On Saturday night, from his training facility in Riverside, Calif., RING and WBO featherweight champion Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia will be watching as former featherweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa rises into the lightweight division for an HBO-televised bout with Darley Perez in Montreal.
At one point, Gamboa (22-0, 16 knockouts), a 31-year-old 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist, was the most desired opponent for Garcia (31-0, 26 KOs), particulary after Gamboa scored a unanimous decision over junior lightweight Michael Farenas in December.
“Like I tell everybody, if it was up to me, I would go after Yuriorkis Gamboa,” said Garcia, who is trained by his brother Robert Garcia, and their father, Eduardo Garcia. “He’s undefeated and he vacated the title in our featherweight division, so I would love to go after him.”
But with Gamboa’s move into the 135-pound ranks to face Perez (28-0, 19 KOs), Garcia’s enthusiasm for the matchup has cooled.
“I’ll definitely be watching, but now, at this point, he’s not as interesting an opponent as he was a few months ago. Since then, he’s fighting at 135 now, and his people are really steering him in a different direction. I understand the business and the politics of boxing,” said Garcia.
“Now, it looks like I’ll be fighting different guys and doing other things, and so I don’t feel the need to fight him. Not as much as I once wanted to. I think that I can prove just as much fighting other guys than fighting Gamboa. So I’ll be watching, but it’s maybe not as enticing anymore.”
Instead, Garcia will meet former titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez (33-2, 30 KOs) of Puerto Rico at American Airlines Center in Dallas on June 15.
In his last fight, Garcia dominated Orlando Salido on the way to an eighth-round unanimous technical decision, scoring two knockdowns in the first round and two more in the third and fourth rounds of a bout that took place at New York’s Madision Square Garden.
The Salido fight ended prematurely due to a head butt that broke Garcia’s nose, for which he underwent corrective nasal surgery in February.
“Before fighting Orlando Salido, and now Lopez, the names that stood out for me as opponents were the names like Gamboa and these guys Salido and Lopez,” said Garcia, whose victory over Salido ended the rugged Mexican’s streak of five consecutive stoppage wins, two of which were against Lopez in Puerto Rico.
“These were the guys there in the division at the time that I wanted to fight. Now, Gamboa has been kind of not as big anymore. He hasn’t been fighting as frequently, and the guys that he’s been fighting haven’t been guys who have big names behind them either. It just doesn’t seem as interesting anymore.”
If Garcia is successful against Lopez, he would then look to make a defense or a unification fight, or rise into the junior lightweight division for a potential clash with WBO titleholder Roman “Rocky” Martinez (27-1-2, 16 KOs) of Puerto Rico.
“Before I became the world champion, I wanted the biggest names in the game to show everybody what type of fighter I was, and at the time, that was Yuriorkis Gamboa. Gamboa has now left the division, so that left Lopez and Salido. We were trying to get the winner of the Lopez-Salido fight, and Lopez lost, so we went after Salido, the biggst name possible. Now, the options are Lopez, who still is here, and that’s something that myself, Top Rank and HBO wanted to put together. He’s still a big name, so we went after him,” said Garcia.
“After Lopez, if everything goes well, we’ll just have to see what’s available. They’re talking about maybe wanting me to maybe go up to 130 and to fight someone there, maybe and very possibly Rocky Martinez for the WBO junior lightweight title. I may do that, so that’s an option. But I also might want to keep my featherweight title and make some defenses. I really don’t want to vacate the title. If the networks are okay with that, and the organizations and the promoters are okay with that, then those are the things that I want to do.”
Photo by Chis Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org