To many, it may have seemed that boxing was Mikey Garcia’s birthright.
His father, Eduardo, became one of the sport’s elite trainers in the mid-’90s and guided Fernando Vargas to a world title and lofty heights. Vargas became an Olympian, one of the sport’s biggest stars and a fierce competitor who engaged in a series of memorable bouts.
When Mikey was just 10, his older brother, Roberto Garcia, won the IBF junior lightweight championship. The win that night made Roberto 30-0, a record he’d push to 32-0 before he suffered his first defeat.
He grew up in and around the La Colonia Boxing Club in Oxnard, California, where his father trained fighters and his brother became a champion. Mikey, it seemed, would be next.
Miguel Angel Garcia, though, is his own man. And though he became a boxer, he is not of boxing.
At the peak of his powers, at a point in his career where he was about to break through and hit stardom, Garcia walked away from the sport. Whether you agree or disagree, or whether he was right or wrong, in his opinion it does not matter.
Garcia felt strongly that he wasn’t being treated fairly by Top Rank and was willing to sacrifice everything in pursuit of what he believed in. He spent over $1 million on attorneys to try to prove his point.
He was out of the game for more than two years, only to return last year with a new promoter, renewed energy, but the same attitude.
The kid who never wanted to box is now one of the sport’s best, and he’ll face Adrien Broner on Saturday at the Barclays Center in a non-title super lightweight bout on Showtime.
It’s a hotly anticipated fight, and one that could propel Garcia, who is the WBC lightweight champion with a 36-0 record and 30 knockouts, to an even higher level in the sport.
It’s an old-fashioned fight, too, in that there is no made up title on the line. It’s just two of the best boxers in their weight class meeting to see who’s the best.
It’s the essence of what the sport is, and it’s all Garcia cares about.
“Everybody is excited for the fight,” Garcia said when asked if he was disappointed no title was at stake. “I’ve gotten nothing but good reviews and good comments, and everybody is so excited about this fight. Like I said, it seems like it’s bigger than some of the other title fights that are happening around the weight class and, you know, it just shows you the kind of fighter that Adrien Broner is.
“He has a lot of fans and he’s a high-profile fighter and people see me as a high-profile fighter and when two guys like us get in the ring, it’s a great matchup.”
In the second fight of his comeback, he scored one of the year’s best knockouts in January when he flatted Dejan Zlaticanin to win the WBC lightweight belt. Zlaticanin entered that bout with a 22-0 mark and a fearsome reputation, but he was no match for Garcia.
Garcia used the notoriety he gained from that fight to put himself in position for a high-profile fight with Broner.
He wants to go back to lightweight after this fight and unify the lightweight titles. But for a guy who sat out 30 months and spent over a million in legal fees, it’s a wise choice to pursue a Broner fight because of his notoriety.
“This fight is much bigger still than some of the world title fights that me and Adrien have been part of and some of the title fights that are around the division,” Garcia said. “So it is a very big and fun fight and it could definitely easily be seen as probably the biggest fight of both of our careers.”
Broner has the bigger name because of his relentless and over-the-top self-promotion, but Garcia is the favorite. It speaks to his drive, to his determination that he’s favored over a guy who won a welterweight title belt when Garcia has only fought over 130 pounds three times in 36 fights. One of those came in his pro debut.
But while Broner was clowning, Garcia was in the gym, preparing, studying, taking his game to the next level. And as good as he looked against Zlaticanin, he vows he hasn’t hit his peak yet.
For all his flaws, Broner has plenty of physical gifts and for Garcia to defeat them, he knew he couldn’t remain stagnant.
“If I have to be aggressive, I will be aggressive,” Garcia said. “If I have to maybe box, I will box. If I have to try to stay in the middle of the ring, then I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to win this fight. People still haven’t seen everything that I have to offer and I think Adrien Broner will be the one to challenge me enough and push me to that next level and bring out the best out of me.”