This Saturday night at the Laredo Energy Arena in Laredo, Texas, Miguel Angel Garcia, who is one step away from a featherweight title shot, faces Cornelius Lock in an IBF eliminator. Garcia is so close yet so far away. Lock is what they call in this game a “spoiler,” a tall, lanky southpaw with speed and quickness and just enough pop in his mitts to keep you honest. It’s not the type of fight you necessarily seek out but it’s the type of fight every young fighter needs to get through, eventually.
This fight, which leads off the latest edition of “Top Rank Live” on Fox Sports Net/Espanol, is no gimme for Garcia.
"As far as I’m concerned, it’s Mikey’s toughest fight to date," said Top Rank matchmaker, Brad Goodman, who has booked most of Garcia’s professional contests. His manager, Cameron Dunkin, says, "This is it; this is his breakthrough fight. This is the one; it sets him up number one in the world and for the world title and Cornelius Lock is not easy. It’s a rugged fight, southpaw, tough guy, Detroit fighter. So it’s a big, big fight for Mikey Garcia."
But Garcia doesn’t seem all that troubled by what he’ll be seeing on Saturday night.
"I’ve seen some of his fights and he is a southpaw; that’s always a little difficult, fighting a southpaw," he admitted to Maxboxing. "They’re defensive skills; they’re offensive punches are different than fighting a right-hander. But we looked at him; he may not be as difficult as fighting the other southpaws that I faced as far as his style. He likes to let go of his hands and try to swing it out and let me also work. So we may be able to work better off facing him then some of the other southpaws I fought before."
Back when Garcia was 14-0 in October of 2008, he faced left-hander Walter Estrada and, if you recall, he hit the deck against the seasoned veteran in winning a close, unanimous decision.
"Yeah, he did; Walter Estrada from Colombia dropped him with a straight left hand and actually, when he hit him, a lot of people thought the fight was over," remembered Dunkin. "He hit him completely solid; it was amazing how Mikey got up. Didn’t even wobble, he jumped right up and moved around and had himself together. It sounded like the fight was over when he hit him. It just showed what a tremendous chin Mikey has."
Goodman’s recollection of the fight was, "I believe it was the first fight that he’s fought as a pro against a southpaw. Got hit with a real good shot. I mean, walked straight into it and to Mikey’s credit, he got up. I believe he did win the fight; I don’t think there was any controversy. I thought he won fair and square. To me, he showed a good chin. He was real composed right after the knockdown. He didn’t get rattled or anything. It was some kind of adversity that he did face and he came through with flying colors, as far as I’m concerned."
Part of the process in developing a fighter is seeing how they deal with rough waters. Garcia says he came out of that fight a better man.
"I think I’ve learned from the Estrada fight and the previous fights enough to feel more mature," said Garcia, who’s record stands at 22-0 with 18 stoppages. "I went into that fight with like 14 fights or something and Estrada, he was like 36-6 [Editor’s note: Estrada actually was 34-6] at the time. So it was a bit of an advantage on the experience level. This time, I think I’ve grown a little more and had a few more fights were I’ve learned from the fight and I am a bit more mature and a little more experienced."
Lock is a dangerous- if up and down- fighter. Since 2008, he has beaten the likes of Juan Garcia, Roger Gonzalez and Orlando Cruz, while dropping ten-round verdicts to Antonio Escalante and Daniel Ponce de Leon. In many ways, he is the quintessential gatekeeper.
"I don’t want to call Cornelius Lock a steppingstone because he’s a much better guy than that," said Goodman, "but he’s a real capable guy. There are nights when he looks sensational and there are nights when he looks ordinary. I know he’s been training in Detroit for the last, six, seven weeks. So we’re expecting the best Cornelius Lock to show up."
Garcia’s brain trust believes the time is now to make their move.
"A lot of us think that; I know Top Rank and their matchmakers think it’s time and I think it’s time," said the respected manager. "He’s been active; he fought down in Mexico and stayed busy and he fought in Texas. So now’s a good time for him to make his move- and he wants to. He’s aggressive, hungry and he wants this chance. Robert, his brother has been calling me constantly, ’Let’s go; let’s go; let’s go.’ So it’s time to go."
Garcia, whose brother/trainer is a former world champion, is just one step away from a world title opportunity. Or perhaps he’s up for a dose of reality in terms of where he really stands in the featherweight pecking order.
"It’s a good opportunity for this stage of my career, where we’re one fight away from landing a title shot," said the 22-year-old Oxnard native. "It’s a good, good thing for me to be at this level right now."
A few days ago I wrote about how Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. still hadn’t reported to the Wild Card Boxing Club to begin training with Freddie Roach in preparation for his September 11th bout versus Pawel Wolak in Mexico. Well, I was told by someone at Top Rank that the whole card has now been scrapped.
Bottom line, along with him not training, he’s having some “personal issues” he’s dealing with in Culiacan.
Are they really going to straight into a fight with Cotto in December?
With the rematch between Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez moving off October 2nd, the plan right now is for HBO to stage a tripleheader with Andre Berto, Sergiy Dzinziruk and Celestino Caballero. I’ve heard some of the possible opponents; let’s say this show will have mixed reviews... Beginning tonight, till the end of the month, TopRank.com will air some of their past fights featuring their prospects at 5 PM-7 PM PST...During his appearance on “The Main Event” (which also featured Dan Goossen), Kevin Cunningham, the trainer/manager of Devon Alexander, mentioned that New Orleans is being kicked around as the possible destination for Alexander’s showdown with Tim Bradley in late January...Love “Hard Knocks” on HBO. Rex Ryan is one-of-a-kind, isn’t he? Haven’t heard that much cursing on that network since Chris Arreola. I hear the WBC will fine Ryan...As for the holdout of Darrelle Rivis, Oscar De La Hoya has told a Spanish network that the sides are very close and he feels a deal is imminent....