Master of his own destiny: Mikey Garcia interview
As he prepared for his showdown with Adrien Broner, Mikey Garcia spoke to Mark Butcher about his spell out of the ring and why he is now self promoting...
Mikey Garcia is now calling the shots as well as throwing them.
The gifted WBC lightweight champion from Moreno Valley, California, was already a two-weight world title-holder when a protracted contract dispute with former promoter Top Rank placed his thriving career on pause in 2014.
Litigation, as is customary, was a slow and arduous process, but over two years later both parties reached agreement and Garcia was free to resume boxing on his own terms. After such a prolonged absence, the Mexican-American decided the best way to secure legacy defining fights and keep all avenues open was to be master of his own destiny and self-promote.
Garcia is now CEO of Mikey Garcia Promotions and not tied to a specific promoter where he might potentially miss out on lucrative fights, his previous contract wrangle making the fighter acutely aware of promotional freedom.
“At this stage of my career, I think it’s most important to be able to work with different promoters and promote myself. If I’m locked in with a certain promoter then I’m closing my options to other fights,” Garcia told Boxing Monthly over the phone from California after his early morning run. “I want options, I like the options. I like to be flexible with my career, guide my career. I think it’s working great for me. We’re working fight-by-fight with different promoters with [US TV network] Showtime backing me up. It really helps me secure the fights I’m getting.”
With his soaring career cast into limbo for so long Garcia could have been forgiven for losing faith but the fighter remained stoically calm during his break from the spotlight and always believed he would return to the zenith of world boxing. “I never doubted it,” Garcia insisted. “I knew my time would come and it was just a matter of being patient. I always stayed very hopeful and positive. It’s part of the business, part of the politics, but it didn’t phase me. I knew I’d come back. It actually helped me come back, more motivated, hungrier. Stronger than ever.
“I already knew that these things happen in boxing so it wasn’t anything new. It’s a business before anything else for these promoters and these managers. Some of these people who are involved in the sport – it’s only a business to them. This was just another reminder.”
The move to independence paid dividends. On his return, Garcia looked as if he’d never been away, sweeping aside former WBC 126lbs champion Elio Rojas in five rounds in July 2016 before obliterating WBC lightweight king Dejan Zlaticanin with a devastating third-round knockout in January to become a three-weight world champion at just 29 years old.
Given his enforced hiatus, the triumph over Zlaticanin was especially sweet for Garcia, having previously clinched WBO crowns at 126lbs and 130lbs with wins over respected multi-belt champions Orlando Salido (WTD8) and Roman Martinez (WKO8).
“It meant more because, after a two-and-a-half year lay-off, some people might have doubted that I was able to come back,” said Garcia. “It proved to everybody who doubted me that I’m back better than ever. It was a great feeling. It was a spectacular win and performance on my part. I was very happy with the fight.”
Next for Garcia is an intriguing 12-rounder up at 140lbs against boxing’s pantomime villain Adrien Broner on 29th July. Broner is a prominent name, fan friendly opponent and perfect for elevating Garcia’s profile. With unification fights at 135lbs not immediately forthcoming, Broner was the best option on the table.
“I think it will be a good chance for me to feel [out] the junior welterweight division against a strong fighter like Adrien Broner,” Garcia told BM. “I will go up a division and see how I feel. I still have plans of coming back down to lightweight and defending my title or having a unification fight. This will be a good fight for me at 140lbs before I make my final decision.
“Broner is very fast. He’s also very strong. [Marcos] ‘Chino’ Maidana told us that Broner does have power. He doesn’t [just focus] on defensive moves. You can see that he carries power. He’s a four-division world champion for a reason. I hope he’s at his full A-game so we have a good, competitive fight. I don’t want to beat an over-the-hill Adrien Broner, I want to beat the best Adrien Broner possible.”
Skeptics doubt Broner will stay true to the contracted 140lbs limit and instead fudge the weight as he did in his previous engagement against Adrian Granados (who still took the fight rather than lose the payday). It is understood there are financial penalties in place if Broner fails weight again. “We will have to wait and see what the options are if that were to happen,” said Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs). “We would have to consider the pros and cons and see if it’s worth [taking the fight] or not. That is something we will discuss if that event were to happen.”
No stranger to controversy, Broner made derogatory comments about Mexican fighters after outpointing Carlos Molina in May 2014, but Garcia, whose father Eduardo emigrated from Mexico and worked long, backbreaking hours as a strawberry picker, stressed there is no additional edge to this fight.
“Whatever Adrien said or has said in the past, it’s just a bit of arrogance and uneducated in that sense but it helps for promotion, it helps for publicity,” said Garcia. “He loves the attention, whether it is good or bad, so he makes comments like that, but it doesn’t bother or affect me. I believe that I’m a good person in and out of the ring. Coming from Mexican roots that makes me Mexican, but being born and raised here in the States makes me a Mexican-American. I’m going in the ring as I always do to just win my fight. I’m not going to let race, comments or any issues like that affect my performance.”
Unification at 135lbs remains a high motivation for WBC title-holder Garcia with Manchester’s WBO champion Terry Flanagan someone the Californian holds in high regard. “He’s an accomplished world champion, five title defences, undefeated and has really looked great in his last few fights,” Garcia told BM. “I’d really like a unification match with Terry Flanagan and, if we can get that after this Broner fight, that would be wonderful. I think it would a huge fight. Especially right now - the UK has a lot of big names, big fights and success in recent years. I know the fan base is huge out there. That would be a big fight for the boxing community in general.“
Jorge Linares has been in scintillating form of late and Garcia seems to view the skillful Venezuelan as his main rival at 135lbs. “Linares is the WBA champion and holds a portion of the WBC title [‘Diamond belt’]. That does make him a strong, strong champion of the division. Possibly to be considered the top guy. Again, that would a huge fight. I’d really, really love to take part [in that fight]. If we can hold a unification at the foot end of the year – either Linares or Flanagan - I would be very happy with that opportunity.”
Garcia is also aware of WBC No.1 contender Luke Campbell, the London 2012 Olympic gold medallist whose long-awaited world title shot seems likely this year. “I’ve already seen a little bit of him. He definitely deserves an opportunity at the title,” said Garcia of Campbell. “I remember when I was No.1 contender and I was waiting for my title shot. Sometimes it’s frustrating when you don’t get those opportunities. I would definitely give him the opportunity but if I have a chance to unify the titles first with one of these other champions like Flanagan or Linares that interests me before Luke Campbell. [IBF champion] Robert Easter Jr has got his schedule with his title defence coming up [against Denis Shafikov as this issue went to press] and we can always try to get these unifications matches after, but everybody has their obligations.”
British boxing is enjoying a welcome renaissance as illustrated by the 90,000 crowd for the epic Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko contest in April and highlighted by recent appearances from American stars Gervonta Davis and Errol Spence Jr. Garcia would happily fight in the UK if the right financial considerations are made. “Most definitely. If it’s a fair deal, I’m willing to go out there and show the UK people what I have to offer,” he said. “Just make me a fair deal and we can get this thing going.”
A permanent move to 140lbs could present a tantalising fight with old amateur rival Terence Crawford, the division’s reigning WBO and WBC champion and, like Garcia, widely regarded as one of the premier fighters in boxing. Yet Crawford’s affiliation with Garcia’s former promoter Top Rank might just jinx that potential super-fight.
“It would be a very good fight for our careers and also the fans. That could possibly be a huge Pay-Per-View show,” Garcia told BM. “You know that the relationship with Top Rank was not the greatest with me. And with Crawford also working with [rival TV network] HBO that might interfere in the negotiations so we have got to be realistic. It would be great fight. I hope we can have that fight in the near future, but realistically there are a few things that might get in the way of this deal.”
Now at the peak of his powers, the classy Garcia paid special tribute to father/trainer Eduardo Garcia who has been a guiding light in the Californian’s career success as a three-weight world champion. “He’s the one who started it all with me. He taught me everything I know,” said the WBC champion, who is co-trained by older brother and former IBF 130lbs title-holder Robert Garcia. “He always pushed me to make sure I do all my training. That I focus on my fight. He’s still at the gym every day with me. Just overlooking training camp. He still works out with me, a few rounds with the mitts – that kind of thing. He’s played a big, big role in my development as a fighter.”
During Garcia’s youth in Oxnard, California, boxing was more of a leisure pursuit and he never entertained thoughts of emulating his brother as a world champion. “I never had that dream as a kid that I would be a fighter. I never had that desire,” admitted Garcia. “I never saw myself as a world champion. It was something that in my teenage years I started as a pastime, as a hobby. Just go to the gym and get some amateur experience, just to do something after school and now I’m here, but it was never something I dreamed about.”
The spur for Garcia is a lasting legacy in the sport he has made his own as well as the all-important, financial wellbeing for his family, though the appreciation of the fans remains paramount. “I want to ensure the fans remember me as a great fighter, as a good champion,” Garcia told BM. “The love and support that the fans give me I really cherish the most - after that comes the financial security, giving my family stability and a good future. The fans are what really motivate me first. It’s because of the fans, the way they support and the way they treat me, that makes me feel worthy to be called world champion.”