Mikey Garcia enters through the doors of the RGB boxing gym among a sea of supporters, some of whom have been there for hours waiting to see their favorite boxer. There are parents with their little ones. Others have taken time off from work to create memories.
Walking alongside Garcia every step of the way is his brother and trainer, Robert Garcia. Robert is all smiles, waving and saying hello to familiar and unfamiliar faces. Later, he carefully wraps Mikey’s hands and the two begin to create a symphony as the mitt work starts up. Robert is family. He’s been there from the beginning of this roller-coaster ride to the top for his little brother. He’s seen all of its unexpected twists and turns.
“At first, it wasn’t really something we planned or we thought Mikey would do, but it’s been a good ride with everything Mikey has accomplished after we didn’t think he wanted to box,” Robert Garcia told Combat Press. “And doing it to become one of the best in the world and heading to maybe become the next face of boxing is just unbelievable. It’s just something we never expected, but now that we’re headed that way, it’s a great experience.”
Those close to Mikey knew he was going to be a special boxer. It was just a matter of Mikey believing the same and turning his full dedication to the sport. All distractions had to be put aside. It had to be boxing only.
“Mikey fighting and making it to the nationals with only nine amateur fights and winning national titles, that’s when we knew something was special,” said Robert. “But we never thought it’d be that big, because we always had that doubt that Mikey would want to do it. At the same time, Mikey was doing other things — going to school, getting to the police academy and all that — so we didn’t really think that boxing was something Mikey would do for so long. But he got so good at it that he decided to stay and make a living out of it, and so far he’s doing so good.”
To call Mikey Garcia “good” seems like an understatement. The talented boxer out of California is 37 fights into his career, and he remains undefeated. He’s moved up from the ranks of the 126-pound division and has challenged himself throughout the process, even jumping all the way up to 140 pounds, where he will fight Sergey Lipinets in his second bout in the weight class. His first fight at 140 came against Adrien Broner.
“Moving up to 140 was something that he told us,” said Robert. “He became champion at 135 and we expected title defenses at 135, but for his next fight he calls and tells us he’s fighting Broner at 140. That’s something where he made that decision on his own, because there were no challenges at 135. [Jorge] Linares wasn’t available, so he told us it’s Broner at 140. So we support him and get to work.”
When the fight was announced, some critics were skeptical of Mikey’s power and whether he would be able to carry it to this new division. He wasn’t able to find the knockout against Broner, but that was more a result of the defensive ability and tactics Broner provided that night.
“He was never able to catch Broner with that one punch — and he landed a lot and controlled pretty much the pace of the whole fight — but he was never able to land that one punch, because Broner is very smart,” said Robert. “[Broner] knows how to defend himself and avoid those solid punches. I know how hard Mikey hits.
“His sparring partners were all welterweights, walking around [at] 160 [pounds], and the only thing they can say is, man, they couldn’t believe how hard Mikey hits. Mikey will have his power at 140 and eventually even at 147, I believe, because there’s not one person that Mikey spars with that tells us Mikey doesn’t hit hard. They say he hits as hard as middleweights.”
On Saturday, Sergey Lipinets will stand across the ring from Robert Garcia’s little brother. Lipinets is a power puncher. The 140-pound IBF champ has found success early in his career. He captured the title from Akihiro Kondo in November. Lipinets comes in as a heavy underdog, but he has a chance to prevent history from happening. With a win, Mikey Garcia would join Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez as the only boxers to win world titles at the 126-, 130-, 135- and 140-pound weight classes.
“One of the things I know for a fact is his conditioning [and] his determination to beat Mikey,” Robert said of Lipinets. “I’ve worked with many, many Eastern European guys, and those guys are the most dedicated fighters that I’ve ever worked with. And being in a fight with Mikey and [having] the opportunity to beat one of the best fighters in the world, I’m sure he’s in the best shape of his life. He also has a great trainer in his corner. Those are things that I know.
“He hits very hard. He is going to come knowing this is the biggest opportunity of his life. His skills inside the ring are something Mikey will be able to work with [and] adjust.”
If Mikey Garcia beats Lipinets on Saturday night, then his value will continue to skyrocket. Currently, he is a free agent who is not tied down to any promotional contract. It’s allowed Mikey the freedom to survey the playing field and schedule fights on his terms. However, not many people expect Garcia to be a free agent for long. Recently, the president of the UFC, Dana White, met with both Mikey and Robert Garcia. White is looking to start his own boxing promotion this year. Could that be a likely destination for Mikey?
“I’m sure [White]’s probably interested, especially if he’s going to come into boxing,” said Robert. “He’s going to need to come in with a big name. He just can’t start off with pro debuts and build himself up, because it’ll take 10 [or] 15 years to do that. I’m sure that’s why he showed interest by going the gym, but we didn’t talk anything about that. He didn’t mention anything. He just came to see Mikey spar 12 rounds.
“He invited us to his place in Vegas, so we could go see his place that he has, but we didn’t talk any business and he didn’t say anything about wanting to promote Mikey. But I’m pretty sure that’s his idea, that’s his plan.
“I think Mikey [would] rather be the way he is right now. He’s pretty much working with Al Haymon, but nothing contract. But [Haymon] has the big fights — he has the big names that Mikey wants to fight. There’s a possibility of Mikey fighting Linares and working something out with Golden Boy or Lomachenko.”
Whatever the exact future brings for Mikey Garcia, it’s a sure bet it’ll be special. His brother Robert will be right there by his side, too. Family sticks together.