For as long as he could remember, boxing had been Robert Garcia's life. When school was over, he didn't do the things his friends did. There was no time for horse play or hanging out.
He went straight to the gym to train. Day after day, month after month, it was pretty much the same monotonous routine. For more than two decades, Robert Garcia pushed himself as hard mentally as he did physically.
He loved the sport and he loved to compete, but too much of anything is not a good thing.
By the time he was 26, when he should have just been easing into his prime as a boxer, Robert Garcia came to a major life decision: He was through with the sport that had been such a significant piece of his life. He was a world champion and a popular figure owing to his action-packed style, but he was increasingly miserable each day at the gym.
"By the time I turned 26, I hated boxing," he says. "I turned pro when I was a junior in high school and I missed so many of the things a high school kid does. I missed my prom because of boxing. I started at five years old and by the time I was 26, I was totally sick of it.
"It was dieting, training camp, being away from family. All of that just finally got to me. After a while, I just decided, 'I am through with this.' I just got sick of it."
Robert Garcia is now a few weeks shy of his 38th birthday and, once again, is in love with the sport that is, in essence, the family business.
His younger brother, Mikey, will meet Orlando Salido on Saturday in the theater at Madison Square Garden for Salido's WBO featherweight title in the main event of an HBO-televised card.
Robert has become one of the sport's leading trainers, having learned the business from his father. While Eduardo Garcia remains one of the wisest boxing minds in the land, Robert, the 2012 Yahoo! Sports Trainer of the Year, made one significant change in style from his father.
Family and friends were forbidden from training camp when Robert was fighting under his father's tutelage. But Robert now trains his brother and because of his experiences has loosened such restrictions.
It's enabled his brother to enjoy the path toward the top. Mikey Garcia is 30-0 with 26 knockouts and is one of the sport's burgeoning stars.
"This kid has everything you want to see in a boxer you want to turn into a star," promoter Bob Arum said.
When Robert was fighting, his sisters were banned from camp, as were his wife and children. Mikey is now 25 and married, but Robert has loosened the rules so that Mikey can stay at home with his wife.
A happy worker, he believes, is a more productive worker. And there is no arguing with success.
"My father is still involved and working with us, but he understands what I'm doing," Robert said. "He sees the results. If it weren't working, he might be taking a different attitude, but this is how we do it with all of my fighters and we're getting good results.
"[Antonio] Margarito's wife was always coming around. Brandon [Rios]. Nonito’s [Donaire] wife is with him all the time. It's not how my dad was, but he sees where I'm coming from and he sees the results."
Mikey Garcia is a charismatic and affable sort whose knockout ratio of 86.6 percent overshadows his vastly underrated defensive skills.
Salido (39-11-2, 27 KOs) is an aggressive, physically strong man who has been able to overwhelm his opponents with his pressure. Mikey Garcia has gone through an excruciatingly hard camp, pushed every day to the limit, but he's excited about what Saturday will bring.
He got a late start in boxing, not putting on the gloves until he was 14. But he's developed quickly and can take the first step toward stardom by defeating Salido.
The fight was supposed to be in November, but Salido injured a finger in training camp and it was postponed. Garcia took a keep-busy fight with Jonathan Barros, which he won by eighth-round knockout, and said in retrospect the extra time turned out to be a blessing.
"I think I'll be better because of the extra time, because I was able to study my opponent and work on the things I need to work on," he said.
As excited as he is about the chance for the title, though, he says, "It's just another fight for me. I'm not worried about anything."
That's the cool of a prepared and confident athlete, but it's also in part a tribute to the way his brother has guided him.
Robert Garcia's boxers are known for their intensity in training camp, but the one tenet he's established is that it must be fun. The doors are almost always open to friends, family and the public.
If he can prevent his brother, or any of the fighters he trains, from burning out at a young age, he wants to do that.
And so, the doors are open to all. Mikey only saw his wife and children on the weekend, but it was his choice. His brother ran a demanding camp, but also one that was designed to help him operate at peak efficiency.
"You have to love what you do [to be at your best]," Robert Garcia said. "We work extremely hard when we're in camp. Extremely hard. I know how difficult that is, so if I can make things a bit easier, I will definitely do it. And that's what I've done."
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