by Kieran Mulvaney
He's just 25 years old, but Mikey Garcia will be gunning for his second world title on Saturday, when the native of Oxnard, California, moves up from featherweight to take on junior lightweight titlist Rocky Martinez in Corpus Christi, Texas.
There is no shortage of observers who think that Garcia is a pound-for-pound star in the making, and given his pedigree, perhaps that isn't surprising. His father and trainer, Eduardo, has been the chief second for such noted fighters as former junior middleweight champ Fernando Vargas; and his older brother Roberto, himself a former junior lightweight titlist, is the reigning Boxing Writers Association of America Trainer of the Year for his work with, among others, Brandon Rios and Nonito Donaire.
But, says Garcia, despite almost literally having boxing in his blood, he wasn't at all sure during his younger years that it was the career for him.
"I would go to the gym just to hang out and watch my brothers train, or even spend time at training camps with Fernando or Robert in the summertime, but never trained to compete or anything like that," he told HBO.com recently. In fact, his first amateur bout happened almost by accident, when he was 14 years old and cheering on a nephew, who was boxing in a tournament.
"One of the kids from his club didn't have an opponent, so they signed me up," he recalls. "They made it an exhibition, because I didn't have a license, and we borrowed some shorts and a cup, borrowed a mouth piece even. We borrowed everything. So I went in the ring, we made it a three-round exhibition, and I kinda liked it. I liked the competition."
Even then, and even after he turned professional in 2006, he kept his options open. At one point, pugilism seemed a less likely profession than law enforcement, as evidenced by his graduating from the Ventura County Police and Sheriff's Reserve Academy in 2010. But, having ultimately committed to the sweet science, he has flourished -- aided, he says, by having been around boxing for so long.
"Being that I grew up around boxing -- and not just any boxing, but a really good boxing family with really good credentials -- it helps me understand the sport, understand the business, understand the politics, understand the media," he explains. "It's not something new to me, because I've already seen it with fighters like Fernando and Robert, and Robert's fighters. I've been around the big stages before and around the cameras and everything, so it's not that new to me. And I've learned about boxing since around age eight. I didn't plan to be a boxer but I've always seen it, always been around it. And all that other stuff, like the media attention, doesn't conflict with anything; it doesn't mess up the way I fight. Everything else is normal with me; I just go in the ring and do my job."
It's a job at which he is proving particularly well suited, with 32 wins from 32 outings, one world title in his collection and the prospect of adding another one on Saturday. And while donning a police uniform still remains a possibility in the future, for now he is firmly ensconced in the family business.
"I still think I could go back and do something in law enforcement, even if I'm not out on the street, doing something in the department," he says. "But right now, my main focus is boxing. I'm not sure what exactly I'm going to do five, 10 years from now, but right now I'm just focused on boxing."