Southern California’s hotbed known as the Inland Empire could be adding yet another world champion if Mikey Garcia continues his punishing ways toward the top.
Three world champions born and raised in the “I.E.” already tote championship belts and Garcia (27-0, 23 KOs) could be the fourth member of the exclusive club should he beat Bernabe Concepcion (29-5-1, 15 KOs) on Saturday March 10 in Puerto Rico. A win could next finally lead to a title match.
Members of the world championship club from the I.E. are Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Kaliesha “Wild, Wild” West. Both West and Garcia live in Moreno Valley, a skip up the hill from Riverside.
Showtime will televise Garcia’s match against Filipino slugger Concepcion, whose last fight took place in the Inland Empire last October. A close split-decision win against Aaron Garcia nailed him a title elimination bout against yet another Garcia.
Mikey Garcia, 24, has been rolling up wins in the featherweight division and is ranked number one in one sanctioning organization and soon to be number one in another. More importantly he wants a world title, but not so that he can join the exclusive club.
“It would be nice to be part of the group but that’s not what I’m focused on. I don’t take that mentality to the ring with me. I concentrate on what I do and that’s to win,” says Garcia.
The former Oxnard resident moved to the Inland Empire more than two years ago and has found the area as equally or more so competitive than his former residence. Trained by his father Eduardo Garcia in the same gym where Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola has his headquarters, there are always dozens of sparring partners at his disposal.
Concepcion, 24, has fought several times in search of the world title. Though he’s lost each challenge, his experience does give him an edge.
“I do think he’s comfortable on the big stage and in the big arena. If he beats me he gets a title shot,” says Garcia of his opponent. “I’ve seen him fight several times. I know his demeanor. He does have a good overhand right.”
Garcia has become familiar with the trio of world champions emanating from the Inland Empire and hopes to become a world champion too. Living in the area can’t hurt.
Bradley lives in Palm Springs and grew up fighting in the same area that produced the brothers Joel, Antonio and Julio Diaz. All train in the same gym in Indio with Joel Diaz serving as Bradley’s trainer.
Chavez attended Ramona High School in Riverside and first put on the gloves in nearby Mira Loma. He has family in the area and now trains 70 miles away in Los Angeles under Freddie Roach’s guidance.
West grew up and lives in Moreno Valley and has trained at several gyms in the area including Riverside, Moreno Valley, Redlands and San Bernardino. She still holds the bantamweight world title and expects to defend it soon.
Few realize that Big Bear Mountain is located in the heart of the Inland Empire.
Currently training in the mountain resort is Saul “Canelo” Alvarez the WBC junior middleweight titleholder from Mexico. He will be facing Sugar Shane Mosley who is also training in Big Bear and lives there.
It’s getting crowded in the I.E. but there’s still room for one more world champion. Does Garcia have the key to get in?
Fights on television
Sat. Showtime, 10 p.m. Orlando Salido (37-11-2) vs. Juan Manuel Lopez (31-1); Mikey (27-0) Garcia vs. Bernabe Concepcion (.29-5-1).