Mikey Garcia Interview: "I'm more than willing to pursue Celestino Caballero's belt"
By Anson Wainwright, MaxBoxing (March 8, 2012) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)
Mikey Garcia
From a young age, Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia has been involved in boxing one way or the other. He was in the gym where former junior middleweight titlist Fernando Vargas worked out and witnessed “El Feroz” go all the way to the top, winning world titles along the way. Garcia also saw something similar with own big brother (now his trainer), Robert. Once he decided that boxing was for him, he learned his trade under the expert tutelage of his father, Eduardo “Papa” Garcia, before turning pro in 2006, quietly but surely progressing under the radar. Aided by one of the best managers in boxing, Cameron Dunkin, “Mikey” now sits at a pristine 27-0 (23), in striking distance of the best featherweights on the planet. First, he’ll appear as chief support to Orlando Salido vs. Juan Manuel Lopez II on Showtime, primed for a shot at the winner. Dunkin enthuses over his young charge, “I’ve been saying to you for years that Mikey is going to be special. He could be great! He’s going to win a world title at 126 early this year. He’s in with a guy [Bernabe Concepcion] on March 10th who’s very tough and goes rounds with everyone. I think he can make a statement and then he’ll be ready for a world title fight. Showtime is showing Mikey’s fight, which Mikey and I are really excited about. The more people see of Mikey, the more I think boxing fans are going to realise how good he is and want to see a lot more of him.” Currently, Garcia, 24, is ranked at number two, both by the WBC and WBO, number one by the WBA and number eight by the IBF while sitting at number eight with the well-respected The Ring magazine.
Anson Wainwright - You'll be fighting Bernabe Concepcion on 10 March in Puerto Rico. What are your thoughts on that fight and Concepcion as a fighter?
Mikey Garcia – I’m excited and happy to be part of a show like that. Salido and Lopez will be fighting for the WBO featherweight title. It’ll be in Puerto Rico which I’m excited about; my opponent as I know is Bernabe Concepcion, who I know has challenged for the title twice. He’s a strong contender. He’s always dangerous; he comes out for the win every time so I know it’ll be a good fight for the people.
AW - As you say, your fight is chief support to the rematch between Orlando Salido-“JuanMa” Lopez, who meet for the WBO featherweight crown. If all goes well against Concepcion, it is rumoured you will meet the winner of that fight later this year. How do you see their fight going?
MG – I think Lopez has probably better fundamentals and better boxing skills and if he uses that and stays on the outside and uses his defence to outbox Salido, he has a better chance to win that way. If he tries to come at Salido, tries to prove something, tries to knock out Salido, that’s Salido’s game plan right there. I think Salido’s game plan is to try to exchange punches and hurt Lopez like he did [in the] first fight. So if Salido comes in looking for the knockout and Lopez tries to look for a knockout, I think it’s going to lean towards Salido unless Lopez decides to use a little more defence and stay on the outside, use his right jab, straight cross, then I think Lopez has a better chance of winning a decision that way.
AW - Last time out, you fought at Madison Square Garden on the Nonito Donaire-Omar Narvaez undercard where you impressively stopped Juan Carlos Martinez in four rounds. Can you tell us about your New York experience and the fight?
MG – Well, I fought in October at the Theatre in Madison Square Garden. New York was one of the places I wanted to go. I had wanted to go to New York and visit the city and fight there one day and it came true, which was very nice for me. But when I’m fighting, I don’t let any excitement play a part; I’m focused on my fight. I took Juan Carlos Martinez as a real challenge because he is; he was a good challenger and I started the fight with him and he got me with something like a left hook on my eye and it started puffing up. It’s the first time that’s happened to me during a fight but I didn’t let any of that stuff get to me. I stayed focused and in control of the fight. I showed I’m a legitimate contender and I ended up hurting him several times and dropped him a couple of times and got the stoppage in the fourth round. My performance was good and to be a part of Donaire fighting. It was a great showcase for me to show everyone what I’m capable of.
AW - Could you tell us about your team?
MG – My team consists of Eduardo Garcia; he's my father, my brother, Robert Garcia, who also trains me. My doctor/chiropractor, Anderson, he's my cutman and my manager, Cameron Dunkin, who also manages [Brandon] Rios, Nonito Donaire, Kelly Pavlik and a bunch of fighters, so he's a really good person to have in my team. We have worked together since the beginning. We've done real well. They take care of me and I take care of business in the ring; that's all I got to do. They take care of everything out the ring, the business behind promoting my fights with Top Rank but all I have to do is get in shape, train and take care of business in the ring.
AW - Could you tell us about your early years and what it was like to be from a boxing family?
MG – Since I was a little kid, we've been involved in the sport with my brother fighting back in the day and my dad training my brother, Robert, and before that, my father used to train my oldest brother, Daniel. Then later, he trained Robert, Fernando Vargas and a bunch of other fighters. I'd go look, watch them train, be around the gym. I never trained as a kid to be a fighter but I would always go to the gym once in awhile, just check it out and I’d been to the big fights with Vargas and my dad and my brother. So I experienced what the whole atmosphere is, going to the big shows and I think that helps me with my preparation with my fights. I don't get excited or shocked at all the fans or nervous under the lights. I don't get that way because I have experience being around the big arenas and the atmosphere. It really doesn't bother me to fight under the lights in big arenas with big crowds and growing up from a boxing family definitely helped in my career so far.
AW - Of course your brother also trains several other world-class fighters. Could you share your thoughts on being around them and how it helps you as a fighter?
MG – Yeah, right now, my brother has a strong team of fighters, a good roster of fighters in his gym. He trains Brandon Rios, Nonito Donaire, Kelly Pavlik and a lot of other professional boxers who are in the gym. I have been with Brandon since we were in the amateurs. He came from Kansas; I think he was 18 or 19 at the time and we'd train together. I know him real well; we spar together. He was actually helping me out for my last fight when I fought Martinez. We were sparring two, three times for a couple of weeks so I owe Brandon a lot. He jokes around but he does get the job done in the ring and the gym; he trains very hard. I've seen him do 15, 16 rounds sparring straight because he likes to work out; he likes to train. I've seen [Antonio] Margarito train and that guy doesn't stop. We run 40 minutes and we're ready to stop and he's like, ‘Let me run a couple more laps around the track,’ and he runs another 10,15 minutes just ‘cause he likes to run. He works out in the gym the same way, hitting the bag nonstop. He works very hard. So I know the kind of training I have to be doing to get ready for my fights; that's what it takes to become a world champion and they've done it. They have the right training, the right techniques with my brother teaching them but they also have the work ethic. They all motivate each other and that helps me know what it takes to be a world champion.
AW - How do you believe it helps you having your brother and father in your corner when you fight?
MG – I think the way it helps me is it gives me the confidence what my dad teaches and what my brother knows as a fighter- and now trainer- is definitely the correct way. They know what they're doing. I'm my brother’s brother and he won’t tell me something that's not going to work. He only gives me advice that he knows for a fact will work during a fight. He did it; he was world champion. He knows; that and the technique he and my dad teach, he knows what it's like to be in the ring. He knows what it's like to fight for a world title. Those experiences he passes to me and the other fighters. That's why it helps; it's improved me as a fighter.
AW - Could you tell us what sort of things you do in training? How far you run, weights, sparring, what your walk-around weight typically is, etc.?
MG – Well, we like to get up and go for a run in the morning; usually we run 35, 40 minutes in the morning. Sometimes we'll do a couple of sprints, eight to 10 sprints after the run. Sometimes we'll go into the hills, do a 40-minute run in the hills; some tracks are hillside. If we run in the park, we run laps, usually between seven and eight in the morning, then go home and rest most of the day. I go to the gym in the afternoon; usually, we train after 2 o'clock. If it's a day we do sparring, we'll start off doing six rounds for a couple of days, then move up to eight rounds, finally, 10 and 12 rounds before a fight. Usually on sparring days, my brother will have a couple of guys to help me out and I'll switch two to three different sparring partners when we're doing 10 to 12 rounders. We don't use the same guy; we change the guys to make the 12 rounds. After the sparring session, we do everything else. We do the speed bag; we do some mitts with my dad and Robert. After that the workout is done, I have a conditioner coach who helps me; his name is Darryl Hudson. He's been helping me with my previous camps and he's helping me with this fight. I know it's a very important fight; I want to be in the best shape possible. I have him coming in the days of sparring into the gym and help out with different strength and conditioning methods to improve my physique and my conditioning. I think we have a really good team and that's the reason we train hard because we make sure we're at our best for the fight.
AW - Aside from the Salido-Lopez fight, what do you think of the other champions, the WBC’s Jhonny Gonzalez, the IBF’s Billy Dib and the WBA’s “super” and regular champions, Chris John and Celestino Caballero, respectively?
MG – I would like to have the opportunity [to fight] any champion. I don't really want one less than the other. I think they're champions ‘cause they deserve it. They've paid their dues; they've proved themselves to be champion material. That's why they hold the belts. You mentioned Jhonny Gonzalez; I would like to fight him. If I can't get Lopez or Salido, then I would shoot for a fight with Chris John or Jhonny Gonzalez, any of these guys. Caballero, Billy Dib, any of these guys I think I'm capable of challenging for a world title. I just need that opportunity. I feel Jhonny Gonzalez is a really good champion; he's proved himself in a lower weight at 118. Now he's at 126 and he's a world champion again. Chris John has been dominating the 126-pound division since beating [Juan Manuel] Marquez in 2006; he's been champion for a very long time. Billy Dib won the [IBF] title last year, a title defence and has a second defence coming up [Editor’s note: This interview took place shortly before Dib’s successful defense against Eduardo Escobedo. Escobedo capitulated at the end of six.], so he's proven himself to be a good boxer and good champion. I've watched Caballero; I thought we were supposed to be fighting him but he took a fight in Japan and they offered me the Lopez-Salido [winner and a] possible chance at that. I think we'll go with what Top Rank and whatever they decide. I'm Caballero's number one challenger; I’d have a better chance of challenging Caballero ‘cause I’m his mandatory challenger. I’m more than willing to pursue that belt [if not granted a shot at the winner of Salido-Lopez II]. Any of these guys, whoever’s willing to give me a shot, I’d be more than willing to take that title opportunity.
AW - Could you tell us a little about yourself as a person, what you enjoy doing and how you spend your time away from boxing?
MG – I have my wife; we married a few years ago in 2008. I have my daughter; she'll be five this April and I have a baby boy who just turned eight months in February. I'm a family man; I spend time with my family during the day when I'm not training. I like to take them out, do things together. We go to the mall; we go to the movies. We like to hang out, eat out and go to the park. If I am training, they know during that time, I have to be at home and not really out in the street or the stores. You don't want to get tired; you need to be resting. Whenever we have a meet-and-greet press conference, something local, I bring them along so they also know what it's like to be part of the boxing business. If we have a public workout or something and they want to, I take them so they can see what I do. We like to be close and do things together.
AW - People may not know but outside of boxing, you’re a trained policeman. Could you tell us about that and how this career came about?
MG – I graduated from the Ventura (California) Police Academy. It was a course for a reserve officer. I'm not working [as an officer]; I didn't apply to any department or sheriff’s department. I decided to focus on my boxing career first but that's something that I can go back to if I wanted. It was mostly to see what it was like to be an officer and have experience of being a police officer. Most of the time, you only see a policeman when you call them because someone’s broken into your house or because there's a fire. You only see them when it's negative; you don't see them when they’re actually patrolling, protecting the community, what kind of work they do to help prevent different problems and that's what I kind of wanted to find out and I did. I saw there's more to it than arresting people, just giving out tickets. So after I retire, if I decide to go into law enforcement, I think I would apply for the sheriff’s department.
AW – Finally, do you have a message for everyone ahead of your fight?
MG – I want to say thanks to all the fans for their support. I wish everybody who has the chance watches the [Bernabe Concepcion] fight; it will be on Showtime. I hope everybody is pleased with my performances. Let me know who you'd like me to fight and we’ll go from there.

Questions and or comments can be sent to Anson at elraincoat@live.co.uk and you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright.

This article provided to DoghouseBoxing.com by © MaxBoxing.com

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