Mikey Garcia looks to make Sandor Martin a memory before resuming talks with Regis Prograis
After former four-division world titleholder Mikey Garcia moved up two weight classes to welterweight to challenge Errol Spence Jr. for his world title in 2019 and lost a shutout decision, he would not fight again for 11 months.
But when Garcia did return he looked strong in a unanimous 12-round decision over former junior welterweight and welterweight titlist Jessie Vargas in a highly entertaining fight in February 2020, and all systems were go for him to fight more regularly.
Garcia was thinking he’d have three fights in 2020 but then, of course, the coronavirus pandemic shut things down for months and many fighters wound up being inactive for a far longer stretch than they anticipated. Garcia, familiar with layoffs, was one of them.
He had been on the shelf for 2½ years between early 2014 and mid-2016 due a battle with former promoter Top Rank over his promotional contract. Then there was the 11-month layoff after the loss to Spence.
Now, it has been 19 months since the victory over Vargas. The pandemic kept him idle but he also was close to a deal to fight Manny Pacquiao that ultimately went by the wayside and extended the layoff. Garcia had just one fight in 2019, one in 2020 and will fight only once in 2021.
But now he is ready to get back into the ring and hopes to fight more regularly. The return begins with a 10-round bout at a contract weight of 145 pounds against former European junior welterweight champion Sandor Martin on Saturday (DAZN, 7:30 p.m.) at the outdoor Chukchansi Park in Fresno, California.
“The pandemic definitely affected not just myself but a lot of fighters who were inactive during the pandemic and still are. It’s frustrating that something that was completely out of anyone’s control really affected the whole world and was the main reason why I wasn’t getting back in the ring,” Garcia said this week, speaking on a video conference with a few reporters. “I’m happy to get back on Saturday night, and like I said, show everybody that I’m still here, I’m not gone, that I’m not done. There’s still a lot more to accomplish.”
There is a world title bout on the card in the co-feature as WBO junior flyweight titlist Elwin Soto (19-1, 13 KOs), 24, of Mexico, will make his fourth defense when he faces mandatory challenger Jonathan Gonzalez (24-3-1, 14 KOs), 30, a southpaw from Puerto Rico. Gonzalez fought for a world title once previously, in Japan in August 2019, and got stopped in the seventh round challenging Kosei Tanaka for the WBO flyweight title.
Garcia (40-1, 30 KOs), 33, of Ventura, California, might not have boxed as often as he wanted, or as much as his fans would have liked, but he has had major fights and despite his frustrations with the schedule, said he is content with how his career has gone.
He has won world title from featherweight to junior welterweight and made tens of millions of dollars despite going into just his eighth fight since 2016.
“I’m satisfied with my career,” Garcia said. “I’ve taken the right fights at the right time for me. I have 41 fights, 40-1, so I don’t why all this conversation about inactivity. Sure, the last few years I haven’t been as active as other fighters. I also have 41 fights. It’s not like I’m in my 18th fight and a kid fighting four times a year. When you’re fighting at the highest caliber and in world championship fights, and you’re fighting champion after champion in 12 rounds fights, you need time to recover. You got to take some time off.
“I had plans last year to fight more than twice. It just didn’t happen. Even this year we were still in hopes of securing that fight with Manny Pacquiao, which we were very close to securing at one time. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. So, then I’m left without a fight there. It’s the way boxing goes sometimes, but you have to keep going. I’m happy with my career. I’ve been doing this a long time and accomplished a lot, titles in four different divisions. I don’t know if there are many other fighters that can say that. I’ll continue to push forward for bigger fights.”
If Garcia defeats the obscure Martin – and he is a prohibitive favorite to do so – he hopes to revisit a fight with former junior welterweight world titlist Regis Prograis (26-1, 22 KOs). That match was teased for weeks and close to being made for Saturday night.
“I was very excited to try to get the Regis Prograis fight,” Garcia said. “That’s the fight that we were pushing for for several months. Unfortunately, the scheduling, the timing and the budgets were not available to promote and put a fight of that kind together in the short amount of time we had to promote this fight. It just didn’t make sense and it didn’t happen. … The budget wasn’t there.”
DAZN was interested in Garcia-Prograis but made the decision not to spend what was needed to close that deal and instead made a deal with Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing to match Garcia with Martin (38-2, 13 KOs), 28, a southpaw from Spain, whose biggest fight was a unanimous decision loss to former junior welterweight world title challenger Anthony Yigit in 2017. Martin is coming off a decision win against Kay Prospere to retain the European 140-pound title in April, but in the fight before that Martin faced an 8-9-1 opponent.
“I also wanted the Regis Prograis fight more than any other fight,” Garcia said. “Unfortunately, things in boxing happen. That’s why a lot of fights don’t get done. We get interested in a certain fight with different names but sometimes it just the way the boxing business goes and we have to get back in the ring though. I have to get back and Eddie mentioned a few names and I gave the OK to all (five) names. He proposed Sander Martin and we said, sure, let’s do it.
“At least it gets me back in the ring. It’s a good fight, a good matchup. It gets me back in the ring against a good opponent that’s hungry for a good win over me to launch his career even higher.”
Garcia said Hearn texted him five names as possible opponents: Chris van Heerden, Thomas Dulorme, Martin, Chris Algieri and Ivan Golub.
“I said let me go over these names with my brother (trainer Robert Garcia),” Garcia said. “I told (Hearn) we were OK on all of them.”
Martin was willing to fight Garcia for the money available and with a relatively short window to prepare. The 145-pound catch weight was an accommodation to the smaller Martin, whom Garcia said initially asked for the weight to be set at 142.
If Garcia wins, he said he will pursue the Prograis fight next unless a title shot comes his way.
“The idea that I was talking about with Eddie and my team was to get through this fight, get this done, and pursue a fight with Regis,” Garcia said. “That’s the same idea that we’ve had and we’re still going to look forward to pushing for that fight. However, if there is an opportunity to fight for a world title then I’m definitely going to take that opportunity. But the idea is to get back in conversations and talk with Team Prograis and secure that fight.”
This will be Garcia’s third welterweight fight in a row but he said he would be willing to return to junior welterweight “for the right fight.”
“Obviously, (undisputed junior welterweight champion) Josh Taylor is the right fight. He is the man at 140, so I feel I can definitely do that,” Garcia said. “That’s probably the biggest and most interesting fight for me at 140. So, I would definitely entertain that. That would be a huge fight.”
Garcia also said a fight with Gervonta “Tank” Davis, one of boxing’s biggest draws, also interests him.
Other than Prograis, “the biggest fights in the near future would be against a fighter like Josh Taylor, a Gervonta Davis,” Garcia said. “Those are the fights I find most attractive. Those are the ones that motivate me the most; that fill me with excitement to demonstrate to the world who’s the best boxer of the moment. I want to put myself in that conversation.”