Undefeated four-division world champion has his sights set on fan-friendly superfights—but first he must get past fellow 135-pound titleholder Robert Easter Jr. when they meet this Saturday on Showtime.
After writing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” Paul Anka would complain years later that, “Everyone thinks it’s their song. But how many people really do it their own way?”
Not many. But Mikey Garcia is one of them. It didn’t come without a fight, yet he remains undefeated in and out of the ring.
Garcia, 38-0 (30 KOs), is following the path of Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya, who established Hall of Fame credentials by age 30. Unlike the current WBC world lightweight champion, they were already box office draws who had been involved in several memorable matchups by then.
That might explain the urgency Garcia, 30, demonstrates these days. Since ending a 30-month hiatus in July 2016, all four of his opponents have been past or present world champions; two were undefeated. On July 28 he’ll seek to blemish a third record when he squares off against unbeaten IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter Jr. on a Showtime-televised card (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Unifying lightweight titles would be another feather in Garcia’s signature black cowboy hat. Garcia’s already in rarified air: Along with Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, he’s one of only three modern era fighters to win titles at 126, 130, 135 and 140 pounds.
That hasn’t translated to stardom beyond the boxing world just yet—partly because of those battles he’s engaged in outside the ring.
Much has changed since he last fought in his native California seven years ago, also at Staples. Garcia was then a rising featherweight, the golden child of a fighting family that included a former world champion in older brother Robert, and ex-boxer and father Eduardo, both of whom train him.
The squeaky-clean Mikey had strong support from his family and fellow Mexican-Americans. He seemed destined to become boxing’s next TV star—and the least likely to end up in court. Nevertheless, after winning world titles at 126 and 130 pounds, he and his promoter Top Rank Promotions squabbled over what Garcia says were purses lower than what his contract called for.
The disagreement came to a head during negotiations for a fight against 135-pound champion Yuriorkis Gamboa. Top Rank informed Garcia they had the right to extend their contractual agreement, with terms unchanged from what he signed before becoming world champion.
In April 2014, a frustrated Garcia filed a lawsuit against them, claiming the arrangement “improperly provided them the ability to extend the agreement indefinitely, essentially rendering him an indentured servant of Top Rank.”
Garcia expected the matter to be resolved quickly. What ensued was War of the Roses. In April 2016, the two-year conflict ended in settlement.
“That experience made me re-think signing anything with anybody,” Garcia says. “Being independent helps me avoid that. It gives me flexibility and if things aren’t good, I can always go somewhere else. Thankfully, things are going very well for me right now. I’m happy with where my career is headed.”
“ I’m just not going to defend the title a bunch of times. Those fights don’t excite me. I want big challenges and to make sure that I give the fans great fights to remember. ” Four-time World Champion Mikey Garcia
Free agent Garcia is making up for lost time.
“I’m just not going to defend the title a bunch of times. Those fights don’t excite me. I want big challenges and to make sure that I give the fans great fights to remember.”
Thus, the talk of moving up to welterweight and challenging Errol Spence Jr. It’s the kind of super fight that gets Garcia’s juices flowing—and makes others question his sanity.
“I don’t know why people keep doubting it. I’m very serious about moving up and fighting Spence. That’s one of the biggest fights that I can make and that can be made in boxing. If it’s available and we can work something out before the end of the year, I’m willing to do it.”
First, Garcia must get past the long arms of Easter. The Ohioan is brimming with confidence after relocating to Florida to work with trainer Kevin Cunningham, who counts Devon Alexander, Adrien Broner and Gervonta Davis among his clients.
“I’m not overlooking Robert Easter at all,” Garcia claims. “I’m expecting the best Easter ever against me. I think he’s a terrific fighter. I'm glad to hear he's training extra hard. It shows me that he's motivated and hungry to show off his very best, just like I am.”
Garcia admits he hasn’t watched much tape on Easter—Robert and Eduardo handle that—but is aware of the unique physical challenges he presents. The 5’11” Easter has a five-inch height, an eight-inch reach advantage, and a big right hand.
“We’re not going to get someone exactly like Easter to spar with,” Garcia says. “We do have good sparring; Juan Carlos Burgos, who is one of my former opponents, and young guys like Evan Sanchez and Vergil Ortiz. These are guys taller than me, having a longer reach and giving me different angles. And I have plenty of experience to make the adjustments.”
That experience is expected to carry him through. Already the most accomplished active fighter outside of Manny Pacquiao, he makes a case as the world’s best fighter, should he defeat Easter impressively. Owning the top pound for pound slot in media publications is noteworthy, but Garcia prefers his name etched in the hearts of the masses.
“I don’t really pay attention to pound for pound rankings,” he says. “Some are based on achievement, some skill, some favoritism and politics. What matters to me most is what the fans think of me and whether they give me that admiration and respect.”
“I think I'm in my prime,” he continued. “I'm in the best shape physically and mentally that I’ve ever been in. I need to take advantage of the moment right now and take on the biggest challenges. I want to make the kind of fights everyone remembers. It won’t be easy but it will get done.”
His way, of course.
For a closer look at Garcia vs Easter, check out our fight page.