by Kieran Mulvaney
Miguel Angel ‘Mikey’ Garcia has all the makings of a boxing star. For a start, he comes from good fighting stock: his brother and co-trainer is former titlist and current Trainer of the Year Robert Garcia, whose other charges include Nonito Donaire and Brandon Rios.
Perhaps not surprisingly for one who has grown up breathing in the big-fight atmosphere, he looks completely unruffled in the ring, with a relaxed posture behind a solid defensive guard. He does not press his opponents over-eagerly, but takes his time, working his way in behind a long, stiff jab (at 5’6” he is tall for a featherweight) and using a crushing right hand to break his foe down steadily – or, if the opportunity present itself, suddenly.
But for the last year or so, Garcia's been idling in the waiting room for the train to stardom leave the station. After garnering attention with impressive stoppages of Cornelius Lock, Olivier Lontchi and the previously undefeated Matt Remillard, Garcia was slated to face fellow contender Miguel Beltran in the co-main event to Julio Cesar Chavez’s June 2011 victory over Sebastian Zbik. Beltran withdrew at the last minute, leaving Garcia to overwhelm the overmatched but determined late substitute Rafael Guzman. Beltran went on to fight for a title, and then engaged in a Fight of the Year candidate in his loss to Roman Martinez on the Chavez-Sergio Martinez undercard on September 15.
Garcia, meanwhile, was treading water, beating up Juan Carlos Martinez and faded veterans Bernabe Concepcion and Mauricio Pastrana. His reward was slated to be a title fight this Saturday against the dangerous Orlando Salido, who twice in the space of twelve months went to Puerto Rico and knocked out local favorite Juan Manuel Lopez. But then Salido pulled out with an injury. The card, at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort, is going ahead, with the main event now an intriguing and important junior middleweight eliminator between Vanes Martirosyan and Erislandy Lara. Garcia, though, must play the waiting game again; although he remains on the card, he will now be taking on Argentina’s Jonathan Barros.
On the face of it, this is another opponent Garcia should bowl over. But even though Barros has dropped two of his last three, he went the distance in both losses against quality opponents Juan Carlos Salgado and Celestino Caballero. Indeed, his loss to Caballero came in a rematch after Barros had scored an upset over the former 122-pound title holder. The only other loss on the 38-bout Barros ledger is a creditable points defeat to unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa.
It is a fight Garcia should win. But it is the kind that, should he take his eye off the ball, he could lose. If he does so, he’ll be kicking his heels in the waiting room a while longer. But if he wins – and especially if he becomes the first man to stop Barros– then the train he’s been anxious to catch should come steaming into the station in the very near future.