During the last two decades the population of the Inland Empire, an area east of Los Angeles County, has doubled from 3 million to more than 6 million.
Among the reasons for those moving into cities like Ontario, Fontana, Temecula and Riverside are lower cost properties, space and less traffic.
One of those families that recently moved into the area is the fighting Garcias including famed boxing trainer Robert Garcia who established a training center in the hills of Riverside.
A small army of fighters live and prepare in the hidden neighborhood almost every day of the week like a small band of guerrilla fighters.
They arrive from various spots of the globe, from places like Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Texas and of course Oxnard, the former home of the Garcia clan.
The exodus from the seaside town of Oxnard to the desert region of Riverside began six years ago when the patriarch of the family Eduardo Garcia brought his family to the area. Among those who arrived was youngest son Mikey Garcia.
Soon Robert Garcia found himself making the 100 mile commute between Oxnard and Riverside on a weekly basis to work with brother Mikey and others. One day he decided to find a home in Riverside and established a gym in a remote neighborhood called Orangecrest.
The neighborhood of Orangecrest is middle class but is zoned for horses and other ranch style homes. The properties are large.
Robert Garcia purchased an acre lot and erected a boxing gym in the back near the stable of horses. A separate residence for the fighters provides shelter for those boxers who come from other regions.
Recently, two amateur stars from Mexico were brought into the camp and now make it their training headquarters.
On this particular Friday, Garcia unleashes his army of fighters against each other on an extremely hot afternoon sparring session. It’s the beginning of the weekend but not for the fighters.
“I’ve got a lot of guys getting ready for fights,” says Garcia, a former super featherweight world champion in the 1990s. “We’re going to be all over the place but I like it like that.”
From light flyweight to super middleweight the amount of prizefighters in Garcia’s camp could provide main events for a number of shows in November and will. It’s a small budding army.
Not long ago the list of fighters in Riverside under Robert Garcia’s watchful eye was exactly two, Mikey Garcia and Saul Rodriguez. Since that time in 2011, though Rodriguez has switched camps, the roster of prizefighters has multiplied to more than two dozen and is still growing.
The Oxnard training camp was sold more than a year ago and now Garcia primarily works out of Riverside. Though it may seem remote there are more than 30 boxing gyms in the area known as the Inland Empire and 10 boxing gyms in the city of Riverside alone.
About two years ago the Garcia camp signed a couple of boxers from San Antonio, Texas and established a virtual boxing highway hookup with that Alamo town. Hector Tanajara, are Joshua Franco are among the first to arrive from the Texas city and now others are coming.
“Jesse Rodriguez is going to be fighting in Mexico because he’s only 17,” said Garcia adding that professionals in California cannot be less than 18, but in Mexico they can start professionally much younger. “He’s only a light flyweight but later he could grow into the heavier weight divisions.”
Rodriguez is the younger brother of Joshua Franco and both hail from San Antonio.
Recently, a few amateur stars from Mexico and Brazil have entered the Garcia camp that is officially called the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy.
Robert Garcia is aided by his father Eduardo Garcia, a former trainer who guided the family into the boxing business back in the 1980s. He recently retired, although he still helps with some of the fighters.
“He doesn’t like traveling,” said Robert Garcia. “I don’t mind. I actually like it.”
The Garcia army will be marching incessantly the next several weeks. They have battles on Nov. 2, 3, 4, 11, 17 and then on Dec. 14 several of Garcia’s soldiers participate on a Golden Boy Promotions show. The next day on Dec. 15, the locally-based product Luis Coria performs somewhere in the south.
“I love traveling,” Garcia says.
Of course the camp also consists of several elite big guns including multi-divisional world champions Mikey Garcia and Abner Mares. Plus it also includes contenders like Josesito Lopez and Brandon Rios.
Speaking of Rios, the former lightweight world champion returned to the Garcia fold and will be training in Oxnard where another Garcia gym will open. The former Oxnard gym was sold to boxing businessman Egis Klimas who has his own international cadre of prizefighters. And still another Garcia gym location is San Antonio where they already have a pipeline.
Back in Riverside, WBC lightweight world champion Mikey Garcia, who recently out-worked another multi-divisional world champion in Adrien Broner this past July in Brooklyn, is looking for new scalps. But until an opponent is selected he also assists his brother with the large group of fighters at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy.
Mikey Garcia also started his own promotion company that will become home to future signees to the Garcia clan.
“Mikey helps a lot along with my son,” said Robert Garcia. “We’ve been pretty busy but we expect to be even more busy.”
The army marches on.
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