By Jake Donovan
The idea behind raising the level of competition as well as expectations is that it’s supposed to get a lot harder than has been the case for Mikey Garcia.
Perhaps it’s just because the rising young star recognizes those challenges that he continues to overcome them with relative ease. The latest example came last weekend, when the former featherweight titlist became a two-division beltholder after effortlessly turning back the challenge of Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez.
For once, there was an actual in-fight challenge to overcome – Garcia suffered a surprise knockdown in round two. Rather than panic and change gears, the 25-year old showed the poise that stems from being part of a boxing family two generations deep. The rounds quickly piled up in his favor before putting away Martinez in the 8th round of their HBO-televised main event in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“I’m just happy with the way I performed,” Garcia (33-0, 28KO) said of his latest effort, which resulted in winning a 130 lb. belt. “We stuck to the game plan. I showed my skills and won another world title.”
Garcia’s 2013 campaign began with a title win as well, scoring four knockdowns en route to a technical decision over Orlando Salido. The win was the biggest of his career at the time, albeit with an anti-climactic ending as he was forced to stop fighting after nine rounds after injuries sustained from headbutts left him unfit to continue.
This time, Garcia was able to finish what he began, doing so in dominant fashion.
“I think it’s up there with my best wins,” Garcia says of Saturday’s performance. “Every fight they’ve put in front of me was supposed to be tougher than before. It just kind of comes natural to keep raising my game. I’m capable of beating any fighter in front of me. I take care of business.”
The only piece of business Garcia couldn’t successfully complete to date was making weight for his bout with Juan Manuel Lopez in Dallas this past June. The event was supposed to be his first defense of the featherweight belt but his title reign instead ended at the scales.
“I wished it turned out different at featherweight. I’m not happy or proud the way we left that division,” Garcia admits. “But I showed everyone with this fight that (missing weight) was a fluke. I made weight under the limit this time.
“It wasn’t my personal way to leave the division, but it happened. This fight shows the fans, the critics and the media the side of me that I’m responsible.”
One big difference in training for Martinez, in addition to having four less pounds to lose in moving up in weight, was the manner in which he arrived to his desired fighting weight.
“The only difference was the diet and the nutrition plan. Working with Alex Ariza made it easier. With the Lopez fight turning out the way it did, we didn’t want to do it again on our own. His diet was measured and designed for me. It was a big help to bring Alex to the team.”
With that came yet another complete performance, beating Martinez in a manner in which the Puerto Rican has never been forced to encounter. Garcia became the first to drop and stop the now former champ, whose lone other loss came on the road in Scotland versus Ricky Burns more than three years ago.
Still, don’t expect the ever-humble two-division champ to make the feat any more than just a part of his overall satisfying performance.
“I expected him to be a tough guy and resilient. Everyone was counting him out, but I didn’t believe that. He’s tough and resilient and can take a punch,” Garcia observed of the pre-fight scouting report on Martinez. “I knew I had an opportunity when I hurt him. I had the power to stop him. I landed a body shot that he couldn’t recover from.”
“Being the first to knock him out doesn’t make it any bigger, just something that happened. It’s nothing I’m going to bang my chest about.”
Nor will Garcia bang the drums when it comes to lining up his next opponent.
The shop is closed for the remainder of 2013. The only boxing intake for Garcia will be to support his gym mates in upcoming fights, while he enjoys the fruits of his latest in-ring acquisition.
Once he’s ready to return to the ring sometime in 2014, the same formula will apply – manager Cameron Dunkin and promoter Bob Arum will work on an opponent, trainer (and older brother) Robert Garcia will work on the game plan, leaving the younger Garcia to simply show up and fight.
“I just wait to see who they decide who is next. I’m not chasing anyone. I’m not even thinking about my next fight until next year,” Garcia says. “I just want to sit back and enjoy this win. It’s been the best year of my career. It’s been great fights, good shows, and look forward to more next year.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox Tags: Mikey Garcia