By Marc Livitz: A bit less than five months have passed since Mikey Garcia lost out on a title challenge before he even stepped foot into the ring. This past June in Dallas, Texas, Garcia was unable to keep his weight at or under the featherweight limit of 126 pounds and was ultimately stripped of his WBO title. He had won the belt a few months earlier by way of a sound stoppage win over Orlando Salido. Garcia’s opponent at the time, Juan Manuel “JuanMa” Lopez called Garcia’s disposition “unprofessional”. Although Mikey walked completely through his Puerto Rican antagonist, the Oxnard, California fighter felt no confusion in regard to whether or not he should continue to forcibly go unfed at times to keep his fighting weight in check.
His nationally televised fourth round stoppage of Lopez would be his last bout in the featherweight division. His older brother, Robert is not only a former professional boxer himself who held an impressive record of (34-3, 25 KO’s), but is also a highly sought trainer with numerous champion fighters under his vision. He was recognized as 2012’s “Trainer of the Year”.
This Saturday evening at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, Robert will not only work the respective corner of his little brother, but also that of former champion Nonito Donaire. Undefeated Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia (32-0, 27 KO’s) will get a quick chance at a championship strap on Saturday night when he meets Puerto Rican titleholder Roman “Rocky” Martinez (27-1-2, 16 KO’s) in the main event set to be televised on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark.”
Rocky Martinez captured the WBO super featherweight title for well over four years ago and managed to regain it last year. His lone defeat was to Scotsman Ricky Burns in a highly competitive match in Burns’ home country. Upon recapturing the belt last September, Martinez has gone two up and one sideways. His January 2013 draw with Juan Carlos Burgos in New York City was a bout that many saw as a loss for the Puerto Rican fighter. He has since moved on with his most recent victory over Diego Magdaleno just over six months ago. Perhaps Rocky is aware that the lingering memory of his past three bouts (two split decision wins and one split draw) could be soundly erased with an upset win this weekend over Mikey Garcia. He as well as his California opponent was among those who took part in an international media conference call this afternoon.
Selected highlights listed below.
The WBO featherweight championship bout is part of a tripleheader card and will be televised in the United States on HBO (9:30 PM ET/PT). Preceding the contest will be an eagerly awaited grudge rematch between Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (31-2, 20 KO’s) and Vic “Raging Bull” Darchinyan (39-5-1, 28 KO’s)as well as a WBO light middleweight title contest between undefeated fighters Vanes Martirosyan (33-0-1, 21 KO’s) and Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade (19-0, 13 KO’s). Stay connected to SecondsOut.com for live reports from Corpus Christi, Texas later in the week.
Todd DeBoef, President of Top Rank Boxing: “There’s a terrific show this weekend. The main event is near and Corpus Christi is ready to go. We’ve seen the meteoric rise of Mikey Garcia and we’ve followed his challenges all the way up to the super featherweight division. Rocky Martinez is here to establish that he’s a Puerto Rican star and he pointed out himself that he’s now the only Puerto Rican fighter with a championship title.”
Opening Statements, Robert Garcia: “This a challenge for Mikey and he’s fighting a well respected champion. I’m sure he’s trained like never before and so we’re ready for the challenge.”
Opening Statements, Mikey Garcia: “We’re ready for this and I’m in great shape thanks to all the work in the gym. We want to take on a real lightweight and that’s why I took on this challenge.”
Opening Statements, Roman Martinez: “I trained very hard for this fight because I know how important it will be. I look forward to giving everyone a great fight on Saturday.”
Robert Garcia on Mikey’s Previous Weight Problems: “It was something that surprised us and we never expected that to happen to him. It’s still not easy. He was 128 last time and everyone saw on HBO what he had to go through just to get there.”
Mikey Garcia on Weight Issues and Previous Bout: “It was very disappointing and I was very sad. I had worked so hard for over two years to get that title shot. When we were leaving the weigh-in, I knew that I was no longer the champion and that hurt. I was somewhat uncertain and I wasn’t sure if my body was going to completely recover. I was worried that maybe I couldn’t take a punch. After the second round, I was able to see that I was okay.”
“I’m back where I want to be and I hope to capture a world title. So far, I feel great and I think I could even make 126 (pounds) again.”
“Rocky” Martinez on the challenge posed by Garcia: “He’s the number one fighter in my division out there and a mandatory for me. Why be a champion if you’re not going to face the best?”
“I’ve felt that the inactivity between my fight with Daniel Attah (October 2011) and Miguel Beltran (September 2012) didn’t help me and so I wasn’t at my best against (Juan Carlos) Burgos. I’m ready for a hard twelve rounds with Mikey Garcia.”
Mikey Garcia on Added Pressure: “I don’t feel any pressure to redeem myself. I just want to put on a good show and capture another world title.”
Robert Garcia on some of his big name fighters’ recent losses: “No one seems to mention that Mikey beat Orlando Salido so easily or that Evgeny Gradovich beat Billy Dib. People forget those fights, but they remember the losses by Nonito Donaire and Brandon Rios. We’re ready to win. This isn’t for the media or anyone else. This is about our team, the fans and our family.”
Martinez on National Responsibility: “I’m happy to be the champion and I’ve worked very hard for it. I know it’s important for me and for my country. I’m ready to take my title back to Puerto Rico.”
On Mikey Garcia: “I believe he has much more technique and power than the others I’ve faced. This is certainly my toughest challenge.”
Mikey on Fan Adoration: “I don’t have to get the support. I don’t have to be the next star, but the people from Mexico follow and respond to me. All the response from the Mexican fans is very welcomed by me. I don’t expect it, but it’s great to have it.”
On the challenge posed by Martinez: “He’s tough, durable and very resilient. He won’t let that title slip from his hands easily. It should be a great fight for me and that’s why we did all the necessary things to get ready for it. I think he can do a lot of different things. He sticks to his jab and his right hand, but I’m ready for whatever comes.”
“Rocky” on Mikey’s Punching Power: “I’m only worried about me and being ready to fight him. All I’m thinking about is getting into the ring and fighting him. I know he’s an intelligent fighter. He can put his punches together, but I think I can take them.”
Robert Garcia on Training his brother for the fight: “We’ve trained for the best Rocky Martinez out there. We know that a lot of people are counting him out and that is the most dangerous type of opponent.”
Martinez on his fight plan: “We have a strategy to fight him and you’ll see on Saturday night. I feel that I should be the favorite in this fight. I’m naturally bigger and stronger and so I should be the winner.”
Mikey Garcia on the same: “I feel that I’m the smarter, stronger and faster fighter. I know this isn’t an easy fight and that he’s coming to win. I understand how difficult this fight is going to be and that’s why I’ve trained like never before for this fight.”
Closing Statements, Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia: “It’s going to be a great show on Saturday. It’s a great weekend for boxing.”
Closing Statements, Roman “Rocky” Martinez: “This is going to be a war and I hope everyone will watch.”