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Mikey Makes the Move

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


On Saturday night at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Mikey Garcia leads off the “Boxing After Dark” telecast on HBO by facing fellow undefeated foe Matt Remillard. For Garcia, this represents not only a step up in class but also a symbolic step to the next level of the boxing food chain. No longer is he just a young, promising fighter stuck on pay-per-view undercards or headlining cards on Fox Sports Net; now, Garcia is on the precipice of the game’s biggest stage.

 

With an emphatic win this weekend, Garcia becomes a major factor in the featherweight division with the likes of Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez. Without question, he also goes into a higher tax bracket.

 

"We’re getting ready for bigger and better things for this year; that’s the plan," said Garcia, who is 23 years of age. "This will be just the first of hopefully more to come. We’re in good shape; we’re prepared for this fight and we’re excited to be fighting on HBO." 2011 could be watershed year for Garcia, who added, "I felt that with that kind of performance, I should be able to get the better dates, the better shows and get the bigger names later in the year and this is already a step-up fight, Matt Remillard, and fighting on HBO. Hopefully, it’s the first of many more to come, so I’m happy for everything."


Developing a fighter from a prospect to contender to full-fledged, world-class performer is an art form, where patience and a keen eye are a must. No combination has consistently nurtured more blue-chip fighters from scratch in the past two decades than Top Rank and manager Cameron Dunkin. From Diego Corrales, Stevie Johnston, Freddie Norwood, Kelly Pavlik, Johnny Tapia, Danny Romero and Steven Luevano (just to name a few), this collaboration has produced a cadre of standouts. Their most recent being newly-minted WBA lightweight champion Brandon Rios, who made the big leap by stopping Miguel Acosta back in February.

 

"Mikey’s a little different in that he’s not quite as rambunctious to get in there; he’s a little more skillful guy," said Dunkin, chuckling, "but we’re looking for him a title fight in the next fight if he does well in this one. So he’s right on the doorstep." Dunkin, who’s considered the best bird-dog in the business, has believed that Garcia was his best prospect for a few years, "I think Mikey could definitely be a special guy because he has such defense and patience and boxes well. Plus, he can really punch. I think he could be a special fighter. We’re just going to have to wait and see."

 

Garcia comes from good boxing bloodlines as he’s the younger brother of former IBF junior lightweight titlist Robert Garcia (who co-trains Mikey, along with their father, the respected Eduardo Garcia). When asked about his sibling’s overall upside, Robert said, "Oh, I think we still have to see him win the title. A lot of people tell me, ’You think he’s better than you?’ Well, I did win the title; I defended a couple of times but he’s still not there and I sure believe Top Rank and Cameron Dunkin are doing a great job. I think that’s something that’s just a big plus for Mikey’s career that I could say I didn’t have. Fighting on HBO already, he’s been on some pay-per-view cards, this type of stuff, which is huge. Even before becoming a world champion, he’s fighting on HBO, which is something I never had.

 

"So I just think that they believe in him; they see a great young prospect and a great young fighter that has everything to be great. So I see great things happening in Mikey’s career."

 

Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman has been a believer in Garcia for awhile. More than once, he’s called him the company’s best prospect. What convinced him was a fight that took place in August of 2008, an eighth-round stoppage of Jose Hernandez at the Palms in Las Vegas.

 

"That’s when I was most impressed with him and what impressed me the most about him is he reminds me of Mike McCallum a little bit, how patient he is and he basically dissects guys from round one. He’s never in a rush to try to knock a guy out. He tries to out-smart you and stuff like that and then he just eventually breaks you down."

 

There are some rare instances where a great fighter is just born. They have such transcendent ability you couldn’t deny that would take them to a championship and beyond, no matter how hard you tried. For the most part, there is a certain science in developing a complete fighter.

 

"Of course there is," said Bob Arum, "because you want to get the guys victories but you have to get them to learn. If they’re not learning, it’s wasted and Mikey Garcia is the fighter that he is now, obviously, because his brother trains him but also because Bruce Trampler matched him so well. So that he’d learn to fight different kinds of fighters. He’s a complete fighter now." Goodman adds, "I think Top Rank has a lot of patience with our fighters. We’re never in a rush, really. We like to just develop them from four-round kids to six-round kids to eight round kids until we’re fully confident enough that they can compete at that ten-round level."

 

Then there are also the intangible aspects that can’t be seen inside the ring. Goodman says, "I think it’s the whole attitude, being true to the game and dedicating that time to boxing. Everything else is secondary."

 

This much is clear about Garcia; in many respects, he is antithesis of “Bam Bam” in and out of the ring. While Rios is a guy who likes to get in there and mix it up like a blender, Garcia is much more of a patient, calculating boxer-puncher, who picks his spots and slowly breaks down his opponents with precision counterpunching. While we certainly know that Rios is never prone to political correctness in his statements, Garcia speaks in measured tones and seems wise beyond his years. And what they both share is an unconditional trust of those that run their careers. Too many times, fighters start to get impatient with the whole process.

 

"I got all my trust in my management and my promoter," said Garcia. "They develop fighters; they take care of the fighters and they develop their fighters slowly but they get to the point where eventually, it’s their time and when that time comes, they’re ready for it. I didn’t want to rush anything; we don’t want to get on the fast track and just take it fast. We decided to go with Top Rank and my manager, Cameron Dunkin; we saw what they’ve done with other careers and that’s why we were able to work with them and we like it. We’ve never gotten anxious or desperate to get an opportunity quicker. We said, ’Whenever you think we’re ready, we’ll be ready.’"

 

Garcia’s advice to up-and-coming fighters is very simple, "To just train hard and make sure you can win every fight. That’s the number one thing. If you’re not training as hard as you should, any other fighter can end up beating you. You have to be in top shape for every fight; every fight is important. There’s no such thing as an ’easy fight.’ Any other fighter who is in shape can beat a prospect, just because he’s not in shape. If you got a good team behind you, good training and you got good management, a good promoter…trust them. They know what they’re doing; they’ve been in the game longer. They’ve developed other careers, other fighters into big stars. So have good trust in them and don’t be impatient and try to rush things. Just be sure to get the job done in the ring and in the training sessions. Get all the rounds in, work; be ready for the fight and keep winning."

 

It helped Garcia for his family to have gone through this process before.

 

"We talked to Robert and my dad a lot on how fighters take it a little bit faster and they end up either making it quick and then also, having a quick descent," he explained. "We didn’t want to do anything like that. My brother had his career; my dad had Fernando Vargas and we know what happened with his career. So we had the experience of being in the business and in boxing for some time now. So with me, we decided to take it easy, take it slow, let me develop until I was ready to step up to the next level. And we’re happy so far with the work my brother, my dad, my management, along with Top Rank, have done. It’s all worked very well for me."

 

In 2010, Garcia was impressive in dispatching of Cornelius Lock and Olivier Lontchi in consecutive outings to end the year. It was further proof that perhaps he had indeed marinated enough.

 

"We could’ve maybe fought a year ago, maybe start fighting on cards like these, but I’m not sad to say, ’Oh, I wish it would’ve been earlier. I’m happy I’ve been fighting. They’ve been keeping me active; they’ve been putting me on TV, even if it’s not the main HBO or Showtime networks but it’s still on TV. I’ve been getting the exposure needed to get to the HBO cards," said Garcia, who has a mark of 24-0 with 20 KOs to his credit. "Other fighters end up fighting on HBO or Showtime sooner and they also end up losing faster too. The competition is tougher; you’re at a higher level. So they kinda rush it a little and they end up losing in one or two fights and then they have to take a big step back to get back to where they were. I’d rather take my time- and we did- and so far, everything’s worked well."

 

Top Rank’s philosophy is that it isn’t just enough to have a client who can win a title or fight at a certain level in spots but to be able to do so consistently from that point forward. They believe once you make that leap, there really is no going back. "Yeah, this is the one that breaks him out," stated Dunkin. "HBO and an undefeated opponent, it’s a sensational opportunity for him." For them to have given him this slot, they must believe he’s ready. They don’t plan on him being back on “Top Rank Live” again anytime soon.

 

It’s also a great spot for Remillard, who comes in with a mark of 23-0 with 13 stoppages.

 

"He’s a solid fighter; he’s undefeated. I’m sure he’s hungry; I’m sure he wants to win, "Garcia says of his opponent."He’s not going to just get in there and get paid or something like that. He’s there to win; he wants to get to the world class. He wants to make it to the world championship fight. I want to get there too. So I know it’s going to be a good fight. I know it’s going to be a tough fight."

 

Arum says, "We’ll know a lot more on the Remillard fight and then his next step is to see if he can really make it to go against either Gamboa or a ’JuanMa.’"

 

"This is the year he’s ready to step up and fight for a world championship in the featherweight division," said his older brother. "This is the year to fight for the title and win the title, yes, but his years are to come in the future with great fights against great champions. I think this is just the beginning."

 

EPIX

 

I know more than a few of you out there had issues with trying to watch the WBC heavyweight title bout between Vitali Klitschko and Odlanier Solis on EpixHD.com, as there were a myriad of issues that bogged down the website on Saturday afternoon. On this front, this was a failure but if there is a bright side, I guess it’s that there was enough traffic flowing to EpixHD.com to cause these issues (yeah, I’m absolutely trying to put a positive spin on this. What can I say? I’m a pugilistic Pollyanna). My hope is that the next time Epix dabbles in boxing (and of course, makes it a regular part of their programming), these issues are cleared up and boxing fans can enjoy these fights unhindered.

 

As for the truncated fight, I never felt for one moment that Solis was ever faking it. C’mon, give this guy some credit; he finally came into a fight in reasonable shape, having a pretty decent first frame and fighters spend their whole lives working for opportunities like this- yes, even Cubans, who tend to get on the lazy side once they gain their freedom.

 

I think any doubts about the intentions of Solis were put to rest as it was proven that he did damage his knee quite badly as he fell to the canvas from a Klitschko right hand in the first round.

 

SHOWTIME

 

I know that I tend to belabor this point (hey, that’s what I do. I’m a belaborer) but were our Stateside “promoters” watching the production value of the Lucian Bute-Brian Magee fight during both fighters’ ring entrances? Again, InterBox understands that this is show business and it’s just not enough to have two men in the ring slug it out anymore. Times have changed and all other major sports across the world have made an effort to spice up their productions surrounding their events. The partisans inside the Bell Centre on Saturday night sure seemed to enjoy it.

 

Yeah, some would say that doing all this for a fight like Bute-Magee is like putting lipstick on a pig. I wouldn’t necessarily argue that.

 

At least they’re paying for the lipstick and trying to give the fans their money’s worth.

 

FINAL FLURRIES

 

I don’t think Showtime makes that much of an effort to include Mikkel Kessler (Cover up, Magee!) on their broadcast unless he’s in line to face Bute next...Like many of you, I’d love to see a battle between Roman Gonzalez- who beat Manuel Vargas in a pretty good scrap on Saturday night- and Giovani Segura but it will have to take place at 112, as Segura will no longer be at junior flyweight after his rematch with Ivan Calderon...I thought Jose Hernandez did enough to beat Luis Ramos on Friday night but that’s just my opinion. Speaking of that card, “The Hangar” at the OC Fair and Events Center is as good as advertised...It’s official: Paulie Malignaggi will be facing Jose Miguel Cotto on the April 9th Action Heroes” pay-per-view card in Las Vegas. If all goes well, the “Magic Man” might be getting a crack at IBF welterweight champion Jan Zaveck on June 18th...My prayers to Steve Sabol of NFL Films...Geez, Andrew Bynum got a two-game suspension for going all Ray Lewis on Michael Beasley...You just have to love the way Tennessee rallied for their coach, Bruce Pearl, don’t you?...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.



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