At the age of 13, Miguel “Mikey” Garcia was standing ringside at a nephew’s exhibition boxing match when his brother, Robert, “signed me up and said, ‘Hey, go step up into the ring.'”
“They said that they needed an opponent…so we borrowed gloves, we borrowed head gear, we borrowed trunks, we borrowed shoes, we borrowed everything,” said Garcia. “I wasn’t ready to fight, but from that day forward, I started training and I started working.”
Nowadays, the 23-year-old Mikey Garcia (26-0, 22 KOs) is among the world’s top featherweight prospects. Despite the way he was introduced to the sport and the fact that he comes from a well-known boxing family, Garcia insists that he was not forced to continue into professional fisticuffs.
“Nobody pushed me or forced me to get involved in boxing or said that I had to do it because they did it,” he said. Garcia is trained by his father, Eduardo, who trained a young Fernando Vargas throughout his amateur career, and older brother Robert, a former world champion.
“My dad told me after that exhibition that if I didn’t want to do it, then I didn’t have to train or do anything else. But that if I was going to do it, that it wasn’t something that I could take lightly. I wanted to do it, and it grew on me, and that’s why I’m still doing it.”
Garcia will pursue his fifth straight knockout and his 11th in his past 12 fights against Juan Carlos Martinez (18-12-1, 6 KOs) on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Garcia-Martinez takes place on the undercard of a main event featuring THE RING’s No. 4 pound-for-pound WBO/WBC bantamweight titleholder Nonito Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs) defending against WBO junior bantamweight beltholder Omar Narvaez (35-0-2, 19 KOs) of Argentina.
“This show is about Nonito Donaire defending his title against Omar Narvaez, which is a great, great fight in itself. To be able to fight on this card is a real pleasure for me, because it gives me an opportunity to show the world and those in attendance what I have to offer and what I can do,” said Mikey Garcia.
“I can box, I can punch, and at 5-foot-7, I think that I have good range and distance to give most of my opponents trouble. Hopefully, my performance will please a lot of people. I hope that everything goes well for me on Saturday night and I hope to eventually be headlining cards like this in the future.”
Mikey Garcia is coming off of an impressive fourth-round stoppage of Rafael Guzman, who entered the bout with a mark of 28-2 that included 20 knockouts, and had won four consecutive bouts, including three straight stoppages.
Prior to that, Garcia made his East Coast debut at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, where he finished previously unbeaten Matt Remillard in the 10th, flooring him in both the ninth and final rounds.
While Mikey Garcia listens to the instructions of his father and brother, he is also permitted and encouraged to follow his own instincts in the ring. Against Remillard, for example, Robert and Eduardo wanted Mikey to go for the knockout earlier than he did, but the younger Garcia simply bided his time.
“In the fight in March against Remillard, they wanted me to push the fight on and to go for the knockout a little earlier than I did. In the sixth round, they started telling me to pick up the pace. But I was in the ring and could see my opponent’s reactions,” said Mikey Garcia.
“He was still game. He wasn’t done yet. So I knew that I had a couple of more rounds to work with and I just beat him down and broke him down, little-by-little. When I saw that he was ready to go, that’s when I went for the stoppage. After the fight, my brother saw the replay, and he said, ‘You know what? You were in control the whole time.”
In victory, Garcia believes he is ready to challenge the name fighters in the division such as titleholder Orlando Salido, former beltholder Juan Manuel Lopez and unbeaten former Cuban Olympic gold medalist Yuriorkis Gamboa.
“A few fights ago, we were being mentioned with those names like Gamboa and Lopez and other champions, but my brother and my dad wanted me to fight a couple of more fights and to get more exposure,” said Garcia.
“Now, we’re there. Now, we’re ready to challenge for a world title fight with the Gamboas and the Lopezs and the Salidos of the division. I believe that I’m ready for any of these guys.”
Robert Garcia agrees.
“On Saturday night, Mikey’s going to be very patient in the ring and get his job done. He’s very smart, and that’s what is going to take him to the bigger fights and into the championship fights.
“With Mikey, we’re just taking it one fight at a time. His manager, Cameron Dunkin, is doing a great job. We’re not pushing too hard for anything. But whenever they say that he’s ready, he’ll be ready. Until then, we’ll keep on taking things one fight at a time.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]