Mikey Garcia witnessed last month’s epic Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter showdown from ringside at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, and was blown away—not just by the performance of the two world-class fighters, but also by the raucous atmosphere.
“Being at Barclays was an awesome experience. It’s a huge venue. You could feel the electricity from the crowd,” Garcia says of a boisterous throng of 12,718 that saw 147-pound champion Thurman edge Porter in a Fight of the Year candidate.
“While I was there, the fans were swarming us and wanting to take pictures and get their items signed. Being that I’m from all the way out here in California, it was wonderful to get that love, support and appreciation.”
Now Mikey Garcia (34-0, 28 KOs) is getting ready to experience Barclays Center once again, only this time from inside the ring as he battles former 126-pound titleholder Elio Rojas (24-2, 14 KOs) on Saturday (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
The 10-round fight—which serves as the co-main event to 126-pound champion Leo Santa Cruz’s title defense against ex-122-pound champ Carl Frampton—will mark the end of a 2½-year ring absence for Garcia. It will also represent the Southern Californian’s fourth fight in the Big Apple, with the previous three coming at legendary Madison Square Garden.
In October 2011, Garcia scored a fourth-round stoppage of Juan Carlos Martinez at the Garden. Then in two of his biggest career triumphs, Garcia won an eight-round technical decision against Orlando Salido to become a 126-pound world champion in January 2013 and earned a unanimous decision over Juan Carlos Burgos in January 2014.
In defeating Burgos, Garcia retained the 130-pound title he earned by dethroning Roman Martinez in November 2013 and began eyeing bigger fights at higher weight classes—fights against the likes of past and current champions Yuriorkis Gamboa, Terence Crawford, Adrien Broner, Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson and Manny Pacquiao.
However, after the Burgos fight, Garcia became embroiled in a dispute with his promoter, which led to his undesired hiatus and forced him to vacate his title.
Unable to execute his game plan for more than two years, the 28-year-old Garcia is now charting a new career course.
“I want to fight for the title at 135, maybe against [England’s] Terry Flanagan, then fight for a title at 140,” he says. “But first, I've got to win this fight impressively, and that will set up other things in my future."
Earlier this month, Garcia celebrated his 10th year as a professional boxer. Along the way, he’s always had his family by his side, including his father and co-trainer, 71-year-old Eduardo; his brother, 41-year-old Robert; and the recent addition of his nephew, 21-year-old Robert Jr.
A former amateur champion, Eduardo Garcia guided Fernando Vargas to a spot on the 1996 Olympic team and later helped him become the youngest 154-pound champion in history. Meanwhile, Robert Garcia Sr. is a former professional fighter who earned a 130-pound title in March 1998.
Natives of Oxnard, California, the Garcia family has mostly trained about 120 miles east in Riverside, California. Nevertheless, Mikey Garcia feels as though he’ll be returning to his second home on Saturday night in Brooklyn.
“There’s a lot of boxing history in New York, and their fans are not just fans of the show itself; they’re fans who support the fighters and the sport,” he says. “This is my fourth fight in New York, and a lot more of my friends and family will be there for me this time.
“I’ve always had good wins there, and this will be another one.”
For full coverage of Garcia vs Rojas, hit up our fight page.