Undefeated featherweight contender Mikey Garcia (30-0, 26 KOs), of Oxnard, California, heads to New York’s famed Madison Square Garden this Saturday night to take on rough and rugged alphabet titlist Orlando Salido (39-11-2, 27 KOs). The fight represents a humongous step up in class for the 25-year-old Garcia who is ranked sixth in the world by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
A native of Sonora, Mexico, number one ranked Salido has not lost a bout since a 2010 unanimous decision to uber-talented Yuriorkis Gamboa. Since then, he’s reeled off five impressive knockout wins in a row, including two over Puerto Rican rival Juan Manuel Lopez, the last of which was considered by many a Fight of the Year candidate.
"Orlando Salido is the best featherweight champion in the world, and he has earned the right to be called that," said Garcia via press release. "He is very strong and very experienced, and this will be the toughest test of my career, but I am ready for it."
Whether or not Garcia truly is ready for such a step up will be a matter of the fighter maintaining control over the tools he’s used to help him get to where he is now. Garcia isn’t your run-of-the-mill Mexican slugger. He’s eerily calm in the ring, fights carefully and is extremely confident that his approach, work ethic and pedigree will prevail for him in the end. He’ll need every bit of that against ever dangerous Salido, who is hailed by hall of fame broadcaster Al Bernstein as a “terrific, world class fighter.”
Some wonder whether or not Garcia is prepared for such a bout. They say Garcia hasn’t fought the level of competition his opponent has, and that 32-year-old veteran Salido will just be too skilled and too seasoned for the young challenger.
Garcia’s world renowned trainer and older brother, Robert Garcia, believes the time is right for his fighter to make some noise though he doesn’t believe it will be a walk in the park.
“The critics are right. Mikey hasn’t fought the level of competition that Salido has,” he told Top Rank’s Crystina Poncher. “I think Mikey’s skills and talent and the experience myself and my dad bring to him is more than enough to be able to win the fight. The fight won’t be easy. It will be hard and we know that.”
The fighter echoed similar sentiments to Marcos Villegas at Boxing Channel.
“I know he’s a very tough, very rugged, experienced fighter…very dangerous,” Garcia said. “He has a very good body attack…he has a good sneaky overhand right…a good left uppercut also after that right hand. There are a lot of things I’ve been practicing for to prepare myself for all that. So even though I haven’t seen it first hand in the ring yet, I’ve been practicing for that so I’m prepared for that. I know I can do a lot more and I think this is a perfect fight for me. I will show everybody all the different fundamentals I can do, all the different abilities that I have and different boxing skills that I have. I will put on a show this night, and everybody is gonna see why I deserve to be world champ.”
It’s perhaps too easy for fight fans to dismiss someone who calls himself “Mikey” over a given name of Miguel (Mikey Cotto, anyone?), but take notice of how this up-and-coming prospect carries himself: he’s calm, careful and confident. Think of a guy like Joe Louis. See something similar?
“That’s just the way I am, and I’m like that outside of the ring. I’ve always been like that,” Garcia stated (quite calmly).
Al Bernstein says Garcia is a counterpuncher whose style should match up nicely against Salido, and that he has all the tools you’d like to see in a young fighter. Regardless, questions will remain as to whether Mikey Garcia is the real deal until he proves he can compete at the world class level.
“Garcia has shown power, he has shown discipline and he has shown ability,” Bernstein said. “The question people have is how will he react when he’s in against a true world class fighter and a champion?”