By Chris Robinson
This weekend marks yet another pivotal time in the life of trainer Robert Garcia, who will be with his brother Mikey this weekend in Atlantic City as he faces off with Connecticut's Matt Remillard in an HBO showcase. The featherweight duel at the Boardwalk Hall will give some clarity as to just how real the potential of Garcia is and if successful, bigger bounty will be awaiting him.
Speaking from LAX airport in Los Angeles moments before his departure out East, Garcia spoke of the importance of his brother's fight.
"We're ready for it," a relaxed Garcia told me. "My brother trained hard for this fight. This is the biggest fight of his career. This fight takes him to the next level. If he wins this one, he'll be up to fighting any world champion in the featherweight division. Right now our promoter has the champions there. I think it makes it a lot easier. That's a big motivation for us to win this fight."
Regarded as the two best fighters at 126 pounds are Cuba's WBA champion Yuriorkis Gamboa and WBO titleist Juan Manuel Lopez, from Puerto Rico. Each man presents completely different challenges inside of the ring and I asked Garcia whom he and his brother would rather face if given the choice.
"Either one of them," said Garcia. "They are both great champions. They both have power and a lot of amateur experience and they are doing really good in the pros. I feel that Gamboa's style is a little more technical due to the fact that he's fast and he's got power. But if you leave it up to my brother he would rather fight Gamboa than Lopez. He feels that he would be more comfortable fighting Gamboa than Lopez."
Another one of Garcia's prized pupils is recently-crowned WBC and WBO bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire, who recently made headlines by signing an exclusive deal with Golden Boy Promotions. Arum insists that Top Rank still has a binding contract with the star but Garica feels that Donaire was just looking out for his best interest in joining Oscar De La Hoya's promotional outfit.
"Everybody is criticizing him for leaving Bob Arum and signing with Golden Boy but this is a business," Garcia remarked. "I'm very comfortable working with Top Rank. I've had most of my fighters fighting for them since I've been training fighters. But if Golden Boy gave him a better deal and bigger offer, then I don't blame him. I would do the same."
Garcia also pointed out that Donaire had left Gary Shaw in a similar fashion to team up with Arum just a few years back.
"It's not like Arum built him up. He got him when he was already a world champion. Things just turned around now. That's just part of boxing," Garcia claimed.
Naturally, given his Filipino roots and amazing ability, Donaire has been compared to his countryman Manny Pacquiao by some in the sport. Pacquiao, who is getting ready for a May 7th date with Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand, is revered in his native land and Garcia admits that Donaire is still in his shadow in many ways.
"Pacquiao right now is like a God in the Philippines," Garcia pointed out. "So there is never going to be another Pacquiao. But is Nonito is up there too. Has has a lot of fans from the Philippines and he has a lot of people who love him. After his last win he became huge. [But] there will never be another Pacquiao; that's just the way it is. That's something that happens every hundred years."
Earlier this month WBA junior middleweight champion Miguel Cotto successfully defended his crown with a chilling 12th round TKO over Ricardo Mayorga and in doing so he set up a rematch with the first man to defeat him nearly three years back, Antonio Margarito. Garcia saw Cotto's dissection and concedes that the Puerto Rican is flourishing under the guidance of Emanuel Steward.
"I think Cotto looked great," said Garcia. "Cotto is back and Manny is doing a great job with him. He's using his legs now. He's boxing smart, using his jab a lot more, and I think they are really doing a great job. We have to wait until he fights somebody with a little more skills maybe. Somebody that is going to give him a real challenge. His last fight against Mayorga and against Foreman, they weren't really big threats."
Garcia had a vested interest in Miguel's performance because he is the head man in Margarito's corner. The Tijuana slugger was last seen losing a lopsided and sometimes-punishing twelve round decision to Pacquiao last November but Garcia feels a rematch with Cotto is the perfect fight for him.
"I talked to Antonio last Friday," Garcia revealed. "It was his birthday. I called him and we talked for a while but we didn't talk about his fights or anything. It was just like friends, like we've been doing. I talked to him before the fight also; he was on his way to Vegas. We did talk a little about Cotto and he wants that fight really bad. He wants to prove to the world that he doesn't need anything illegally to win his fight against Cotto. He wants it."
Another bright talent in Garcia's stable is WBA lightweight champion Brandon 'Bam Bam' Rios, who last month tore through Venezuela's Miguel Acosta inside of the Palms Casino in Las Vegas. It was a career-defining victory for the 24-year old and Garcia said that Rios is already back in the gym and chomping at the bit to make his return.
"Brandon, right now he is the happiest man in the world. He just got his belts last Friday. He said 'It's been two weeks and I still don't have a belt'. He finally got it and he's happy. He's enjoying life right now and doing a lot of things with his wife and daughter. Just having a good time. He's already back in the gym and already training. He wants to help anybody out by sparring but I'm not letting him. No need to rush."