By Keith Idec
Jonathan Barros is Mikey Garcia’s second opponent, but his foremost concern.
If Garcia doesn’t beat Barros on Saturday night in Las Vegas, the undefeated featherweight contender’s title fight against Orlando Salido will be canceled, not postponed until February. Argentina’s Barros (34-3-1, 18 KOs) lost his last fight, but that 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat to Mexico’s Juan Carlos Salgado (26-1-1, 16 KOs, 1 NC) isn’t the fight on which Garcia (29-0, 25 KOs) has focused while preparing for the Barros bout, a 10-rounder that’ll open an HBO “Boxing After Dark” telecast at 9:45 p.m. ET/PT.
The 24-year-old contender remembers Barros beating Celestino Caballero, as well as Barros’ loss to Yuriorkis Gamboa.
“I saw both fights with Caballero,” Garcia told BoxingScene. “He put a lot of pressure on Caballero. He tried to make it his fight with pressure and just making it a rough fight for Caballero. I also saw him with Gamboa, who many considered the best featherweight at the time, and Barros was able to hang in there, hurt him and give him difficulties.”
The 28-year-old Barros beat Caballero (36-4, 23 KOs) by split decision to win the WBA featherweight title in July 2011 in Argentina. Caballero bounced back to defeat Barros by unanimous decision in their immediate rematch three months later, also in Argentina.
Gamboa beat Barros by unanimous decision as well. The gifted Cuban dropped Barros in the eighth round of that March 2010 fight in Hamburg, Germany, yet Garcia was impressed with some of the work Barros did during that fight.
“Barros is definitely an experienced fighter,” Garcia said. “He knows what to do in the ring. He’s a former world champion himself, so that definitely lets you know that he’s not a walk-in-the-park kind of opponent. He’s a tough guy, he knows what’s at stake and I’ve got to be prepared for everything. I have to be watching out for everything he brings into the ring. I just expect a very good fight from him.”
The rugged Garcia was supposed to challenge Salido on Saturday night at Wynn Las Vegas, but Mexico’s Salido (39-11-2, 27 KOs) suffered a finger injury. He didn’t take training for Barros any less seriously.
“I’m ready,” said Garcia, a native of Oxnard, Calif. “I’m in shape for whatever fight breaks out on Saturday night. If we need to make it a rough fight ourselves and make it a close-quarters fight, a brawl where we exchange punches, I’m ready for that. If he wants to maybe try to out-box me, I’m ready for that, too.
“I really think I’m in the best shape possible for this fight. I feel that we did everything. I prepared myself for whatever he wants to do Saturday night.”
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.