By Francisco Salazar
LOS ANGELES - Mikey Garcia is putting his words into action.
The popular Mexican-American fighter could make a voluntary defense of his world title belt and notch another victory, but he wants to face the best possible competition out there.
Garcia will follow through on his goal to fight the best competition and unify the lightweight division when he squares off against IBF titleholder Robert Easter, Jr. on July 28 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The 12 round bout will live on Showtime.
Garcia (38-0, 30 knockouts) will put up his WBC title against Easter. Garcia, who is originally from Oxnard and now resides in the Riverside area, won the IBF junior welterweight title from Sergey Lipinets in his last bout on Mar. 10.
The 30-year-old Garcia has fought his last two bouts at 140 pounds, including his unanimous decision victory over Adrien Broner on July 29.
"We were fighting at 140 (pounds), but I always had my mind set on coming back to lightweight," said Garcia at Saturday's press conference in Los Angeles to officially announce the fight. "The only fight that made sense was a unification and the only fighter available was Robert Easter. He's a champion and the man to beat."
July 28 will mark a homecoming of sorts for Garcia, who will be fighting for the first time in Los Angeles since June of 2011, a span of about seven years. Garcia has fought throughout Texas, the New York City area, and Las Vegas.
"It's great to be back to finally give my fans here in Southern California a fight," said Garcia, who is trained by his older brother Robert. "I get to give them (the fans) a unification match and the biggest fight of my career to date."
Easter (21-0, 14 KOs), who resides in Toledo, Ohio, has put together a modest run since winning the vacant IBF lightweight title in September of 2016, besting Richard Commey by split decision.
He has struggled in his last two bouts, both decision victories over Denis Shafikov and, most recently on Jan. 20, Javier Fortuna. It is one of the reasons Easter sought the services of trainer Kevin Cunningham for the Garcia fight.
"There were some adjustments we needed to make," said Easter. "I was getting too comfortable. I had to do something to take out of my comfort zone. Coach Cunningham was the guy to pull me in and get on my tail."
Now that Garcia has returned to fighting as a lightweight, one fight boxing fans will clamor for will be a unification bout with newly-crowned WBA titleholder Vasiliy Lomachenko, who suffered a torn labrum in his right should during his victory over Jorge Linares on May 12.
Lomachenko has surgery over a week ago and will likely return on Dec. 8, should treatment and physical therapy go as planned. Garcia is interested in that bout, but admits he must get by Easter before even contemplating on that fight.
"I got my fight on July 28, but there's been a lot of talk about Lomachenko and me over the past year. If I get through Robert Easter, Jr., I'd be a unified champ and the only other fight that makes sense is Lomachenko."
Easter is also eager for a Lomachenko clash.
"Lomachenko and Mikey are two skillful guys in the lightweight division and two guys I want to fight. Me and Mikey will do the talking in the ring."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing