Mikey Garcia’s eighth-round knockout of Roman “Rocky” Martinez represented his 10th stoppage victory over the course of his past 11 fights. The soon-to-be 26-year-old Oxnard, Calif. native won the WBO 130-pound title with the victory in his junior lightweight debut last Saturday.
It was the second major title in a second weight class for Garcia, who earned THE RING and WBO featherweight titles in January by beating Orlando Salido, who he dropped four times en route to an eight-round technical decision. He followed that victory up with a fourth-round knockout of ex-beltholder Juan Manuel Lopez in June.
Garcia (33-0, 28 knockouts) could next be in line for a bout with Juan Carlos Burgos, who battled Martinez to a split-draw on the Garcia-Salido card.
But Garcia is willing to rise into the 135-pound weight divisions, particularly if it means a bout with former Cuban Olympic gold medalist Yuriorkis Gamboa (23-0, 16 KOs).
Garcia, who might fight Burgos March or April, recently shared his thoughts on his career with RingTV.com.
RingTV.com: How did you remain so calm following the knockdown against Martinez (Garcia was dropped in the second round)?
Mikey Garcia: The punch didn’t hurt, he just landed a good punch, and I went down. Maybe because I wasn’t hurt, I was able to remain calm, emotionally, and stay controlled and focused.
I was aware of everything. So that allowed me to stay with my game plan. But he didn’t hurt me. I was expecting to throw a good punch, but I wasn’t expecting his. I was throwing a one-two and he caught me with his right hand and put me down.
RingTV.com: What was your assessment of Martinez’s strategy?
MG: Actually, I thought that he would be more aggressive and that he would be coming forward more and throwing more punches. He wasn’t really doing that. He kind of wanted to box a little bit more and maybe (be) safer and more defensive.
I was ready for what he did, but I wasn’t expecting him to do that just yet that early in the fight. He started to pick up the pace in the fourth, fifth round. He started to be a little more aggressive and adding more pressure.
But he wasn’t pressuring me like I had seen him do in the past. So I went to my Plan B, and I started to be the aggressor and trying to find the home for my right hand and that was what we were able to do for the remainder of the night.
RingTV.com: Did you ever envision a knockout?
MG: I didn’t really set out thinking that I would stop him with a body punch. I knew that he could take a good shot upstairs, and that he hadn’t been stopped or hurt. But that wasn’t something that I had planned out, to hurt him to the body.
One of the things, though, from the corner with my brother (trainer Robert Garcia), is that we saw that he was absorbing a really good right hand and that he wasn’t going down. So my brother said, “Go to the body.”
We said that we would see how that goes. So I was able to land a good body shot and that put him down, and he wasn’t able to recover.
RingTV.com: Did you listen to your corner more in this fight than others due to the adversity?
MG: Well, I always try to listen to them. I try to listen to whatever they tell me, but most of the time, we agree on the same things.
There have been only a couple of times where they were telling me to pick up the pace, and I’m thinking, “I’m going to wait another round or two to do it” when they’ve asked me.
But regarding throwing punches and my steps and footwork and things like that, I always agree with them. We practice all of this in the gym.
A lot of times, they address me to jab, step back and throw the right hand, and when you get out there, sometimes you want to dig to the body when he’s protecting his head. So that one time, the opportunity was there for me to go to the body, and so I went to the body and was able to put him down.
RingTV.com: Was this a signature fight that should make you a star?
MG: I do think that people can start to believe that I am a real fighter, not just a paper champion. After seeing my last performances, fight after fight after fight, I’m getting the job done, and I’m getting it done well.
I’m stepping up in class pretty much every single time, and I’ve still been able to do my job. So it should be one of those fights where people start to recognize that I’m good and to recognize my abilities.
But it’s just another fight. I’m not going to stop and think that this is the one that’s going to make me a star. I’ve got to keep on doing the same.
RingTV.com: Would you consider a fight with Burgos to be a lateral move as opposed to one against Gamboa?
MG: It’s really not up to me as far as what the next fight is or whatever. I’m never really looking (for) particular fighters. I would just leave that up to my manager and my promoter to say who they want to put me in against.
If they want me to defend my title first, then I’ll defend my title. If they want to put me in a fight against Gamboa or another champion that’s more interesting or something, then, we can also do that.
RingTV.com: Weren’t you more outspoken in the past about pursuing Gamboa?
MG: I just think that if Gamboa is ready to fight, and that if we can get a fight together, then I’m ready to take on any fighter.
But if there is a political reason or whatever may be that he’s preoccupied with another fight, or another champion wants to fight, or the fight between me and him can’t be gotten together or can’t be set up, and I have to do something else in the meantime, then I’m ready to do that.
As a champion, you should be ready to defend the title. I’m always ready to take that option, or I would take a fight against any champion.
RingTV.com: At what weight would you fight Gamboa?
MG: We haven’t discussed any weight, but I wouldn’t care, really. To me, Gamboa is the same fighter at 126, 130 or 135.
So it doesn’t really matter what weight you’re talking for that fight. If we can get it to where the weight is not the issue, then we could move forward and just get the fight on.
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org