By Lyle Fitzsimmons
After 917 days on the shelf, Mikey Garcia was predictably anxious to get back to work.
And now that he’s returned, already won a pair of fights and added a third weight class title belt to his trophy case, it’s clear that he’s not interested in another respite.
Instead, the 29-year-old is temporarily abandoning his 135-pound championship to test the mettle of another multi-division claimant – Adrien Broner – in a 140-pound summit meeting on July 29.
The midsummer match is most likely to wind up at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, according to a source, and a victory there will instantly set Garcia’s sights on an even more prolific belt collector.
“My focus is still at lightweight and possibly 140, but the name that I really would like to hopefully sometime soon be able to get would be Manny Pacquiao,” he told Boxing Scene. “I know he’s at 147, but people at Top Rank and even Manny’s team have already talked and mentioned my name in recent conversations. That might be something that interests me enough to go ahead and fight Manny.
“That’d be the name that interests me the most.”
Garcia has never fought beyond the 138 pounds at which he weighed in for a fifth-round TKO of Elio Rojas last July. He won the WBC’s lightweight title six months later with an impressive third-round destruction of Dejan Zlaticanin.
Pacquiao, who’ll turn 39 on Dec. 17 (two days after Garcia turns 30), is scheduled to defend his WBO welterweight belt against unheralded Jeff Horn on July 2 in Australia. He’s been a full-time welterweight since defeating Miguel Cotto in 2009, but actually started his career at 106 pounds and would have slight disadvantages – a half-inch in height and a full inch in reach – if a Garcia fight did come off.
The Filipino announced his retirement after an April 2016 defeat of Tim Bradley, but returned to defeat Jessie Vargas seven months later and has subsequently been linked to a slew of prospective opponents – including Terence Crawford, Canelo Alvarez, Mayweather and Garcia.
The latter, though, has zero interest in being a negotiating pawn.
“If things go well in the summer and Manny has his fight against Horn and things go well and they’re serious about fighting me, I think we should be able to do that before the end of the year if possible,” Garcia said. “A lot of fighters will use a name to make some noise but never really commit.
“I’ve heard so many guys were promised a Mayweather fight and so many guys were promised a Pacquiao fight and never got it. I don’t want to be one of those guys they use just for media purposes. If they’re serious about that fight we can definitely get that fight before the end of the year.
“Let’s go ahead and pull the trigger on it, but let’s be serious about it.”
Garcia recently chatted with Boxing Scene and discussed the making of the Broner fight, his urgency to make up for two years of inactivity and the challenges associated with making another jump in weight.
Boxing Scene: Talk about the fact that this fight got signed. Quick reaction: How big is it, how important is it for the next eight weeks to get ready?
Mikey Garcia: It’s a big fight. It’s probably gonna be the biggest fight of my career to date. We were trying to secure title unification matches or a big title defense at 135, but nothing was really available. When the opportunity came up to fight Adrien Broner, we agreed right away. It makes the most sense for now. It’s a big fight everybody seems to be very excited for. I’m very happy with the way things turned out.
Q: People were wondering what fights were out there for you at 135, and suddenly there was a release saying you were fighting Adrien Broner. How quickly did this come up and how quickly did you jump on it when it did?
A: As soon as they proposed the fight, as soon as there were talks about it, I agreed. I wanted to make sure that the weight limit was 140 pounds. I made it very clear I could not go any higher than 140. Being that I am still champion at 135 and I still want to compete at 135, I wouldn’t go over 140. That was the only thing that concerned me and Adrien Broner accepted right away too. There was hardly any trouble negotiating the fight.
Q: Is there a rehydration thing, or is just that you have to weigh in at 140 or below.
A: He just has to make 140 the day of the weigh in and that’s it. There will be some penalties if he doesn’t make the weight, and it’s still up to my own discretion if I decide to take the fight or not if he’s over the 140 limit. That happens in every fight. When I didn’t make weight with Lopez I had to pay a big fine for not making weight and Lopez still had the option to take the fight or not. That’s the normal way of doing business.
Q: If we step back a year, last June, people are talking about Mikey Garcia saying we haven’t seen him in two years and we can’t wait to see him back in a ring. Fast forward to today, you’ve had two big wins and now you’re jumping to 140. Did you have a sense that you lost time and you have to get stuff done?
A: A little bit, because I wanted to pick up where I left off and I think had I not stopped fighting for those two-and-a-half years I would’ve been taking these big fights. So I wanted to make sure I was back right where I belong, and in only my second fight I fought for a world title and defeated an undefeated world champion. Now I’m moving up in weight and fighting another top, top fighter in Adrien Broner, a four-division world champion. I wanted these kinds of fights before and now that I’m able to get them and secure them I’m jumping on the opportunity.
Q: If things go well in this fight, are you going to pursue more at 140 or is 135 still a priority? What does the landscape look like assuming things go well in July?
A: 135 is still my main priority but you’ve got to be flexible in boxing. I’ve got to be able to keep my options open. Something at 135 would be great, a title unification match with either Flanagan or Linares or even Robert Easter Jr., or if a good title defense is offered – maybe Lomachenko does move up to 135 like he’s been saying he will – I would definitely take on a fight like that.
Q: It seems lately that guys are taking fights these days that they weren’t taking two or three years ago. They weren’t going out of their way to make big fights or jumping up in weight to make matches. Fights are now coming together now that weren’t getting done? Do the fighters hear or care about the frustration that fans and media members feel when it comes to things like that?
A: I can’t speak for other fighters but I want to prove to everybody the kind of fighter that I am, the caliber of fighter that I am. That means I have to face the big names, the world champions, and prove to myself and prove to everybody. That’s why I’m after these big challenges. Other fighters may do it for other reasons or they might hold out on a big fight to get a couple of easy wins and make a few extra bucks, but I’m here to take control of boxing and dominate the sport.
Q: Talk about Broner as an opponent. He’s been in a lot of big fights. When you look at him as one fighter to another, what jumps out? What do you notice first?
A: When Broner’s got his A game he’s honestly a very dangerous fighter. He’s very strong and very fast, very sharp when he’s countering his opponents and he’s knocking guys out. That’s what I actually expect from him and that’s what I’m hoping for because that will also push me to the next level. I think he’s taking things very seriously now. He’s moved his camp to Colorado, he’s focused, he’s training, he’s motivated for this fight. I think the way all the fans and media are counting him out in a way is actually motivating him to prove everybody wrong. That’s gonna allow and make for a that much bigger and better fight.
Q: Is 140 at all a concern for you? You’ve got to be pretty confident if you signed for it, that you think you can move up there and be effective.
A: I think 140 will be fine. I don’t think it’ll be a major factor for my performance, but I have to wait and see. I’m definitely going to be fighting the biggest man in my career when I step in against Adrien Broner. But I think my skills, my speed and my power will also be there with me.
Q: Other fighters have taken on moving up challenges like this and they not only trained for the fight, but they had a nutrition plan as well. Is there a separate element to this with you as well?
A: We’re changing the training just a little bit to try to make sure that we’re not just going to be overweight. We’ve got to add some muscle, but not make dramatic changes because we also don’t want to lose our speed. Overall we’re focused on the fight and a game plan – how do we beat Adrien Broner? How do we beat a fighter like him? That’s the main concern. The weight is not such a major concern for us.
Q: So you’re not bringing in any extra personnel, just the same team you normally work with but you have an added element that you’re going to be thinking about?
A: Yes. That’s it. We’re not bringing anybody else. It’s the same team. My nephew, my brother, my dad. No one else.
Q: You mentioned other guys you’re interested in fighting. Provided things go well against Broner, people are going to start throwing some other names out there, too. At age 29, is there a back end in your mind for your career, and are there some fights out there that you want to get done by a certain point?
A: I don’t have a specific time limit that I want to stop boxing, but if things go well, the way I plan this July, I know I’m going to have a lot of options for my upcoming fights. Whether it’s at 135 or maybe 140, I know the options are going to be there and the names are going to be there. That’s what I like about the position I’m at right now, I have options that can guide my career in different ways and I don’t have to listen to a promoter and follow his idea. I can dictate my career and I can really go wherever I want.
Q: Talk about the fight with Broner. We’re watching the first couple rounds. How will we know at the beginning that it’s going to be Mikey’s night?
A: I’m going to see what I can and what he can do in the early rounds. I plan on being patient. I plan on using my jab, using my distance, my range and using footwork. If I need to change things, then I will make those adjustments. The first few rounds I always start calm and patient so that’s normally what you can expect.
Q: While you were sitting for a couple years, could you have imagined things would come together this fast and you’d have this kind of a menu in front of you less than a year after getting back?
A: I always had faith and hope and I believe in myself and I believe in my talent. Everybody still kept supporting me and still kept showing me love and care so I knew as soon as I would be back I would take over. The opportunities are here and the options are here for me. I’m very happy to be in the place that I am. I’m not surprised things are moving fast. I’m dictating the pace. I’m asking for these kinds of fights. I’ve got to keep winning and looking great and the options will and fights will be that much greater.
Q: What’s training camp going to look like. With six or seven weeks to go, how quickly do things ramp up?
A: We’ve been training for a few weeks now. About three weeks now we’ve been working out, getting into the groove. We’ll bring sparring partners in maybe two weeks to get me ready for the actual fight. Right now we’ve been sparring just to stay in shape and stay on my toes. Within two weeks we’ll start picking it up and making sure we peak at the right time – two weeks before the fight will be probably at peak, then cruise down until we get to fight night.
Q: If you got on the scale now, what would the number be?
A: I’m at 152 right now.
Q: Is that about what you normally walk around at?
A: That’s about what I was walking around at before my last fight, too. My last fight I was at 150, so 150 or 152 is normal walking around weight.
Q: So making 140 isn’t really that big a deal?
A: It’s not a big deal. People think you’re moving up in weight, but you still have to cut some weight. It’s not like you have to eat more to gain weight. It’s not like I’m going to be fighting at light heavyweight.
Q: In theory then, cutting the weight is easier for this fight, it’s just making sure you’re carrying strength and speed to 140 from 135?
A: Exactly correct.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight titles – Las Vegas, Nevada
Andre Ward (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Sergey Kovalev (No. 1 WBO/No. 3 IWBR)
Ward (31-0, 15 KO): First title defense; Second fight in Las Vegas (1-0, 0 KO)
Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KO): Eleventh title fight (9-1); Lost (UD 12) to Ward in November 2016
Fitzbitz says: I picked the winner in their first go-round and have no reason to believe he can’t repeat, but this series feels like it’ll have at least one more fight before it’s done. Kovalev in 7
IBO/WBA super bantamweight titles – Las Vegas, Nevada
Moises Flores (IBO champion/No. 6 IWBR) vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux (WBA champion/No. 1 IWBR)
Flores (25-0, 17 KO): First title defense; Fifth fight in the United States (4-0, 2 KO)
Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KO): Eighth title defense; Won last three title fights by KO/TKO (14 total rounds)
Fitzbitz says: The older that Rigondeaux gets, the more likely he is to run into an upset. However, it doesn’t seem likely to happen here, in spite of Flores’ gaudy record. Rigondeaux in 10
Last week's picks: 1-1 (WIN: Khonco; LOSS: Haskins)
2017 picks record: 43-15 (74.1 percent)
Overall picks record: 865-289 (74.9 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.