Despite his status as world champion, Dejan Zlaticanin isn’t as highly regarded as Mikey Garcia heading into their 135-pound title fight. But the Montenegro native says he will get his due once he becomes the first man to stop Garcia.
In looking at Garcia’s eighth-round stoppage of Roman Martinez in their 130-pound title bout in November 2013—during which Garcia overcame a second-round knockdown to become a two-division world champion—Zlaticanin came away confident that he will be able to finish what Martinez could not.
“If I hit Garcia the way that Martinez hit him, he’s going to sleep,” says Zlaticanin, a 32-year-old from Podgorica, Montenegro. “If I catch him cleanly like that with either hand, you had better believe that he will not be getting up.”
Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0, 15 KOs) will make the first defense of his 135-pound world championship against Mikey Garcia (35-0, 29 KOs) on January 28 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
Garcia, a former world champion at 126 and 130 pounds, ended a 2½-year ring hiatus in July with a fifth-round TKO of Elio Rojas. But the 5-foot-4 Zlaticanin insists Garcia has never stepped in front of anyone with his kind of power.
“The guys he’s fought were midgets compared to me,” Zlaticanin says. “I would knock out all of those guys within three or four rounds.”
Zlaticanin, nicknamed “Dynamite,” earned a vacant 135-pound title in his last fight when he stopped Bolivia’s Franklin Mamani in Round 3 in Verona, New York, in June. It was his second consecutive win by TKO, and it got the attention of Garcia's camp.
“Dejan Zlaticanin is a polished champion with tremendous power,” said Garcia’s trainer and older brother, Robert Garcia. “He’s a very strong fighter, not only physically but mentally. We’re training like never before.”
Zlaticanin will be fighting for the second straight time in the United States after competing for most of his career in his native Montenegro. He defeated Ivan Redkach by fourth-round TKO in Birmingham, Alabama, in June 2015 in his U.S. debut.
The hard-hitting southpaw made his pro debut in Budva, Montenegro, in May 2008 with a three-round technical decision over Wladimir Borov.
Zlaticanin’s breakthrough victory came in June 2014, when he floored Scottish former two-division champion Ricky Burns (who has since added a third title at 140 pounds) in Round 1 on his way to winning a 12-round split decision in Glasgow, Scotland.
Zlaticanin, the first boxer from Montenegro to win a world title, used his left hand to drop both Burns and Redkach, but says that’s not the only weapon at his disposal.
“My left hand is set up by other punches,” Zlaticanin said. “Before I knocked out Redkach, I hurt him with a body shot.
“Of course, Mikey Garcia should be aware of that punch. But if I catch him with the right hook, it will have the exact same effect.”
In winning world championships in two weight divisions, Garcia has defeated former or current titleholders such as Martinez, Rojas, Mauricio Pastrana, Jonathan Victor Barros, Orlando Salido and Juan Manuel Lopez.
It's an impressive track record—unless you're Zlaticanin.
“I don't care about [his past opponents],” Zlaticanin said. “Once Garcia's in with me, he’ll see that I’m better than anyone he’s ever been in with.”
For a complete look at Zlaticanin vs Garcia, visit our fight page.