“I’m not just waiting for the mistake, but I will take advantage of every mistake that he makes. I’ll invite him to throw punches so that I can take advantage. That’s what I’m good at. He could definitely leave me opportunities to counter his punches. It could leave him open or susceptible to a big hook or a big right hand. He’s been down several times in his career.
“But he gets right back up and has the same determination. He doesn’t stay down. I’m not figuring it’s going to be an easy night. I’ve trained to go the full 12 rounds. I know that he will get up if he goes down, and that he’ll keep on fighting like nothing happened,” Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia, two days prior to Saturday’s eighth-round technical decision victory over Orlando Salido that earned him the WBO featherweight belt as well as The RING championsip.
NEW YORK — Unbeaten featherweight contender Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia’s was prophetic in his pre-fight assessment of how he thought Saturday night’s bout would transpire against WBO beltholder Orlando Salido, whom he dethroned by eighth-round unanimous technical decision in The Theatre at Madison Square Garden on HBO.
Garcia (31-0, 26 knockouts), who also became THE RING’s 126-pound champion, made his most career-defining victory look easy with a classic-bull-versus-matador approach, scoring two knockdowns in the first round and flooring Salido again once each in both the third and fourth.
Appearing to use his jab as a probe to guide Salido into shots, Garcia dropped Salido (39-12-2, 27 KOs) twice in the first round — both times with left hooks.
Salido’s gloves touched in the third as the result of a beautifully placed right uppercut, and the Mexican was down, yet again, in the fourth from yet another well-timed left hook. The first was to the temple at the 1:35 mark, and the second, on the nose with 10 seconds left.
The only thing that Garcia did not predict was the accidental clash of heads which led to the 25-year-old Oxnard, Calif., resident’s broken nose and the fight’s anti-climactic conclusion.
Dr. Robert Polfsky examined Garcia’s nose prior to the ninth and determined that he could not continue.
“At the very last second of that last round, he came in just looking for an overhand right or something, and his head just happened to land right on my nose. You can see my reaction, the head-butt was right there, so the doctor took a look,” said Garcia, who led 79-70 on the card of judge Don Ackerman, and, 79-69 on those of Julie Lederman and John Stewart. RingTV.com had it, 80-68, for Garcia.
“The referee saw my nose, and he called the doctor in right away. The doctor came in and confirmed that it was broken and stopped the fight. I didn’t know that it was broken until I saw the camera replay. The clash of heads was painful, and it was hard for me to breathe. It’s unfortunate that things like this happen, but it’s not his fault. That’s what I told him. I told him that just like he gave me the opportunity, that I would give him the opportunity for a rematch. If it’s in his interest, we can do a rematch.”
In August, Garcia had used a sensational left hook to score his eighth consecutive stoppage victory over Argentina’s rugged former titleholder Jonathan Victor Barros (34-4-1, 18 KOs), an eighth-round knockout representing not only the first time Barros was stopped in his career, but also, Garcia’s 14th win by knockout in the previous 15 fights.
“I definitely felt like my speed was the factor going into the fight with Salido. I had better hand-speed and better footwork, better accuracy. I had all of the stuff needed to win, and I was winning the entire fight, clearly every single round. I was executing perfectly. I didn’t rush things,” said Garcia.
“I just showed everybody what I had, and I told everybody that I would show all of my skills in this fight and how good that I could really be against a guy like Salido, who was really going to test me and who was really going to be there to allow me to do that. Other fighters haven’t done everything like they’re supposed to. They allow me to work more comfortably, where Salido made me do a little more and that allowed me to show more, too.”
Garcia’s performance was executed before a packed house of nearly 5,000 fans, not to mention some 43 of his family members who made the trek from the West Coast to see him fight, according to his brother Robert Garcia, who trains Mikey with their father, Eduardo Garcia.
“The punches that Mikey landed and hurt him with are the punches that we practiced. The movement that he used, that was all done in the gym. He was doing everything perfectly,” said Robert Garcia.
“We were just reminding him that he had to keep focused. The was asking for more, and we just told him, ‘don’t listen to the crowd, keep your cool. Our game plan is to control the fight the way that you’re doing it,’ and it was just a matter of time.”
A fighter whose favorite boxer is Floyd Mayweather Jr., Garcia mostly eschews what he calls the traditional Mexican “brawler” or “close quarters” style for a more cerebral Mayweather-like approach which employs his defensive skills, power and range.
“I told everybody that this was just another fight for me. I wasn’t worried about what was at stake, or what kind of fighter I am. I knew that the kind of fighter he is, our game plan would allow us to execute just the way that we did, and it worked out perfectly and at 100 percent, and that’s why it looked so easy,” said Garcia.
“There were some instances where I hurt him and he didn’t go down, and I applied a little more risk in there, but he’s a dangerous fighter, even when he’s hurt, so I had to step back and re-assess the situations and re-focus on the game plan. So we didn’t want to get over-excited and go for a knockout to please everybody else and end up getting caught with something dumb or give him an opportunity.”
For example, when Salido threatened to build momentum in the fifth, Garcia clinched before buckling him yet again with a right uppercut. From there, the majority of the blows Salido landed were whacking mostly on Garcia’s elbows and shoulders.
“Salido may have felt like he was getting back into the fight, but I wasn’t getting any damage on me. Look at his face and look at my face. Most of his punches he landed were either grazing or on my arms. I was taking them pretty well,” said Garcia.
“I wasn’t stunned or hurt at any given moment. If he’s coming on, trying not to give me the time to work in there, then I will have to work a little faster and I am prepared for that. But I’m always reading and studying my opponent and I’m thinking a lot during the fight. Sometimes it only takes one round to figure him out; other times, only 30 seconds into the round.”
Garcia graduated in January of 2010 from The Ventura County Police and Sheriff’s Reserve Academy, where he learned to read the action’s of potential criminals, among other things.
“I had an application with the Sheriff’s department. It was a six-month thing that we did. It was hard times, sharing boxing and the police academy at the same time. A lot of work. A lot of it was classwork, but we also did some physical training,” said Garcia.
“There were a lot of commands, learning the procedures on how to arrest. You learn a lot. How to search buildings, cars, people, and the many ways to arrest somebody. But I put that aside to focus on boxing. I’m not really a cop, and I’m not saying that I’m a cop, because I’m not working as one. I’m just being a boxer. That’s what I am.”
But the similarities between reading potential criminals and rivals can not be underplayed, said Garcia.
“So in my case, the same way you read the suspect, you read the opponents. That helped me. I’m very good at that. You see a person, and you read their eyes, and you read their body language. If they’re jumpy and they’re jittery and they’re looking around like a suspicious person,” said Garcia.
“Are they nervous in the way that they speak and how they’re standing? Are they guarded? You’ve got to pay attention to the little details like that. In boxing, I can read similar things in my opponents. I study my opponents. I’m looking and paying attention to the little details. It helps me to relate to the situations in both worlds.”
Salido had scored five straight knockouts since, including two in the eighth- and 10th-rounds over ex-beltholder, Juan Manuel Lopez, since falling by unanimous decision to former featherweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa (22-0, 16 KOs) September of 2010.
On Saturday, Garcia called out Gamboa, who is being considered for a March 16 clash with WBO welterweight beltholder Tim Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs).
Gamboa rose from a ninth-round knockdown after scoring one each in the second and seventh of a Dec. 8 unanimous decision for the WBA’s interim junior lightweight belt over game southpaw Filipino Michael Farenas (34-4-4, 26 KOs) on the undercard of a sixth-round knockout victory by Juan Manuel Marquez over welterweight rival Manny Pacquiao.
“I think over the eight or nine rounds, my qualities and my abilities. They saw the fighter that I am. The ending probably does take away a little bit from the feeling and the happiness that I would have experienced had the fight gone all 12 rounds or had I stopped him, but everybody got to see, in those rounds, the kind of fighter that I am,” said Garcia.
“I said before the fight that I would be willing to unify the titles, but I’m also willing to give him a title fight rematch if he wants that, but I also opened up an invitation to Gamboa if he wants to come down. I always thought that I was the best fighter at featherweight, and he thought he was the best, but I never got the opportunity to face him, so I’m willing to give him a title shot.”
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org