2013 Fighter of The Year: Mikey Garcia

It seemed appropriate he was dressed in all white, his signature cowboy hat sitting atop his head. Mikey Garcia has never been interested in being the bad guy, leaving the brashness and verbosity to other fighters who lack his skills.Some fighters need to sell themselves to fans. Mikey Garcia isn’t one of them. Due to his heritage and the weight his family’s name carries in the sport he already had a built in fan base from day one.

What he’s also had since day one is a chilling natural ability. What struck me, and has since stuck with me throughout his career, is something his brother and trainer Robert Garcia was quoted as saying.

These words came in Mikey’s second fight on HBO. When he was still on the undercard, unsure if boxing was going to be the career path he took. It seems so obvious now, and some would say it was inevitable given his background. But at one point he wasn’t even sure if he wanted to fight for a living.

After seeing the toll a career in the ring takes on a man as exhibited by big brother Robert, himself a former IBF Super Featherweight champion, he was hesitant to venture down the same path.

His lack of commitment at the time meant he didn’t like to train all that much. Whereas lesser men were shedding blood, sweat and tears in that gym in Oxnard Mikey was simply showing up when he had too.

By all accounts he trained hard when he was there, but it was the getting him there part was tough. This frustrated Robert and his father, Eduardo, to no end. Both had trained many champions and prospects. But the fact they couldn’t get Mikey to commit was the most frustrating.

You could be forgiven for assuming this had to do with the family connection. It didn’t. What was it you ask? It was down to Mikey being the most naturally talent boxer Robert had ever seen.

Those are the words that stuck with me, let me know that I was watching someone that was in all likelihood become a very special fighter. Robert Garcia has had no shortage of world class talents in his gym, and the roster of champions training in it has grown exponentially since he made the statement. But the fact he thought his own brother was the best he’d seen carried a lot of weight.

Mikey Garcia walked through that curtain at Madison Square Garden, the good guy in white, and fulfilled his potential. He totally outclassed the WBO Featherweight champion, Orlando “Siri” Salido, in eight rounds. He put him down four times during the course of the fight before it was stopped due to an accidental headbutt.

Garcia won by technical decision after an accidental headbutt resulted in a broken nose. By that point there was no need to panic, Mikey was obviously becoming world champion. In the course of his victory he had broken one of Salido’s orbital bones. Power and technique were on display in equal parts.

Potential’s a hell of a thing. At the end of the day it doesn’t mean much. What if’s don’t matter in life. There’s a lot of people that could have achieved incredible things given their potential, only to have circumstances interfere in someway.

So to put it bluntly, all of Mikey Garcia’s potential didn’t mean shit up until his hand was raised. It’s all well and good to possess the tools to be champion. It’s another thing altogether to put the pieces together to make it happen. Mikey had done it.

He didn’t slow down after that. After losing his WBO Featherweight Title on the scales prior to his showdown with former featherweight kingpin, Juan Manuel Lopez, he went on to make the former champion look pedestrian.

Some were quick to point out that Lopez hasn’t been the same since he lost the title, and then failed to win it back, in two grueling bouts with Orlando Salido. We’d be inclined to agree. But that doesn’t diminish Garcia’s performance against Lopez.

He put him down twice in four rounds. It was fight number thirty two in an incredible unbeaten streak. It was another performance where Garcia seemed to continue to get even better.

Then came the end of the year and a move up to super featherweight. The decision was made in the wake of the weight troubles prior to the Lopez fight. Garcia simply couldn’t make the 125lb limit anymore and would move up to 130lbs.

Certainly the importance of the situation weighed on Mikey. He was fighting for the WBO’s version of a world championship his brother had held. He started poor, going down in the second round.

It was the kind of shot that would keep a lot of men down. It only seemed to galvanize Garcia. He rose to dominate the rest of the fight. His mind may have been elsewhere prior to the shot that put him down. The punch gave him clarity about the task at hand.

He went on to close the show in the eighth round. Three fights, three wins. Two WB0 championship titles. Two weight classes.

It was a good year to be Mikey Garcia.

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