Robert Garcia on Juanma-Salido, Garcia-Caballero, More

By Chris Robinson

It was a chaotic scene in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 10th inside of the Roberto Clemente Coliseum.
Fighting on Showtime’s airwaves in a highly-anticipated rematch, WBO featherweight champion Orlando Salido and local favorite Juan Manuel Lopez offered up a special kind of pugilistic drama that is only seen in the rarest of prizefights. Salido would overcome a fifth-round knockdown before taking over the fight and breaking Lopez down for a 10th round TKO victory.
Right in the middle of the madness was Oxnard, California-based trainer Robert Garcia, who was in the corner of his younger brother Miguel ‘Mikey’ Garcia, a featherweight contender who scored a systematic 7th round TKO over former title challenger Bernabe Concepcion in the evening’s televised co-feature.
With a growing stable of talented amateur and professional fighters, Garcia is constantly traveling to various locations for his work but admits that this particular trip to the island was a little different.

On Tuesday night I caught up with Garcia to get his take on a few things, including this particular experience in Puerto Rico, whether or not Lopez can still fight at a world-class level, Mikey’s performance and future, and what WBA champion Celestino Caballero would mean as an opponent to his brother.
In the first part of this interview, this is what Garcia had to share…
Being in Puerto Rico again…
“Puerto Rico was great. It’s a beautiful country, beautiful island. Nice weather, beautiful weather. It was a great experience just being there. And of course, my brother was in great shape to come out and give a good performance and he did.”
Meeting up with Mikey on Thursday, two days before the fight…
“Mike’s always very calm. He’s been in this many times and he’s been around boxing his whole life. He knows how it is and how everything goes a couple days before. So he’s very patient, very calm, and very quiet. That’s Mikey. He’s very quiet, never says much, and just stays focused for the fight.”

The atmosphere inside of the Roberto Clemente Coliseum...
“It was unbelievable, especially when it came to the main event. Thousands of Puerto Ricans, it was great. It’s good to see people following their locals the way they do because it says a lot about boxing. It says that boxing is still alive and boxing is huge.”
Mikey’s dissection of Bernabe Concepcion…
“If not perfect, it was still excellent. He did a great job, he fought very smart, he did what he had to do. He’s very patient, but doesn’t waste any punches. He lands when he has to land and doesn’t get hit. I think it was an excellent performance.”
Mikey showing little enthusiasm after the fight…
“He never shows emotions. He’s very, very calm and sometimes we feel that he doesn’t even love the sport and doesn’t even like what he does. Because, I’m telling you, we go to the dressing room and he’s like ‘Whatever’. He changes, showers up, and just goes to the room with his wife and sometimes we go to dinner. He’s very different in his own way. But it doesn’t seem like he celebrates or he enjoys winning. But hopefully we’ll win this title and we’ll hopefully see a different Mikey.”
Appreciating Mikey’s patient, calculated style of fighting…
“When people know boxing and people study fights and see what boxing is all about, I think it’s Mikey. He has a great jab, he has a great right hand, he makes you miss, he lands when he wants, he’s always in good balance. I think that’s a real boxer.”
The drawbacks of having a war…

“When you’re a fan and you just want to see people beat up on each other, those are the type of fans that enjoy a war and we all love to see wars. Everybody loved the main event, it was a war. Until now, I think that was the fight of the year. That was a hell of a fight. I don’t see fights later this year amounting to what Salido and Lopez did. But they take a beating. They both take a beating. They both are hurt, even though we have a winner and we have a loser. They are both hurt and they both need time off. Mikey could be back in the ring two weeks later if we had to.”
Whether or not Juan Manuel Lopez can bounce back…
“I truly believe he can. I know he’s fighting for Top Rank but I don’t know his management team. There’s a lot of fights out there, where, if they pick good opponents, he could still be a world champion again. He’s still a good fighter; he’s always been a good fighter, plus he has a tremendous punch. You have to be smart with his opponents, his managers have to be careful, and take him in a different direction. Instead of looking for the big fights against the [Yuriorkis] Gamboas, maybe they could take him a different direction. He’s still a superstar in his hometown and he could still be fighting at a place packing in 10,000 people against champions not as dangerous as others. But yes, he could still come back.”
Sizing up Celestino Caballero as a possible foe for Mikey…
“Caballero’s a champion. He’s been a champion for a while, he’s been coming up from bantamweight, I believe, and dominating, and he’s a great champion. But Mikey wants this fight, he wants this opportunity. If it’s Caballero, if it’s Chris John, if it’s Salido, Billy Dib, whoever the champion is, I truly believe we have the best manager and he makes those decisions for us. I think it looks like Caballero but at the last minute who knows what could happen? Maybe Caballero says no, maybe we have to go a different direction. But we leave it all up to Cameron Dunkin. He tells us who we fight, when we fight, and we have all our trust in him.”

Stay tuned tomorrow for the second part of my interview with Garcia, where he takes a look at his upcoming trip to Texas, where he will be working the corners of Kelly Pavlik and undefeated Russian featherweight prospect Evgeny Gradovich…

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