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Aficianado

Garcia is nurturing outside the ring, all fighter in it

10
Jun

Juan Garcia (left, against Juan Figueroa) hopes to bounce back Thursday from consecutive losses. He faces David Rodela in the main event of the first “Fight Night Club” at Club Nokia in Los Angeles. Photo / Craig Bennett-FightWireImages.com.

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FIGHT NIGHT CLUB: THE FACTS

What: Fight Night Club, a monthly boxing series featuring rising prospects at Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles
Who: The featured young fighters hail from Southern California and beyond and all of them have the potential to be successful.
When: The premiere show is this Thursday, June 11.
TV/Internet: The card will be televised on Versus and streamed live on RingTV.com and Yahoo! Sports. The first fight begins at 6 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. ET.
Future shows: July 30, Aug. 27 and Sept. 24 at Club Nokia, which is adjacent to Staples Center.

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We think of boxers as the most macho of all athletes. If they were to work side jobs, as many do, we might imagine them as ditch diggers, furniture movers, construction workers or most-appropriately body guards.

Juan Garcia? He looks after little tots.

“Everybody laughs when I tell them that,” said Garcia, who fights David Rodela in the main event Thursday in the debut of “Fight Night Club” at Club Nokia in downtown L.A. “I’m a childcare director. I work with children three months through 12 years old at the local YMCA.

“I know it’s not something a boxer normally would do but I like it. I teach them things, it’s fun. They say the funniest things.”

A few minutes on the phone with the Phoenix resident reveals a soft-spoken, sensitive young man, the exact type you’d imagine working with kids. He’s even trying to establish a boxing program to help keep youngsters off the street.

However, don’t misread him: Once he steps into the ring, he’s all fighter.

Garcia (14-2, 5 knockouts) has survived multiple sparring sessions with Manny Pacquiao and has made the transition from accomplished amateur to promising professional. However, he has lost his past two fights and has fought only once in 14 months.

Thus, the well-schooled boxer-puncher is as hungry as he’s ever been. He sees his fight against Rodela – a six-round junior lightweight bout that can be seen live on RingTV.com – as an opportunity to get back on track.

“I’m approaching it like it’s for the championship of the world,” he said.

Garcia started his career 14-0 but not all was well. He said he was beginning to feel burned out by early last year, having fought without a break since he was 12 years old.

And it showed in his two losses. Cornelius Lock, who fights Vernie Torres on Thursday at Club Nokia, stopped Garcia in the fourth round in March of last year and Jose Hernandez did the same in five in his most-recent fight, in September.

Sergio Diaz, Garcia’s manager, said simply, “He didn’t look good.”

Garcia gave both of his opponents credit, describing them as very good fighters. At the same time, he said he felt flat, had difficulty making the 130-pound limit in both fights, was a bit overwhelmed fighting for a youth world title against Hernandez and had been working alone after splitting with his trainer.

It added up to disaster.

“I think I just needed a break,” he said. “I was burned out before those fights. I’m a gym rat. I spend a lot of time in gym; I like working hard. Plus, Lock is an experienced guy and Hernandez surprised me with how good he was.”

So Garcia did take a break, for nine months. Today, he said he feels rejuvenated.

He has been working with a new trainer, Ben Lira, with whom he has clicked. He’ll be fighting Rodela at a catch weight of 133, which will make it easier for him. In general, he feels he’s prepared for the next phase of his career.

Diaz certainly hasn’t given up on him.

“I think he still is a good prospect. He just had some unfortunate circumstances,” he said.

Maybe a bunch of kids back in Phoenix will help when he’s face to face with Rodela.

“They’re always asking me, ‘Can you teach me how to box?'” Garcia said. “They give me a little of inspiration. These kids really don’t have too much in life. I want to help them. It doesn’t matter if it’s boxing, basketball, football, soccer, whatever. It’s just about hard work. With hard work you can accomplishment anything you want.

“I would like to give them something, to inspire them so they can fulfill their dreams.”

Garcia has some dreams to fulfill himself, beginning Thursday.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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