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Garcia Gets Long-Awaited Title Shot

(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)


It’s taken 30 professional fights but Mikey Garcia is finally on the doorstep of a major world title as he faces WBO beltholder Orlando Salido on Saturday night from the Theater at Madison Square Garden (9:45 p.m., ET/PT, HBO). By today’s standards, especially in the era of four major sanctioning bodies, this is actually a long and winding road. Nowadays, most talented prospects are microwaved and are fighting for a belt within 20 to 25 fights. A prime example is the gifted Adrien Broner, who, in 25 fights, is already on his second world title (in as many weight classes) and has become an HBO staple. Last year was supposed to be Garcia’s big jump off.
 
Instead, it was the year that wasn’t.
 
After coolly dispatching of Bernabe Concepcion last March in Puerto Rico, he was then slated to face WBA featherweight beltholder Celestino Caballero during the summer months. But that fight ended up in “Bolivian” for various reasons. Then Garcia was originally scheduled to take on Salido on November 10th before the rugged Mexican injured his hand while closing the trunk of his car. Yeah, Murphy’s Law was squarely against Garcia in 2012.

But it’s here. Christmas has arrived on January 19th for the calculated counterpuncher from Oxnard.
 
“I’m very excited; I’m finally here,” he told Maxboxing last week. “Last year, we were looking for a title opportunity, two title shots in front of me, signed, agreed on and it just wasn’t happening. Finally, everything is going well. Right now, the fight is just around the corner.” Garcia is only 25 years old but wise beyond his years. He says of the lost opportunities, “We were really excited to be offered those title shots and then when we hear the news that it’s not happening, it is frustrating. It is a little upsetting that all the hard work, everything is going well and all of a sudden - it’s not happening. It is upsetting; I mean, I understand. Things like this happen all the time and it’s just part of the game and we gotta move forward.”
 
Even Job would’ve grown a bit impatient with the way 2012 played out.
 
“It was just one bad thing after another and fights kept falling out for him,” said Garcia’s manager, Cameron Dunkin, who had to be the bearer of bad news a bit too often for his liking. After his appearance on Showtime, Garcia had a tune-up in Mexico versus the ancient and undersized Mauricio Pastrana, which lasted less than two rounds, and then Jonathan Barros, a late replacement for Salido on HBO. What also held up his progress was Showtime’s indecision on whether they wanted to air the Salido-Garcia fight. They took most of the spring and summer to decide that they didn’t want this bout, which sparked claims by Bob Arum that Top Rank had effectively been banned from the network.
 
But Garcia took it in stride, pointing out, “I also had two fights on national networks and good opportunities for people to still see me and still stay active and busy. I mean, it turned out to be a pretty good year after all.”
 
The usual template for boxers winning their first belts involves cherry-picking the softest champions. Well, in Salido, they are facing one of the hardest men in boxing, a man who struggled for years on the back lots and fringes of the sport and isn’t about to give up his title easily. Some titles are easier to attain than others. This here might be as tough as Garcia will ever have to fight for. “This didn’t work out the way we wanted,” said Dunkin with a rueful laugh, knowing very well just what type of assignment his guy has in front of him. “I tried to do other guys and it didn’t work out. And then it came to where we knew we could do this because [Garcia]’s with Top Rank and it makes sense. It’s simple. The problem is, he’s right at the top of the best featherweights in the world.”
 
Sometimes, you just gotta trust the thoroughbred you have and let him run.
 
“So I had to go to Robert [Garcia] and ask him and he said, ‘We’ll be alright’ and Mr. Garcia, Eduardo, and he said, ‘We’ll be alright’ and I said, ‘Are you sure?’ and they talked me into it. So here we are.”
 
Juan Manuel Lopez was believed to be the next superstar from the island of Puerto Rico and he was derailed twice by Salido, whose record of 39-11-2 (27) belies the quality of fighter that has been forged throughout the years.
 
“Everybody knows it; he’s the man to beat,” said Garcia, respectfully. “He’s the champion; he’s a proven champion. He did not just pick up a vacant title and they didn’t baby him. He’s a proven champ; he fought everybody and beat Juan Manuel Lopez. He upset him. He’s the real deal and that’s why we want him. That’s why we were going after him. Beating him would really skyrocket me to the top of the division.”
 
This is exactly what Arum had in mind in putting this match-up together.

“We thought that Salido was the toughest guy out there and we think that Mikey has the potential - if he beats Salido to become a superstar - and the first step in making him a superstar is for him to have beaten a top, top guy. Now, I don’t give a damn about any of these titles anymore. There’s just too many of them, their interims, their everything. So that’s not what we were looking for. I’m looking for him to fight the top guys. What am I going to do? Put him with this Billy Dib guy?” asked Arum of the Australian who has the IBF title in his possession. “I mean, he’s a nice kid; I guess. But would you give Mikey any credit if he won the title by beating Billy Dib?”
 
While Salido may provide the toughest test for Garcia physically, stylistically, he is ideal for him. Like Juan Manuel Marquez many moons ago, the book is out on Garcia: Don’t lead on this sharp counterpuncher who is as accurate and deadly as a Marine sniper. Salido’s style is all about pressure and coming forward.

Garcia states, “I expect him to come forward strong and try to test me early on. But I’ve also seen some of his fights where he’s laid back a little; he waits for his opponents to come in and we’re expecting him to come forward. But if he decides to wait for me a little bit, we also have practiced and trained for that.”
 
The world will find out if he’s tough enough to handle the pressure of Salido. It’s already obvious that he has the requisite patience.
 
NEW YORK
 
So how and why did this fight, which would seem a natural fit for the West Coast, end up in the Big Apple?

“We just thought that as part of the plan to make Garcia into a big attraction, we wanted to expose him in New York and Gennady Golovkin being Russian had some kind of Russian following in New York and we have this Rocky Martinez, who’s a Puerto Rican guy, plus Felix Verdejo. So we get a Puerto Rican influence but it’s a myth that the only ones that can sell in New York are Puerto Ricans,” explained Arum.
 
BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES
 
It was reported on Tuesday that the fight between WBA welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi and Shane Mosley was basically a done deal for April 27th at the Barclays Center on Showtime. Also, the highly anticipated rematch between super middleweight standouts Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler would be taking place in the U.K. in May.
 
In short, Malignaggi-Mosley deserves all the derision heaped upon it (and there has been plenty) and it’s not just that Mosley hasn’t won a professional prizefight since January of 2009. It’s that he’s looked so dull and desultory in every subsequent fight since then. Say what you want about Glen Johnson but during his descent, he at least gave the fans some moments and some competitiveness. Some will try and justify this match-up but honestly, it’s just bad.
 
Just why, oh, why did Ricky Hatton have to face Vyacheslav Senchenko?
 
As for Froch-Kessler II, not too much to say except it should be a helluva fight. I thought the first one was a very close affair that could’ve gone either way. Now the question is, will HBO air this fight? Bottom line is that they are now in the Andre Ward business and part of being in that business is developing B-sides for him. Yeah, yeah, I know; Ward already handled both guys. I get that. But tell me you wouldn’t rather see the winner of this return bout get Ward than Kelly Pavlik.
 
TICKET INFO
 
Here’s the ticket info for the March 9th battle between IBF light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud and Bernard Hopkins:
 
Tickets, priced at $200, $100, $80, $50 and $25, go on sale on Saturday, January 19 at 10:00 a.m. ET and will be available for purchase atwww.barclayscenter.com, www.ticketmaster.com, the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center, all Ticketmaster locations, or by calling 800-745-3000.
 
FLU FLURRIES
 
On March 16th, a lightweight unification fight takes place between WBO titlist Ricky Burns and IBF beltholder Miguel Vazquez. This is an interesting fight that seemed to come out of nowhere. I think Burns is looking for another belt to get leverage on a possible Broner negotiation down the line but Vazquez is a tough out and could make the Mona Lisa look ugly...So Roy Jones might face Steve Collins later this year? Uh, yeah, who’s after that, Nigel Benn, Dariusz Michalczewski and Chris Eubank? He must’ve forgot - to face them in the ‘90s...OK, are flu shots effective or not? I keep hearing conflicting things. Should I get one before I head to New York on Friday? [Editor’s note: Got one some weeks back and now I present this piece to you while firmly under the weather. Please read this article from five to seven feet away.]...Can the Lakers’ Earl Clark actually play a little bit? And if so, what took them so long to get him off the bench?...I get why Lance Armstrong used PEDs. What I find really objectionable about him is how he tried to coerce and intimidate those who told the truth about him...I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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