In order to be the best at what you do, you have to make sacrifices. Just ask Mikey Garcia.
While the rest of us were stuffing ourselves full of scrumptious goodies over the holidays, Garcia was hard at work at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Oxnard, California preparing for his 12-round super featherweight battle against Juan Carlos Burgos.
Garcia faces Burgos Saturday, Jan 25th at Madison Square Garden in New York. The bout will air live on HBO beginning at 9:45 p.m. ET/PT.
“Training camp was during the holiday season, so a lot of fighters went home,” Garcia told Bleacher Report. “So the gym was basically just for me and a couple of local guys here.”
Garcia isn’t your run-of-the-mill boxer. He comes from a family of fighters. His father, Eduardo Garcia, boxed at local shows around Mexico in his younger days, and his brother, Robert, was a decorated amateur and world champion professional boxer.
But Garcia has upped the ante. Not only does he hold the WBO super featherweight title, but he also graduated from both Oxnard Community College as well as the Ventura County Police Reserve Academy.
Undefeated and looking every bit the part of a future pound-for-pound superstar, Garcia says he doesn’t pay too much attention to compliments and accolades. When asked what it was like to already be compared to other top American boxing stars like Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward, Garcia graciously shrugged it off.
“When people consider me and mention my name with the likes of the big stars that you just mentioned …it’s great, it’s a real honor,” said Garcia. “But I don’t pay much attention to what people say. I don’t let that affect the way I’m going to fight or the way I’m going to train.”
Garcia is a no-nonsense guy, and he seems as level-headed talking on the phone outside the ring as he does inside of it while he’s pulverizing people.
“It doesn’t get to my head to where I think that all of a sudden I’m better than anyone else out there. I’m the same person, the same fighter. I still want to do more. I still want to keep winning, and I just have to make sure I do what I need to do, whatever my brother and my dad tell me, to keep winning.”
The Garcia family is all about boxing. Both Eduardo and Robert are in Mikey’s corner during fights, with head trainer duties falling to Robert, who also trains well-known fighters like Nonito Donaire, Marcos Maidana and Brandon Rios.
Needless to say, Garcia loves his team.
“I have the best team in the world…having my brother and dad in the corner makes it that much better, because they understand what I’m capable of doing. They understand and really know what my experience has been, so it’s the best situation for me.”
Where some families might struggle within the confines of a working relationship, the Garcias seem to excel at it.
“Our relationship is really good. We have very good communication between all three of us, my brother, my dad and myself. So it makes it a lot easier…I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Still, some criticize Garcia for including strength and conditioning coordinator Alex Ariza in the mix.
Ariza is a polarizing figure. He seems to be constantly embroiled in controversy, whether it be landing a front kick on former corner partner Freddie Roach or being accused of giving Maidana some kind of pill or smelling salt between Rounds 11 and 12 of Maidana’s win over Adrien Broner last December.
“A lot of people don’t like him…but I’m not changing anything. He helps me perform better. He helps me be a better fighter. He makes it easier for me to be where I am. I’m going to keep working with him.”
Garcia is polite but authoritative in his answers. It’s no wonder he’s sometimes compared to old school fighters. His approach inside the ring is smart but aggressive. He’s got real skill, solid power and he seems to be concerned with only one thing: winning the fight.
When I first started really paying attention to Garcia as an elite-level fighter, I determined he was a calm, careful and confident customer. He seems even more so now.
For example, where some fighters let vanity get in the way of studying their opponents (or at least admitting they study them), Garcia said he and his team use everything at their disposal to get ready for fight night, including using video.
“My dad and my brother are the ones that look at the video a little more than me to study and see what [my opponent’s] strengths are. We dictate a game plan based on that.”
Garcia later corrected himself. He said they never had just one game plan coming into a fight, but many.
“I have to be ready for whatever my opponent brings the day of the fight. So we have different game plans…we don’t just go in with one game plan because what if he doesn’t do what we’re expecting? So we’re ready to do whatever we need to do to win.”
And similar to the most celebrated old school fighters, Garcia says he wants to build his legacy fighting the very best. One name that has been bandied about as a future opponent by Garcia’s promoter, Bob Arum, is Manny Pacquiao.
“That would definitely be the fight to put me on the top, and I would be able to take his place. Just like when I fought Orlando Salido for a world title a year ago…[Salido] was the man in the division.”
Garcia believes to be the man, you have to beat the man.
“Pacquiao is one of the biggest stars and one of the all-time greats. To make my mark, I need to beat someone like him. If I get a fight with Pacquiao or someone like him, those are the fights I look forward to.”
Garcia is just 26 years old, and as patient as they come. Having never fought anywhere near the welterweight limit where Pacquiao currently resides, Garcia says he’ll bide his time until he’s ready.
“Not right away, not now or in the next month or two, but down the road when I get older, when I gain a little more weight, when I grow into the higher weight class and higher division, then we can really talk about that more seriously.”
According to The Sweet Science’s Michael Woods, down the road might be sooner than you think.
Jumping up in weight two divisions to fight one of the best fighters of all time? That’s old school.
But as with comparisons to his contemporaries, Garcia said he doesn’t give comparisons to fighters from the past too much thought, either.
“I’ve heard the comparisons. People say I remind them of some of the older fighters,” said Garcia. He then hesitated a bit.
“Um…it’s great…but I just do what I got to do to win…it just makes me want to leave an impression in boxing and leave them where they can say to someone ‘you remind me of Mikey Garcia’.”
A win over Burgos on Saturday would take him further along the way to that point. And while the ever-constant cold war between Top Rank and Golden Boy might make it more difficult for him to achieve all of his lofty goals, Garcia intimated it wasn’t the type of thing to keep him up at night.
“There’s definitely some interesting fights that could be made and could help boost my career or my popularity, but I have my promoter and we have our plans. I do whatever my promoter tells me.”
Garcia said Top Rank has an excellent roster of fighters, and he expects it to look even better in the future.
“They do a very good job developing fighters.”
And if a mega-fight against a Golden Boy-promoted fighter ever came calling, would he consider ditching Top Rank for something like that?
“I’m not chasing a fight like that. I know there are a lot of things that would help if promoters were working together…but that’s boxing. Boxing is a business, and that’s just the way it is.”
Kelsey McCarson covers boxing for Bleacher Report and The Sweet Science. You can email him at email@example.com.