargas, and Brandon Rios.
“A victory (on Saturday) will represent a victory for my whole family. I’m proud of what my brother has done, but I want to make a name for myself and establish my own career. I want to go as far as I could go. I never forget my past because it has led to my success.”
“I’ve earned it and the only thing left is to win that world title.”
Follow Francisco Salazar @Salazar_soccer