By Marc Livitz: As the saying goes, time flies. Indeed, it does and the world of boxing is no exception. It’s usually a loss or perhaps retirement which is the main reason for a fighter’s name to no longer be found among the ranks of the sport’s best rated. In the case of unbeaten, former two division world champion Mikey Garcia, the setbacks he suffered in terms of being out and away from the ring are perhaps due to the worst type of roadblock.
Contractual issues, obligations and the like forced him to watch strictly as a spectator for well over two years. Garcia (34-0, 28 KO’s) last fought in January of 2014 when he defended his WBO world super featherweight title against Juan Carlos Burgos en route to
a convincing unanimous decision win in New York City. Mikey had captured the championship just a few months earlier by way of an eighth round knockout win over Roman "Rocky" Martinez in Corpus Christi, Texas. Just prior to that, the Oxnard, California native made the first defense of the title he held in a weight class just below (featherweight) with a brutal, four round destruction of former multi-division world titleholder, Juan Manuel Lopez in Dallas, Texas.
It’s certainly worth a commendable mention as well to note that the WBO world featherweight crown he denied Lopez was initially won in January of 2013 when he defeated savvy ring veteran, Orlando Salido. All of the names previously mentioned, of course almost create a "who’s who" of boxing and Mikey had beaten them all. However, January 2014 would spell the unfortunate, yet luckily temporary sojourn from the ring. On Saturday, July 30, Mikey will make his long anticipated return to the ring as he faces former world champion Elio Rojas (24-2, 14 KO’s) of the Dominican Republic, who himself is also coming back from a ring layoff, although not as long as that of Garcia.
Rojas last fought in August of 2014. They’ll face each other at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn as they showcase their talents as part of the evening’s co-main event, which will be headlined by the hotly awaited matchup between unbeaten featherweight champion, Leo Santa Cruz and undefeated Irish boxing superstar, Carl Frampton. The Showtime Championship Boxing telecast (9PM ET/6PM PT) will begin that evening with a 154 pound eliminator contest between once-beaten contenders Tony Harrison and Sergey Rabchenko.
Garcia, Rojas as well as other members of their respective teams took part in a brief international media conference call on Tuesday afternoon.
Selected Highlights Listed Below
Opening Statements from Stephen Espinoza (Exec. VP & GM, Showtime Sports): "We are
all getting ready and are very excited for this card at the Barclays Center. One of our two featured bouts will showcase Mikey Garcia’s return to the ring. We’re excited to see what
he has planned for a new division. As typical for his career, he never takes the easy way back. Elio Rojas is a former world champion just like Mikey. He found a very worthy challenger in Rojas."
Opening Statements, Mikey Garcia: "I’m here and I’m ready. I’m very excited to show my boxing skills to the world. I’m looking forward to a very big fight. I’m looking for Elio to
come to perform because that is what will bring the best out of me. We’ve both had a layoff. I think fans will be very pleased with my performance on July 30."
Elio Rojas: "I’m very happy to returning to the ring. I’ve had a great camp and I’ll be ready. This will be a chance to show the world that I’m an elite fighter and the way to show that is to beat an elite fighter. The public never gave me the respect I deserved and this is my chance to get it."
Garcia’s Actions Since 2014: "I stayed in the gym almost the entire time. I may have taken 2-3 weeks off throughout the entire period. I was always active. I helped out the guys at my brother’s (Robert Garcia) gym and I worked a lot of rounds with Marcos Maidana as he prepared to fight Floyd Mayweather. I was his main sparring partner. That allowed me to stay in shape. It’s been two and a half years but it seems like it’s only been 6-9 months."
Why He Picked Rojas: "I could have picked an easier opponent but I don’t want any criticism for either one of us. We looked at other fighters. They either couldn’t do it or they just said, "no". I’m assuming that Elio is excited to be back and the winner will go on to bigger things."
Mikey’s Thoughts on Facing Elio: "Every opponent is different. Rojas is a great fighter and has the experience. If he wants to box and use his reach and straight punches, then I’ll have to find a way to get inside. If he wants to come straight forward, then I’ll make the right adjustments for that, too."
On Fighting in New York City: "New York has always been very good to me. I’ve fought
there several times. I love New York and it’s a great place for boxing. They have real boxing fans. Those fans follow the sport and support the fighters. They get there early to watch the whole card and not just the main event."
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July 19, 2016