Mikey Garcia’s Journey to NYC to Clash with Adrien Broner

Picking crops can change anyone’s life with its grueling daily bending and stooping. It’s a major reason that Eduardo Garcia, the patriarch of the fighting Garcia brothers, hooked on to boxing.

Before the 1980s Oxnard Latinos focused mainly on strawberries and lima bean crop picking. And for a while the only prominent brown faces in Oxnard were “Love and Rockets” comic book creators the Hernandez Brothers.

Then along came boxing with the Garcia brothers followed by Fernando Vargas and now Mikey Garcia. And he may be the best of them all.

Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs) looks to venture where no other member of his family has reached when he meets Adrien Broner (33-2, 24 KO) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday, July 29. No title will be at stake but the rewards will be plenty for the winner.

Showtime will televise the fight set at the 140-pound limit.

Twelve years separate the youngest Garcia brother Mikey from Robert Garcia (pictured on his right), now a trainer. Several years ago Mikey moved from Oxnard to Riverside and two years ago Robert followed. But the ties to Oxnard remain strong.

How can anyone forget the legacy the Garcias built in La Colonia neighborhood where the tiny building became a beacon for youths interested in putting on the gloves? Of course winning had a lot to do with that.

Robert Garcia was an amateur standout who did not have great size, but great heart as a super featherweight. He grabbed the IBF title in 1998 and protected his hold twice before meeting the great Diego “Chico” Corrales in 1999. Though he fought valiantly against the rockets of Corrales he was stopped in the seventh round.

Mikey was 11 years old when older brother Robert clashed with Corrales.

Another of the clan racing toward world title dreams was Vargas who also grabbed a world title in 1998. He held that super welterweight title until losing in a spectacular firefight with Puerto Rico’s Felix Trinidad in 2000.

Mikey was 12 years old when Vargas lost in that memorable encounter.

Eduardo Garcia filed away those losses to his memory bank and decided that if Mikey Garcia were to pursue pro boxing he would be a different kind of fighter.

“My dad wanted Mikey to be more of a defensive boxer,” said Robert Garcia about Eduardo’s tutelage of the youngest Garcia.

Lincoln Park

Every year the regional Golden Gloves tournament takes place in an old park located in East Los Angeles. Called Lincoln Park for 100 years, it’s now it’s called Plaza De La Raza. Perched in the southwest corner of the park is a large dark statue of Mexican Revolutionaries Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. The influence of the Mexican Revolution remains strong in East L.A.

Lincoln Park is more than 100 years old and its fitting that boxing takes place there every year to decide Golden Gloves champions.

It was in Lincoln Park that I first saw Mikey Garcia buzz saw through numerous opponents in the four-day tournament. Buzz saw is a polite term for what he did to those he faced in the boxing ring. Attempted Murder was more like the correct term.

With his stoic demeanor and professional boxing style, the youngest Garcia brother did not look like he was trying to make the Olympic team. It seemed like he was prepping for professional ring wars with his blistering body attacks and felonious left hooks to the head. Few of the other boxers were able to contend with Garcia.

Strangely, when approached, he would not say he intended to become a prizefighter. He spoke of going to college, getting a degree, and maybe entering law enforcement.

During one tournament at Lincoln Park he encountered another clan of brothers, namely the Molinas with Carlos, Oscar and Javier. It was Carlos who would give Mikey Garcia his most intense encounters. Crowds would gather out of nowhere to see the conflagrations. The Garcia-Molina battles were always furious and entertaining.

Montebello

In his pro debut Garcia suddenly seemed more conservative than in his amateur bouts. He fought Domingo Herrera at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello.

After the fight I interviewed him and again he repeated that he might go to college if boxing did not work. Technically he was sharper than in his amateur days when he battered boxers.

In his second bout he opened up a boxing card at Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. If you didn’t get to your seat in time you missed it. Garcia blew out Chad Gannigan in 2:12 of the first round. He was back to the old Mikey. Seven more consecutive opponents would be eradicated by knockout.

But every time he encountered a dangerous opponent the technical war chest would come out and Garcia would probe and dissect like a biology experiment. Still, he won.

Fans, however, seemed to be turned off by his careful approach. Some called him boring and despite being undefeated, it took him a period of time to gather adulation and recognition.

Siri

 The boxing public got their first glimpse of the real Mikey during the confrontation between undefeated super featherweights Matt Remillard and Garcia for two regional titles at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City in March 2011. If fans wanted to see the real Garcia he was clearly present and dangerous. After three knockdowns it was clear Garcia was a force. In two years he would fight for the world title.

Orlando “Siri” Salido held the WBO featherweight world title in January 2013 when he faced Mikey Garcia at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Salido is a human wrecking ball and whoever faces the hard nut bullet-headed fighter from Obregon, Mexico usually loses a pound of flesh. It was no different when the two met at the Garden.

Garcia promptly showed his superiority against game Mexican veteran Salido and blasted him to the floor four times in four rounds. It should have ended there but instead, Salido gamely fought back with his bag of dirty tricks and returned to battle with elbows, low blows and his battering ram head butts. One visibly intentional head butt busted Garcia’s nose wide open. The fight was stopped and Garcia deemed the winner by technical decision.

The former Oxnard resident now living in Moreno Valley, Calif. never complained about the dirty tactics.

Garcia fought only three more times and though victorious the journey to mega-fights ended in January 2014. He would not fight in the prize ring for two and a half years. He forever lost his potentially greatest years when he was 27 and 28 years old. Prime years for any athlete.

The Moreno Valley prizefighter opted to leave Top Rank and let his contract expire. Whether it was a good idea or not is still being established. But so far, he has a contract with Showtime and is his own manager. He recently obliterated Dejan  Zlaticanin to rip the WBC lightweight title from him. Challenges to other lightweight titleholders were ignored, especially after his brutal stoppage of the southpaw titlist from Montenegro. It gave Garcia three world titles in three weight divisions.

As he combed the lightweight division and above he was offered a match with Adrien Broner the winner of world titles in four weight divisions. Both accepted the challenge readily.

New York flavor

Immediately odds between the two top fighters favored Garcia 5 to 1. It immediately irked Broner and his team and they have boldly predicted victory.

“I’m going to show everyone I’m still the young animal,” said Broner who turns 28 on Friday. “I just want to show I’m one of the top boxers.”

Garcia realizes this is a pivotal moment. When he changed course and took up self-managing his own career it was to be in charge of his own destiny. Here it is like a large gold cup filled with victory wine ready to drink if he can prove mastery of skills against another skilled master.

“He’s the most accomplished fighter I’ve faced, a four-division world champion and that makes it a bigger deal,” said Garcia during a telephone conference call. “This fight is a much bigger scale than the world title fights me and Adrien have been a part of. It can easily be seen as the biggest fight of my career.”

Broner agrees with the assessment.

“It’s a big fight for boxing. It’s going to be a hell of a fight on July 29,” Broner says.

No love but plenty of rockets from both multi-world champions.

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