LAS VEGAS — RingTV.com caught up to unbeaten featherweight contender Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia in advance of what could be a career-defining fight against Mexican WBO beltholder Orlando Salido on Jan. 19 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
An Oxnard, Calif., resident who turned 25 on Dec. 15, Garcia (30-0, 26 knockouts) is slated to face Salido (39-11-2, 27 KOs) in an HBO-televised main event whose undercard will feature a defense by Kazakhstan-born WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin against Gabriel Rosado.
Salido will represent the toughest task yet for Garcia, having stopped his past five opponents, including knockouts of southpaw ex-titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez in the eighth and 10th rounds in April of last year and March, respectively.
Last month, Garcia scored his eighth consecutive stoppage victory over Argentina’s rugged former titleholder Jonathan Victor Barros (34-4-1, 18 KOs) in the eighth round of an HBO-televised bout.
Barros was knocked out for the first time in his career after having lost his previous fight by unanimous decision to IBF junior lightweight titleholder Juan Carlos Salgado (26-1-1, 16 KOs) in August.
In addition, Barros had split route-going bouts with former beltholder Celestino Caballero and gone the distance with unbeaten former featherweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa, a Cuban Olympic gold medalist.
But Garcia had endured a period of frustration during which potential high-profile bouts with Caballero, Salido, Lopez and even IBF beltholder Billy Dib failed to materialize.
The Barros fight, for example, happened after Salido suffered an injury to an index finger that forced the postponement of his defense against Garcia that was slated for Nov. 10.
Garcia shared his thoughts on his big opportunity against Salido while also expressing confidence as he enters the fight.
RingTV.com: What did you learn in your last fight?
Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia: I think that what was really there was that I can control the pace of a fight and do what best suits me.
So we were going into that fight with a plan of being extra careful, not letting Barros into the fight at all, and that’s what we did.
We dictated the pace of the fight and did what suited me the best, and the punch landed, which hurt him, and that showed that I definitely carried power.
But I also demonstrated that I could control the pace of a fight and take advantage of the best opportunities when they present themselves. That’s what I did in that last fight.
RingTV.com: What are your thoughts on being in the main event at Madison Square Garden?
MG: This is going to be more exciting. The spot light is on us. This time around, it’s going to be on me and Salido. But inside of the ring, it’s just going to be me and my opponent.
I’m focused on my fight, and that’s what I do. That’s how I’ve treated every fight, and that’s what I’m expecting to do this time.
RingTV.com: Is the opportunity of your lifetime?
MG: Well, I’ve been looking for a title fight, and other fights had been falling through and not happening. But this is the man to beat in my division.
This is not just a title fight, but it’s the fight against the man who is the top dog in my division, and the man to beat in my division.
If I could have picked up a vacant title at this point or if I had picked up another belt in the division, I wouldn’t be recognized as the best. But that’s what I’ll be recognized as after taking on and beating Salido.
So we figured what better way to land in the top spot than to take out the best guy in the division. That’s why we took this fight, and we’re excited that this is happening and that it’s finally here.
RingTV.com: How do you see your style meshing with that of Salido?
MG: I’m just going to be ready for whatever he brings in, and I’m going to be able to rise above it. If he comes forward, then I’m going to be ready for that.
If he decides to stay on the outside a little bit, then I’m going to be able to put on a little bit of pressure and do that. I’m going to be ready to do whatever it takes for me to do to win.
MG: No, not extra pressure. I just know that Salido is the champion to beat. There is a lot of hope and future plans for me and there are big expectations on my part.
Everybody believes in me, and they’re expecting great things from me, and I’ve got to do my thing in the ring to show them and to live up to them. I have to do it.
I’m not considering that to be pressure, but I know that it’s out there. But I’m confident in myself, and I’m confident in my abilities. So I think that I’ll do just fine.
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com