These are desperate times for featherweight hopeful Bernabe Concepcion. Loser of two fights in a row, the affable Cataduanes, Philippines native may indeed be only 23 years old but he badly needs a win to get his career back on track.
It was a little over a year ago when Concepcion was blitzed by then-WBO featherweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Despite dropping Juan late in the first round, Concepcion was overwhelmed and systematically picked apart late in the second stanza.
‘The Real Deal’ would return this past May in Las Vegas, on the eve of Manny Pacquiao’s unanimous decision victory over Shane Mosley. Concepcion was lined up in a fight that seemed winnable against journeyman Juan Carlos Martinez but he would put forth a listless effort in dropping a split-decision loss that has seen his career called into question.
So, when I recently read the news that Concepcion would be returning this October 27th against twice-beaten Aaron Garcia, as reported by my colleague Ryan Maquinana, I immediately got the sense that this was not a typical ‘comeback’ fight. Despite Garcia’s modest 10-2-2 record with 2 knockouts, there appears to be much more to him than his ledger would indicate.
Now 29 years old, Garcia actually had a decorated amateur career that saw him capture two National Golden Gloves titles and there was much that was expected from him as professional.
Garcia would win his first seven bouts but was upset by Saul Ochoa in May of 2006 and took some time away from the sport. He returned two years later and won a few more contests before back-to-back draws against Jesus Antonio Hernandez again left him idle and pondering his future.
Garcia easily could have let things slip away but when he crossed paths with trainer Vince Parra he found a man willing to take him in and someone who was going to put things into perspective for him.
“With him we just got together and I told him that nobody was going to give him anything and that he had to make up his mind on what he wanted to do,” said Parra, who also works with lightweight contender Mercito Gesta.
Garcia’s first fight under Parra’s services saw him pull off a big upset over Alejandro Lopez this past February underneath Brandon Rios’ title-winning TKO victory over Miguel Acosta inside of the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The bout was originally scheduled for eight rounds but later changed to four, with Garcia seizing the initiative and snatching a must-needed victory.
There was little time to waste as Parra then eyed a date against undefeated Abraham Lopez two months later in Ontario, California. It was another risky assignment and despite the loss that would ultimately follow for Garcia, Parra insists the true story from that night can’t be told by the scorecards alone.
“He lost a decision, that everybody, even the kid, thought he lost,” Parra continued. “He caught up with that but for the most part we just keep going up and up and up. Because there is no time to waste and he went eight rounds in his last one. I thought he won the fight but he didn’t get the nod from the judges because it was the other guy’s promoter.”
Garcia was scheduled to face off with once-beaten Matt Remillard on August 13th in Atlantic City but the Connecticut-based fighter withdrew from the contest because of previous legal issues. Any frustration from seeing that fight fall through was washed away when the call came for a fight against Concepcion shortly thereafter.
Parra understands that Garcia’s career hadn’t played out as expected and he tried making up for whatever professional experience he lacked by tapping into his talents that he carried as an amateur and immersing him into the right kind of fight scene.
“We had to channel from his experiences as an amateur and get him into the right training and into the right atmosphere,” Parra noted. “It was like a crash course in pro seasoning. So I did that with him by taking him to the Wild Card with Mercito for our last three camps. And when you put yourselves in with great fighters in a gym like that it pays off.”
So while many would be forgiven for writing Garcia off on repeated occasions, Parra instead saw an opportunity to reenergize his career by pushing him and testing his skills right off the bat. The Concepcion fight certainly comes with its hurdles as Bernabe is young, strong, and can punch a bit, but you can tell in Parra’s voice just how much he likes this fight for his charge.
“I just figured, at one point this guy was, for two years straight as an amateur, he was a winning machine. He had to get that back and I think he should beat Bernabe unanimously. He’s not a big puncher, but Aaron has real good technique and a lot of experience. I’ve watched Bernabe; I’ve watched him a lot. Mercito’s worked with him at the Wild Card and he’s a tough guy. But there’s nothing that tells me that Aaron couldn’t beat him.”