By Jake Donovan
Four years ago, a boxer from Texas named Roberto Garcia was summoned to serve as the sacrificial lamb for Antonio Margarito. The disgraced former welterweight champ was riding out a lengthy suspension after getting caught with illegal hand wraps in an eventual knockout loss to Shane Mosley, and needed a tune-up fight before moving towards a lucrative showdown with Manny Pacquiao later that year.
Garcia, never one to turn down the fight, accepted the assignment and was thoroughly handled over the course of their 10-round affair in May ’10. The decisive points loss defined his career for the moment, but the resurgent welterweight has managed to sneak up on the rest of the division ever since.
A seven-fight win streak accompanies Garcia as he prepares for a scheduled 10-round welterweight battle with Breidis Prescott, Friday evening in Chicago. In the evening's headliner which airs live on ESPN2, Caleb Truax faces Derek Ennis in a 10-round middleweight bout.
The co-feature slot marks Garcia's fifth appearance on ESPN2 since the loss to Margarito and third consecutive televised fight in 2014.
So how does a tough but relatively obscure fighter go from cannon fodder to budding contender?
“I live a cleaner life. I made a lot of mistakes in the past,” Garcia (35-3, 23KOs) admits. “I had a lot of bad habits, but I became a family man. It put me in a better place. It made me a better person and gave me purpose.”
Garcia caught national attention with a minor upset win over Norberto Gonzalez earlier this year, a fight in which he accepted on less than two weeks notice and was forced to shed 17 lb. His most recent appearance was much smoother sailing, overcoming a slow start to eventually steamroll former 140 lb. contender Victor Cayo in six rounds this past May.
Now armed with high-power adviser Al Haymon and at his physical peak, Garcia—at age 34—feels like his corner has finally hit its stride, the unlikeliest of success stories.
“I blew up in weight, I messed with drugs. I was immature early in my career,” Garcia recalls. “I made a lot of mistakes. Those mistakes have bettered me now. I'm training better. I'm not getting older. I'm just a better fighter. I'm a lot healthier.
“I didn't start boxing until I was 18. They think I'm washed up. But like my coach says, I'm a Porsche with low mileage.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox