One of the best kept secrets in prizefighting for many years was Mikey Garcia especially after he went on a self-instituted sabbatical.
But if you lived in Riverside, you saw firsthand that Garcia was busy at work refining his skills against many of the best in the gym.
He never took days off.
After winning world titles in three weight divisions Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs) is chasing history now and to complete the quest for a fourth. The path leads through IBF super lightweight titlist Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs). Both parties met face to face at the Conga Room in L.A. on Monday.
“To win a world title in a fourth division is a big deal to me,” Garcia, 30, said.
Despite taking two years off while waiting for a contract to lapse, Garcia could be seen almost every day sparring and training at his brother’s hillside gym. If not training he was tutoring brother Robert Garcia’s new recruits like Hector Tanajara, Joshua Franco or Jonathan Navarro.
Occasionally fighters from out of town would venture into the gym. Whether big or small they would lace up the gloves and trade blows with Mikey Garcia. It’s always a shock to see the often smaller Garcia maneuver and make bigger and heavier opponents do what he wants them to do.
He’s a like a chess master in the ring.
Once, years ago, when he was a featherweight, I saw him provide sparring for a super welterweight who was about to fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. The two sparred casual rounds and when an increase in pressure and tempo took place, the super welterweight looked befuddled.
Garcia can seemingly do that to anyone regardless of size or athleticism.
Another time a fleet-footed boxer type was showing off quick combinations and fancy footwork. He gave a glance of self-satisfaction that he was out-boxing Garcia and smiled broadly.
Garcia looked business as usual during the break, but when the buzzer sounded a different fighter emerged and suddenly the speedster found every exit blocked and was cornered and unable to escape. Blows rained down on the sparring partner who suddenly discovered his flaws were nakedly revealed.
It’s that innate ability to find flaws in even the best that Garcia possesses. If he were a police homicide detective he would solve almost any crime. Danger is his business.
“I want to take on any challenges that people think I can’t achieve,” says Garcia.
Lipinets has the same mindset.
The prizefighter from Kazakhstan only has 13 pro fights but an extensive career as a kickboxer. Now as a world champion boxer Lipinets feels confident that Garcia is out of his depth as a super lightweight.
“A lot of things can happen when you move up in weight. Usually people lose some pop,” said Lipinets of Garcia moving up in weight. “Whatever version of Mikey Garcia shows up; I’ll be ready for him.”
Every time a fighter moves up in weight the increase in danger dials upward. Others who accepted that danger in the past benefited. That’s what Garcia hopes to attain.
“It would be a great accomplishment to be in the discussion with guys like Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, that would be a win in itself,” said Garcia. “But it wasn’t on my mind when taking this fight. I just want to keep fighting the best out there. There’s still more for me to accomplish until I’m on the same level as Pacquiao and Marquez.”
The Riverside-based prizefighter realizes the danger in pursuing this quest. But he also realizes the danger sparks interest from the fans.
Like we said before, danger is his business.
“The challenge for me is that I’ll be fighting the bigger man. On fight night, that advantage he has on me might be enough to make it that much more exciting,” said Garcia. “This should give the fans the excitement that we want to give them.”
On Feb. 10, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, Garcia will either crash and burn or continue the trek toward superstardom. Showtime will televise the title fight.
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