Spence vs Garcia: 'Magic Mikey' - Mikey Garcia interview

Paul Zanon
12/03/2019 9:31pm

Photo: Abbie Parr/Getty Images

No one doubts that Mikey Garcia is one of the game’s elite fighters - and the four-weight champion tells Paul Zanon he expects his clash with Errol Spence Jr to make him pound-for-pound number one...

'The day will come soon, when the Boxing world will agree with me that Mikey Garcia is pound for pound the best fighter today.' - George Foreman

Those words of praise for Mikey Garcia from the former heavyweight champion, on Twitter last July, haven’t yet proved to be prophetic. Perhaps they will, though, if Garcia defeats welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr on 16 March.

The lightweight champion, who walks around at about 152lbs, faces his stiffest test when he meets Spence in a clash of unbeaten champions at the AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, but he relishes the challenge.

“It’s a fight that I wanted, a fight that I asked for,” Garcia told Boxing Monthly, “and I talked to the right people [to make it happen]. He [Spence] is interested in a big fight and he wants to have a big name on his résumé, which also motivates me because I want another title in another weight class, a fifth division. I was happy that he was able to accept the challenge.

“I do consider this to be the biggest challenge and the biggest fight of my career. Moving up to a fifth division is no easy task. It’s not easy at all. We need to work on a few things. We have to make some adjustments to deal with the height, the reach, the southpaw stance and most importantly the weight advantage on fight night that he will have over me. But I think I have the skills to overcome that.”

Despite obvious disadvantages, the 31-year-old is confident. “I think this is a dangerous fight for Spence because he hasn’t fought anybody with my calibre, I don’t think,” Garcia said. “He’s fought some good champions, some good fighters, but no one in my league. A loss against me might look bad early on, losing to a lightweight, but the reality is he’ll be losing to the best fighter in the world. The best fighter, pound for pound.

“As I said, the height, weight and reach advantages will all be in his favour but I have those skills, that experience, the speed, the agility, the reflexes, the defence to overcome all that.”

There were other potentially lucrative and enticing match-ups, but Spence was always Garcia’s number one target. “Errol Spence Jr is the one I wanted and I’m glad that’s happening,” Garcia said. “Aside from that, you have [Terence] Crawford and [Vasiliy] Lomachenko. I’d love to fight either one of them. But if the business side of things doesn’t add up, we’ve got to be realistic. I’m not going to be calling or chasing anybody, either, but if the right financial deal was presented I’d definitely be willing to step up into the ring with any of those guys.

“I know there’s a lot of boxing in the UK and you guys have some great fighters. I’m willing to make the trip over there. I’ve got a lot of support from fans in the UK and that would be a terrific opportunity for me to go out there and jump into the UK market and fight one of your guys and put on a terrific show.”

Josh Taylor, Britain’s top 140lbs fighter, opted to fight in the World Boxing Super Series, a tournament that Garcia respects. However, the resident of Moreno Valley, California, said he preferred to follow his own schedule. “I’ll wait and see who comes out victorious, who comes out with a big win from that tournament, and then we can face that name, whoever and wherever that may be,” he said.

Most would agree there’s a good case for ranking Miguel Angel aka 'Mikey' Garcia highly among the world’s best fighters. A champion in the featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight and super lightweight divisions, Garcia added the IBF 135lbs title to his WBC championship with a clear points win over the much taller Robert Easter Jr last July.

“The height and reach advantages [of Easter] were very challenging,” Garcia said. “That was something we needed to overcome in the fight and that was something we had worked on in the gym. But it’s never the same until you’re in the ring. We had to make some adjustments on the night, we had to make sure we fought the right distance, the right range, but once I got comfortable and found both those things, I was able to take over and dominate the fight.”

The proud Mexican-American and fluent Spanish speaker is currently 39-0, yet not so long ago his immediate future in boxing hung in the balance. Following a successful first defence of the WBO junior lightweight title against Juan Carlos Burgos in January 2014, Garcia entered a legal battle with his then promoter, Top Rank, which forced the affable Garcia into an exile of sorts at the height of his career. “Things with my former promoter were not working out,” Garcia said. “There was a dispute regarding the contract and we were not able to work together.”

The lawsuit took two and a half years to resolve and Garcia subsequently decided not to tie himself down with any one promoter. “I now manage my own promotion and negotiations, along with [advisors] Richard Schaeffer, Al Haymon and [president of Showtime Sports] Stephen Espinoza,” Garcia said. “We developed business relationships, which are working well for me, and now I’m really enjoying what I’m doing.

“I remained focused and wanted to continue my career and kept going to the gym. I stayed active, stayed in shape and was working out a lot with the fighters at my brother’s [Robert Garcia] academy. That helped me stay sharp, even though I was not fighting and had no fights lined up. I knew when I came back, whenever that would be, I would be in as good shape as I was before. In fact, I actually turned out to be better. When I did come back, I was hungrier and more motivated as the fire was reignited inside me. I wanted to regain the momentum I’d previously had.”

His return probably surpassed many expectations, with a fifth-round stoppage of former WBC featherweight champion Elio Rojas in July 2016 launching Garcia’s comeback after a 30-month layoff.

“It was very nice to finally get back in the ring,” Garcia said. “We wanted to get in there with a good name, somebody who could test me a little bit and show that I’m back and ready to fight anybody. Elio Rojas was that person.

“The fight was done at 140lbs, but I felt comfortable. I came in about 138lbs and we had a good fight. He was boxing well early on in the first two rounds but I was able to hurt him and put him down. After that, I just wanted title fights.”

And that’s exactly what Garcia got. Six months later, he dethroned Montenegro’s WBC lightweight champion, Dejan Zlaticanin, in three rounds to become a three-weight world champion.

“That was a fight I was very excited for,” Garcia said. “He was the undefeated lightweight champion, so a lot of people thought he was a big threat for me. I wanted to prove that I’m better than anybody and I’m back and that’s why I took that fight.

“It was perfect. I felt very, very comfortable. I felt very strong. I had a great plan with my dad and my brother in the gym and I was able to execute it perfectly. That knockout, that combination, is something that we practised in the gym a lot and that’s why, when the opportunity presented itself, I took full advantage and was able to knock him out and win another title.”

A move up to 140lbs to defeat Adrien Broner via a unanimous 12-round decision for the vacant WBC Diamond super lightweight title provided further confirmation of Garcia’s fighting prowess. “I was confident of my abilities as a fighter, as a boxer and of my skills,” he said. “Fighting Broner, I knew he was going to be a strong guy on fight night, but also very difficult because he’s very experienced and has great skills, speed and power.

“However, I believed I was the better fighter. Moving up to 140lbs, I showed that I had a greater display of boxing skills that night and came out with the win.”

Garcia secured the next stage of his legacy by comprehensively beating undefeated Russian Sergey Lipinets for his IBF junior welterweight title last March. But realistically, how far does Garcia think he can go in terms of class and weight?

“When I took the fight with Lipinets, I believed my skills were that much more superior,” Garcia said. “That’s why I took that fight. I know that fighting guys in a higher weight class presents different challenges, especially the size and the weight advantages they have. On fight night, they’re easily 10-12lbs more than I am. But I’m OK with that because I have confidence in my abilities.

“There’s still a lot more you haven’t seen and that’s just because my opponents haven’t pushed me to that limit yet. Wait for the right opponent to challenge me enough in the ring and you’re gonna see a whole new dimension to Mikey Garcia.” Perhaps that new dimension will be unveiled against Errol Spence Jr.