Unbeaten featherweight contender Miguel “Mikey” Garcia could have his hands full with the dangerous Bernabe Concepcion on the undercard of the Orlando Salido-Juan Manuel Lopez rematch Saturday night on Showtime.
Coming off his sixth straight knockout victory and 11th in his past 12 fights – a fourth-round stoppage of Juan Carlos Martinez in October – Mikey Garcia (27-0, 23 KOs) can earn a shot at the winner of Salido-Lopez II if he beats Concepcion (29-5-1, 15 KOs).
“This is a very, very important fight in Mikey’s career, you know, because after this fight, we’re looking at a fight for the title,” said trainer Robert Garcia, Mikey Garcia’s older brother and co-trainer. The younger Garcia works on a daily basis with their father, Eduardo Garcia. “There’s a lot to lose in this fight, and Mikey knows that, and he’s very, very well prepared.”
Concepcion is coming off a split-decision victory over Aaron Garcia in October that helped him to bounce back from a split-decision loss to Martinez in May.
But the fact that Martinez defeated Concepcion and then lost to Mikey Garcia does not matter, said Robert Garcia.
“Maybe against Martinez he was not well-prepared and took the fight lightly. You never know. Maybe the way that he is right now, he’s training and he’s in shape, and maybe this time around, he would beat Martinez,” he said.
“We’re going to be ready for the best Bernabe that we can think of. A lot of fighters learn from their losses, and a lot of fighters, when they get that last opportunity, he knows that this is it for him. We look for him to come out better than ever before.”
Mikey Garcia agrees.
“I’m looking at Bernabe Concepcion as the fighter that gave Lopez trouble and the one who comes in with the sole intent on winning,” said the fighter. “I saw that Martinez fight between Concepcion and Martinez, and I think that Concepcion was a little down on his confidence.”
Lopez (31-1, 28 KOs) lost his WBO belt following an eighth-round knockout loss to Salido (37-11-2, 25 KOs) in April of last year, but he is coming off a second-round stoppage victory over Mike Oliver in October.
Salido’s knockout of Lopez was his first of three straight. Fighting as a junior lightweight in his last bout, Salido rose from knockdowns in the third and fourth rounds before scoring an eighth-round stoppage of Weng Haya.
Lopez still was the titleholder in July of 2010 when he scored a second-round stoppage of Concepcion to end a fight in which each fighter went down in the first round and Concepcion was dropped twice in the second.
“Going into the Martinez fight, Concepcion may have lost his self-esteem a little due to the loss that he had just had with Lopez. And maybe he wasn’t in the best shape and took Juan Carlos a little lightly and ended up losing to him,” said Mikey Garcia.
“But I’m not looking at him like he’s the guy who lost to Martinez. I’m expecting him to come hungry and motivated. He was told about this fight in advance and had time to prepare. So that’s why I consider him such a dangerous opponent.”
KELLY PAVLIK TO FACE AARON JACO ON MARCH 31
Former undisputed middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik will face Aaron Jaco of Sarasota, Fla., on March 31 in San Antonio.
Pavlik (37-2, 32 KOs), who is 29, has been training in Oxnard, Calif., since mid-January under Robert Garcia, having split with career-long trainer Jack Loew and, leaving his native Youngstown, Ohio, to do so.
The 34-year-old Jaco (15-2, 5 KOs) has won two straight bouts after having suffered two consecutive knockout losses. Pavlik-Jaco will take place at a contracted weight of 170 pounds.
SEAN GIBBONS RECOVERING FROM POST-FIGHT BRAWL, RIB DAMAGE
Sean Gibbons, a member of Johnriel Casimero‘s corner, said he is recovering nicely after having suffered two broken ribs during last month’s post-fight riot that followed the 10th-round knockout by the Filipino over hometown favorite Luis Lazarte for the IBF junior flyweight title fight in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Gibbons told RingTV.com that he “was sucker-punched by one of Lazarte’s team” while he “was covering Johnriel from things being thrown and this coward came from my blind side and hit me as hard as he could in the rib cage, breaking two ribs.”
“After three weeks, I have just a slight discomfort in the certain ways that I move, but I’m finally turning the corner. I’ve got $1,000 [medical] bill from my X-rays and from the doctors for the treatment,” said Gibbons.
“But there’s not much that you can really do for a cracked rib. You just wrap them up or something or you tape it up and you sort of let them heal up.”
Midway through the sixth round, referee Eddie Claudio stopped the bout and penalized Lazarte for repeatedly hitting Casimero behind the head. At that point, while only inches away from Claudio’s face, Lazarte removed his mouthpiece, stared directly into the the official’s eyes and threatened his life.
During another point in the fight, Lazarte (49-11-2, 18 knockouts) can be seen biting Casimero (16-2, 10 KOs) on the right shoulder at least once.
As a result of his infraction against Casimero), the 40-year-old Lazarte has been banned for life from participating in any IBF-sanctioned events and suspended by Argentine Boxing Federation President Osvaldo Bisbal.
Lazarte’s actions helped to incite the post-fight riot during which Gibbons suffered his injuries. Casimero also suffered a concussion after fans began throwing bottles and chairs into the ring shortly after Claudio stopped the bout.
Casimero can be seen in this video, gloves still on, hiding from attackers amid other members of Team Casimero, and later being chased around the ring as fans climbed onto the ring apron and tossed more obstacles at the terrified fighter and his cornermen.
During the fracas, a man can be observed chasing and throwing punches at camp members and Casimero, who was hit with a chair as well as kicked, according to Gibbons in one report.
Claudio spirited Casimero away and actually hid him beneath the ring, even as Gibbons was hit by a chair and stomped by fans before he rolled out of the ring and was escorted to safety by security guards.
“Worse than the injuries was the fact that I was more shaken, mentally than physically,” said Gibbons. “Four or five days after, you know, you’re still second-guessing things in your mind. I felt guilty that I couldn’t help the guys more. There were a lot of weird feelings that followed.”
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank Inc.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com