Several times a week, he heads to the Academy of Speed in Rancho Cucamonga to meet with his strength-and-conditioning coach, Daryl Hudson, to go through a series of plyometric drills often utilized by football and basketball players to train their quick twitch muscles and improve their speed.
Garcia, who grew up in a boxing family (his father, Eduardo, is his trainer and his brother, Robert, is a former world champion and a noted cornerman himself), has worked with Hudson on a regular basis since he became a 10 and 12-round fighter. He admits this type of conditioning was foreign to him once.
“Well, it was new because fighting six, eight-round fights, they aren't really intense training camps for those kind of fights, especially with the opponents that you're fighting,” said Garcia, 31-0 (26), last Thursday morning after his brisk session with Hudson. “So we started working with Daryl when I fought Matt Remillard and it was a little different but it's extra work that's always good and it helps you out in the long run. It's not something you can just do one or two weeks a fight. You have to use it ahead of time. It does help.”
When asked if he can feel the difference in strength and power, Garcia says, “I don't feel any different while I'm doing this or when I'm in the ring - but I can see the results. We can see the results. You can definitely see them and I see the results. I'm always in pretty good shape anyways, so it's not like I'm going to see a big, big difference or a big jump in conditioning or in strength but you do see the results because I'm able to work faster and prolong that same rate.”
There's a saying in boxing that the legs are the first things to go. And like most sports, it's played from the feet up. The focus here on this morning is all lower body. Hudson puts Garcia through drills that you see many football players go through as they prepare for the NFL Combine and draft. A quick tempo is established and carried out with an emphasis on keeping Garcia's working throughout timed intervals with short breaks in-between.
Hudson explains, “Today, everything we did is choreographed and planned by Robert and Eduardo Garcia and designed for the fight. So basically challenging his energy systems to push the pace and test the other fights conditioning, along with the skill-set: footwork, movement and things of the like.”
But he makes it clear; the way he'll train Garcia physically will be different than the way he'll train a wide receiver. “Two different sports, two different athletes, not only that, two different people. It depends on the skill-set of what we're trying to improve on a person for that particular opponent. We scout the opponent and look at the opponent’s strength and weaknesses and try to exploit that through the different drills and training that we set up.”
Garcia does one drill where a resistance band is tied around his waist and he has to come forward as if he was stepping with his jab and then move back in the same fashion as quickly as possible. Power in boxing is generated in the lower body with the ability to move with flexibility and torque.
“Functional movement,” explained Hudson, “from the hips, which is what we call ‘the strongest joint in the body.’ That's what applied forces begin with, the hips. Movement, forces in the ground starts with lowering the center of gravity and it all starts with the hips.” Garcia is expected to make his movements with as much speed and acceleration as possible. The theory is simple: train fast, perform fast. “Exactly,” says Hudson, who adds, “The traditional way of running eight miles slow is over. You have more than one energy system. A lot of guys leave a lot on the table by not fully preparing themselves and completely training their whole body or all their energy systems.”
The Academy of Speed is an expansive indoor facility (http://www.academyofspeed.org/facilities.html
) - that includes a full-sized track and weightlifting apparatus - which opened just a few years ago. On this particular morning, Garcia and Hudson are the only ones in the building. Hudson never has to worry about his client missing a session. Garcia is as reliable as the sun coming up in the morning. “He's probably the poster child for the model student,” he says.
Just 25 years old, Garcia is one of boxing’s brightest young talents. A classic counterpuncher with the precision and accuracy of a military sniper, he says this regimen has given him more confidence in his athleticism. “It definitely has,” he says. “We use more footwork, more speed and at first, I didn't see a big difference - because I don't feel any stronger or faster - but you do see the results in the ring. I use my footwork a lot better than before.”
Garcia will spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon resting and then going to the boxing gym. Eduardo Garcia, best known for guiding a fiery Fernando Vargas to the top while situated in Oxnard, is a traditional trainer. Hudson believes that for him to have the optimal impact, he must work in concert with the lead boxing trainer.
“It's give and take. I need to understand what he's trying to achieve and more importantly, I need to be able to explain to them the way to train to achieve their goals. So it's a give and take and we're learning from each other as well. I love to be with a trainer who doesn't mind sitting down, explaining to me the game plan and athletically and physically explain the type of condition he wants his fighter to be in.
“And in turn, explain to him - before I even start working - what I think he needs to do to get him to that point,” said Hudson, who has worked with the likes of Shane Mosley, Winky Wright, Chris Arreola and Alfredo Angulo among others in the past. Garcia says of his father in this dynamic, “His focus is just in the ring, the boxing in the gym. But he understands that the other drills, the ones we do here for quick feet and a little bit of resistance training can help the day of the fight. They can help prepare yourself better for the 12-round intense fight.”
From the time when Garcia gets to the Academy of Speed to the time he drives back home is less than an hour. There isn't much wasted time here. They finish of things with old-fashioned “gassers” (a sprint of about 40 yards with proper running form and stride length), then cool down and get stretched out.
Hudson knows his role and he stays in his lane. Talk to any trainer who has worked with him in the past from Dan Birmingham to Henry Ramirez. They all speak highly of his work and his ability to fit in seamlessly.
Garcia's manager, Cameron Dunkin, states, “That's what I like best about Daryl; he doesn't want to be Robert Garcia or Eduardo Garcia, the father. He knows that they know boxing. He knows the body and conditioning and he does his job and doesn't get involved in being the cutman or jumping into the corner or being the trainer. He's a real professional.”
“I have to stay in my lane,” says Hudson. “I don't have an ego. I'm not a camera jockey. I don't need to be seen. All I want the fighter to do is perform and win. That's where I get my jollies. He goes out there and he realizes he put the work in and sees the end results of the way he worked.”
Garcia is an old-school boxer with modernized training techniques. More than any other sport, boxing has been slow to adapt to the times.
“People are afraid to learn and it does frustrate me because we're looked at as, ‘Oh, you guys are new. You guys don't know; we did stuff this way and we're going to keep it this way,’” said Hudson, who gets irritated by the antiquated practices he sees in the sport. “Y’ know, like the jumping rope with ankle weights and stuff like that. I mean, c’mon, man. Do a little research and don't be afraid to learn.”
As usual, Garcia is diplomatic when it comes to this issue but it's clear he doesn't want to be a flip-phone in an iPhone era.
“They might have other training methods and different trainers have different techniques and methods that they've used to train their fighters with. Everybody's a little different. Some fighters train one way and if it works for them, great. But it may not work for me though, so I gotta do what works best for me.”
How many times have you heard about fighters who have to lose 30-40 pounds during a training camp to make weight and then invariably have sluggish performances? In this day and age when boxers aren't nearly as active as they once were, it’s commonplace.
The best way to get in shape?
Never get out of it.
“You couldn't say it better than that,” said Hudson, who implores fighters to have a certain amount of discipline, even when they are not in a training camp prepping for a bout. “Boxing is tough. You know the whole world is looking at basketball. The whole world is looking at baseball. The whole world is looking at football and the money is there for them. They're signing multi-year contracts. They have to perform to a certain level. So if we can get these guys to understand that, ‘OK, you have a fight in June. You may not fight again till November. It would hurt you to do something till you realize when you're going to fight again.’”
But that takes individuals to police themselves. Easier said than done.
And when fighters balloon up as if they're the Goodyear Blimp, hiring the likes of Hudson is a last-ditch measure, a band-aid over eight weeks to make up for months of gluttony.
“I liken it to your house is on fire. You get your hose and you start trying to put the fire out and you realize you need to call the fireman,” he says, laughing (and this is a guy who worked with the mercurial Arreola, mind you). “I can't put out no fire if you let it halfway burn the house down.”
Garcia says, “The most important thing is to be active, to be in athletic movements - boxing, basketball, cycling, whatever - just stay active. That way you don't have to ‘get in shape.’ You always stay in shape and that's probably the best thing to do.”
Hudson was associated with Mosley during the period in which “Sugar Shane” used banned substances through BALCO. Unfortunately, for years, he was thrown under the bus by Mosley, who finally admitted in grand jury testimony that this was of his own doing. This episode not only ended their professional relationship but their friendship.
Reflecting back, he says, “Y’ know what? I was taught a long time ago to understand and be a forgiving person, for one. And understand who people are and understand that some people just don't care. Some people will hurt you. There's gonna be people out there that will hurt you but that's not going to shy me away from what I need to do and what kind of person I need to be and my love for training. I have a love for this. I have a passion for this - and I don't know everything. I'm constantly learning. I learn from fighter to fighter because each person is different.
“My main thing is now after that experience is be the best human being I can always be and be straight up with what's right.”
PEDs are an issue that plagues boxing and according to Hudson, it's rampant.
“We live in the 21st century. C’mon, everyone's trying to get an edge. It's widespread like anything else. It's so competitive right now. Everyone's out there trying to find a way and find an edge. At the end of the day, just have confidence in your ability to learn. Do some research and study and stay in shape year-round and really dedicate yourself to yourself, to the knowledge and attaining knowledge and find out what works for you among legal parameters.”
And yes, Hudson would favor more comprehensive and technologically advanced drug testing.
“Yes, I really do. And I think there needs to be a governing body to regulate outside the promoters,” he says.
Garcia has world-class ability and a world title belt. However, as of now, he's not a star. But Bob Arum thinks he can turn him into one down the line.
“That's why we didn't want to go to any casinos or anything like that. By casinos, I don't mean like the MGM Grand or Mandalay Bay but like those Indian casinos - because that would diminish what we're trying to build with Mikey,” said the veteran promoter, who added, “I think he can be a huge attraction because he's such a nice kid. He has that police background and he's such a good fighter and he's completely bilingual. He's from a nice family. I think the upside is tremendous.”
It was in his last outing in which he won his title versus the rugged Orlando Salido.
Dunkin believes that was the start of the star-making process for his charge.
“I thought the Salido fight was the one that really broke him loose but this is another big-name, back-to-back. This is a huge fight for him and everything goes good and he wins, he's the best featherweight in the world and he already beat the number one guy, Salido. He comes back and beats ‘JuanMa,’ he's in great shape.”
Of course, some believe that longtime IBF titlist Chris John is the rightful champion in this division but it's doubtful Garcia will ever get to face him and a fight with WBC titlist Abner Mares is a non-starter of a discussion given the “Cold War” (Mares is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions).
So what lies ahead for Garcia, should he get past Lopez on Saturday night?
“He'll probably fight someone like [WBO junior lightweight titlist] Rocky Martinez at ‘30 and then I told Bob yesterday [Garcia] could hold both belts and then he could move back to '26 if there's a great opponent,” said Dunkin. “He can fight at ‘30 if there's a great opponent. Let him fight five times a year because that's what he wants to do.”
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