After 39 consecutive victories, most of which he won in a rout, Mikey Garcia came face-to-face with the harsh reality of life as a professional boxer last March.
Garcia’s belief in himself is so absolute that not only did he not hesitate to move up in weight to challenge Errol Spence Jr. for his welterweight title, but he agreed to do it in Dallas, Spence’s hometown.
Spence routed Garcia, winning all 12 rounds on every scorecard. But if you think that one-sided drubbing would shake Garcia’s confidence or cause him to move back down in weight, you don’t know Mikey Garcia.
He’s convinced he’s still among the best fighters in the world and, more specifically, one of the best welterweights in the world, and a one-sided defeat hasn’t done a thing to diminish his belief in himself.
And so on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, DAZN) in Frisco, Texas, Garcia will return to boxing for the first time since that loss when he takes on ex-welterweight champion Jessie Vargas in the main event.
Garcia, who prior to the Spence fight held lightweight and junior welterweight titles, said he no longer can fight at lightweight. He briefly considered a move down to 140 pounds, and said he would consider certain fights at 140, but he feels he’ll be a factor at welterweight.
“I have to do much more and if I do, my boxing abilities are going to show,” said Garcia, who is 39-1 with 30 knockouts. “I can box, I’m smart, I can be quick, I’m strong. That’s why I think this is a great matchup.
“My last fight, I think it was more Errol fighting a great fight than anything else. I just felt sluggish and tired. I felt slow. It wasn’t my night, but I think all of my skills will be on display this Saturday night.”
Both men enter the fight with something to prove. Vargas has long been the underdog, and he remains so against Garcia, who is a -550 favorite at the MGM Grand Sports Book. Vargas is a +400 underdog.
Vargas is angered as a two-time champion that he doesn’t get more respect, and intends to get it against Garcia, who was on most major pound-for-pound lists prior to his loss to Spence.
Garcia wants to remind the world of what was being said about him before the Spence fight, and he sees Vargas as the perfect foil.
“Look, Jesse is a former welterweight champion and he’s been in there with some of the best fighters of our era,” Garcia said. “This is a fight where I can show that I am a true contender in this division. I’m not a small, blown-up guy and I’m not fighting a small, blown-up guy who is past his prime. I’m going against a guy who is in his prime and is a legitimate welterweight.
“I’m in the prime of my career. I’m not going to dwell on that one fight. Errol won it, but you have to remember, one fight doesn’t define a career. I have a lot more I can do in this sport, and I’m physically and emotionally invested in going out and doing that.”
Garcia says he’d jump at chance to fight Pacquiao
If he wins, Garcia will once again sit in a prime position. One of the fights that has been talked about for him for years is one with Manny Pacquiao, who holds a version of the WBA welterweight title.
It would be a huge event and Garcia is down for it if it is offered.
“Obviously, I would love an opportunity to fight Manny,” Garcia said. “That’s a chance to fight an icon in our sport. It’s been talked about for many years and the moment it comes available, I’d jump on it. I don’t know if it is going to happen or not, but I’m down. But I need to win this fight first and then we can think of what is after it.”
Vargas, who said he hopes an impressive win over Garcia would lead to a rematch with Pacquiao, has promised an explosive bout. He said he’s going to go right after Garcia and look to finish him.
Garcia is an elite boxer, but he has the ability to go toe-to-toe. And if that’s what is required to win, it’s what he’ll do, he said.
“We are both fighters who compete with heart and pride, and I’m a guy who has always been willing to do whatever has been required of me,” Garcia said. “If it’s being technical and fighting a certain way, I am fine doing that, but if the situation dictates that I have to fight and brawl, you will never see me back away or back down. One of the things that I take pride in is my ability to do it all.”
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