In boxing circles 2011 is shaping up as the Year of the Garcia. One Garcia having a breakout year wouldn't warrant such a bold proclamation. But if two Garcias both explode to the next level-especially with a third one playing a supporting role-then it's fair to suggest this 12-month pugilistic period belongs to them.
In the late 1990s, Robert Garcia was a junior lightweight titleholder who entertained audiences with a mix of skill, punching power, and plenty of heart while campaigning under the unusual nickname "Grandpa." Now, he is one of boxing's premier trainers. In February, Garcia coached bantamweight star Nonito Donaire to a spectacular second-round knockout of Fernando Montiel. In March, he led lightweight Brandon Rios to a stirring come-from-behind KO of Miguel Acosta. Though it's only March, those two victories have made Garcia the favorite for the 2011 Trainer of the Year award. And Grandpa also works with Antonio Margarito, prospects Alfonso Blanco and Francisco Contreras, and his kid brother, Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia.
Mikey is the baby of the Garcia family, the last of seven kids, four girls and three boys. His two brothers, Robert and Daniel, were both professional fighters under the tutelage of their father, Eduardo. At 23, Mikey has both Robert and Eduardo in his corner and has risen to the cusp of contender status in the featherweight division with a record of 24-0, including 20 KOs. This Saturday, he'll make his HBO debut when he opens a 'Boxing After Dark' telecast against fellow unbeaten Matt Remillard, hoping to position himself for bigger things and to keep the Year of the Garcia on track.
"I know Robert is having a good year so far," Mikey said, "but there's no pressure on me to live up to that. I'm in the right hands and I'm at the right moment to do my thing. Last year was a good developmental year for me in my career to get to where I am now. And 2011 is the year where hopefully we get the title shot and the bigger fights. Everybody's got their moment to shine, Robert is having his, and I think this is mine."
Robert isn't surprised in the least that 2011 is shaping up the way it is, either for him or his brother.
"I had told some people, 'This is going to be my year.' I felt this would be the year that would show the world what we're about. With the kind of fighters that I have, guys like Nonito Donaire and Brandon Rios, I knew it was coming.
Just from watching boxing all the time, watching his brothers spar, his nephews boxing, he knew how to box, he knew how to fight. So from his first time inside the ring, he looked like an experienced fighter. It was just, I guess, in his blood.
"And in terms of Mikey, my brother's got the skills. After this fight, I think we're ready for any champion out there. I'm not saying we're pushing for an immediate fight with Yuriorkis Gamboa or Juan Manuel Lopez, but if they're available, I think Mikey is ready to compete with any of those guys."
If that's true, it's a long way from where Mikey was a decade ago. Even though he was born into a boxing family, believe it or not, 10 years ago, Mikey had never seriously stepped into the ring. He was all set to be the un-Garcia-like Garcia, the one who didn't box. Then one day, when he was 13 years old, the kid who used to cry when his dad asked him to spar, who would get spanked by his father in the gym for refusing to enter the family business, suddenly changed his mind.
The whole family attended an amateur exhibition tournament, and one fighter on the card, who happened to be roughly Mikey's age and weight, needed an opponent.
"So Mikey said, 'I'll do it,'" Robert recalled. "We're like, 'What do you mean you'll do it, Mike? You don't even train.' And he's like, 'Let me give it a try, I want to try.' So he went in there and had that exhibition and did pretty good. Just from watching boxing all the time, watching his brothers spar, his nephews boxing, he knew how to box, he knew how to fight. So from his first time inside the ring, he looked like an experienced fighter. It was just, I guess, in his blood."
"It's funny, I hadn't really thought about boxing when I was a kid," Mikey added. "Then that day, that exhibition, I got in the ring and I felt comfortable doing it without any training. I had the natural ability to move and box a little, and after that, my dad got more and more involved with teaching me, and I thought, This is something I want to do."
Robert's career was wrapping up around that time-he retired in 2001 with a record of 34-3 with 25 KOs-so Mikey grabbed the baton. Mikey is the only thing keeping Papa Eduardo directly involved the sport, as the Garcia patriarch is retired other than assisting in his youngest boy's corner.
The hope is that Mikey will keep the old man involved in boxing a while longer. The young featherweight does have fall-back options-he completed his associate's degree from Oxnard College and has the credits to transfer to a four-year university-but that's all on hold assuming his boxing career continues to take off.
Matt Remillard's goal is to get the college boy cracking open the textbooks again. And Mikey does indeed view the bodypunching 24-year-old Connecticut native as a dangerous opponent, if for no other reason than the zero on the end of his record.
"This guy is undefeated, he wants to win," Mikey said. "He doesn't know what defeat is like. I've never lost either, and I don't want to have a loss before getting the opportunity to fight for a world title. We're both standing in each other's way."
Indeed they are. But Mikey Garcia only stands in the way of one man's glory. Matt Remillard stands in the way of a whole family's glory. The Year of Garcia hangs in the balance.
Posted 12:00 AM | Mar 24, 2011
HBO BAD - March 26, 2011
Remillard vs. Garcia