Featherweight champ Mikey Garcia is the calm in the storm

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

[Editor's note: Mikey Garcia weighed in Friday two pounds over the featherweight limit of 126 pounds, was unable to cut the weight and has elected to forfeit his WBO featherweight title. If Juan Manuel Lopez wins the bout, he becomes the WBO champion. If Garcia wins or the fight is a draw, the title will be vacant.]

The real work begins on Saturday for boxing's Zen Master, Mikey Garcia.

He's set to make the first defense of the WBO featherweight title he won from Orlando Salido in January when he meets hard-punching ex-champion Juan Manuel Lopez in the main event of an HBO-televised card at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Garcia has long been one of the sport's elite prospects, and at 25 is just rounding into his peak. He knows Lopez is about as dangerous of an opponent as it gets for a first defense and expects Lopez to be better than ever.

But if you expect Garcia to be all worked up about it, you don't know Miguel Angel Garcia.

He's as relaxed and calm in the ring as any fighter in the world. He's the epitome of California cool. He could steal the tagline from those 1980s-vintage deodorant commercials – "Never let them see you sweat" – as his own.

As a prospect, Garcia was matched carefully, never thrown into a situation he couldn't handle. He was given more only when he proved he could handle it.

[Related: Mikey Garcia misses weight and drops his featherweight title at the scales]

As a champion, though, he has no such luxury. In Lopez, he faces a difficult challenge and a guy who, with one big punch, can alter the course of boxing history.

Typically, though, Garcia has embraced the challenge. He's a no-frills, no-fuss kind of guy and said he expected nothing less than to face an elite fighter in his first defense.

"I want to compete against the top fighters around," Garcia said. "That gives me the opportunity to prove myself, to show the fans and the world that I deserve to be there."

He's 31-0 with 26 knockouts and has never really been challenged in any of his fights. He comes from a family of boxers and, though he didn't begin to fight until much older than average, boxing sense oozes from every pore.

His father, Eduardo, is one of this generation's elite trainers. His brother, Robert, is a former world champion and the reigning Trainer of the Year. And his other brother, Danny, is also a top-notch trainer.

Being around the fight game as long as he has gives him a slightly different perspective. He knows what to expect, as he's seen close up what it takes to not only win a fight but to become and remain a champion.

He has the wisdom that many 25-year-olds do not. As a result, he didn't go on a celebratory tour after he won the belt in New York in January by dominating Salido.

After surgery to repair a nose injury suffered in the fight, he was back in a familiar place, working in the gym.

"When you win the title, really, that's when the hard work begins," he said. "Guys fight all their lives to get a chance to win the belt, and when they get the chance, they know they have to put everything they have into it.

"I know every guy I fight is going to be at his best. So that means I have to be prepared as best I can. I'm the kind of guy who stays in the gym. I started training in March, April. It's not like I'm out wasting my time. I'm always staying active, trying to learn and get better."

There's something eerie about competing against someone who never gets rattled, who is always placid and serene.

Lopez insists he's not worried and said that because Garcia is so fundamentally sound, it may work to his advantage.

"Mikey Garcia is a more technical fighter than Salido," Lopez said. "Mikey does what you are supposed to do in the ring. He throws the right and he throws the left. He doesn't go wild in there. He is a very smart guy. He is not going to throw punches if they are not there.

"I think that helps me. I will know what he is trying to do and I know he is a thinking guy in the ring and that's what he is going to try and do, out-think me. That is going to be a lot different than a guy coming at me throwing punches from all angles."

[Related: Despite losses, hard-hitting Juan Manuel Lopez remains a boxing attraction]

There are other dimensions to his game that, despite his 31 fights and many television appearances, the public hasn't seen yet, Garcia said.

He's not a showman and isn't out there bragging about what he can do. He does what is necessary to get the job done.

Garcia is prepared for any eventuality. A prepared athlete is also a calm athlete.

"I don't think there is anything that will happen [Saturday] that I haven't seen or that I haven't prepared for," Garcia said. "I have the ability to do a lot of things that maybe people don't know I have. If I need to, I'll show that. I'm facing a very good, very talented opponent and these are the kinds of guys who force you to be at your best."

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