By Francisco Salazar
Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank
Five years ago, Miguel Angel Garcia was making his final preparations to graduate from Pacifica High School in Oxnard, CA. About a month after his graduation, Garcia was successful in his professional debut, winning a four round unanimous decision over Domingo Mendoza. On Saturday night, Garcia has studied and prepped for his hardest test which he hopes to pass with flying colors. A victory over unbeaten Matt Remillard will allow Garcia to “graduate” to the upper echelon of a competitive featherweight division.
Garcia takes on Remillard in an intriguing 10 round bout of top featherweight prospects at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. The bout will precede Yuriorkis Gamboa’s world title belt defense against Jorge Solis. The bouts will be televised on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark.”
In his last bout in December, Garcia (24-0, 20 KOs) knocked out former world title challenger Olivier Lontchi in the fifth round of a scheduled 10 round bout.
The soft-spoken Garcia, who is trained by his brother Robert and father Eduardo, has slowly evolved from prospect to contender in a span of a few years. With impressive victories recently over Lontchi, Tomas Villa, and Cornelius Lock, Garcia could receive a world title shot with a victory over Remillard on Saturday night.
Remillard (23-0, 13 KO’s) has developed into a legitimate prospect, winning a few regional titles in the process. He is coming off a one-sided eight round unanimous decision over Oscar Cuero in November.
“We have seen videos of him (Remillard),” Garcia told Fightnews.com recently. “He’s a good fighter who comes forward. He may throw a lot of punches, but he’s not a brawler. He comes to fight, but we prepared well and we’ll take on whatever he may bring.”
Garcia is already ranked in the top 15 in three sanctioning bodies and is ranked as the number contender to one of Gamboa’s world title belts. Whether he is deserving of that ranking remains to be seen and is subject to debate, considering the politics in boxing.
However, Garcia is eager to show that he belongs with the big boys of the division. A victory over Remillard will put him in position to challenge Gamboa or any of the other champions in the division. He is young enough to fight at the featherweight limit for years to come.
“I think the 126-pound division is one of the best in boxing,” said Garcia, who is promoted by Top Rank and managed by Cameron Dunkin. “Gamboa, (Juan Manuel) Lopez, (Chris) John. They are champions for a reason. Fight fans know who the champs and understand the fight game. I’m glad to be a part of this division.”
In the ring, Garcia is far mature than his 23 years of age. To say that his older brother Robert, who knows a thing or two about becoming a world champion, and his father Eduardo have been beneficial to his career would be an understatement.
Oddsmakers have Garcia as the betting favorite over Remillard. Based on records and stylistically, Garcia may be the better fighter of the two. However, the recent success of Robert Garcia-trained fighters Nonito Donaire and Brandon Rios may be another reason why Garcia is favored to win. However, Garcia dismisses those claims, as the recent success of Donaire and Rios will not impact his game plan on Remillard.
“Brandon and Nonito have done very well. What they have done is not going to affect me or change what my plans are for Remillard. I’m not going to live up to people’s expectations based on what Brandon and Nonito have done with my brother. I’m ready to do my thing and perform the way I want to. Just to box smart. My plan is to go the distance, but if I hurt him, I’m going for the knockout.”
Although Garcia is an admitted homebody, choosing to be a good husband and father to his young daughter, he does not mind fighting away from Oxnard. He has recently fought in Texas, Ohio, Nevada, even on Top Rank shows in Mexico.
Garcia wants to be the next fighter from Oxnard to win a world title. With the success his brother Robert had, along with Fernando Vargas, and more recently Rios and Sergio Martinez, the possibility does exist that Garcia could become the fifth fighter to represent Oxnard to have a belt around his waist.
Although he hopes to fight in front of family and friends in Oxnard one day, Garcia does feel comfortable fighting abroad. His excitement of fighting on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City and on television is met with the relaxed psyche that he is treating this as another fight.
“People know me from Oxnard and I’m proud to represent the town that I grew up in. We fight in different places, so I’m not feeling any pressure for this fight. I’m just ready for this fight.”
So far, Garcia has slowly emerged out of his older brother’s shadow. He has met and answered every challenge that has been thrown at him and then some. He has accomplished a lot in almost five years as a pro. Who knows what the future holds for Garcia in the next five years.
One thing is for sure: Garcia does not regret how long or how short it has taken him to get where he is at.
“It’s taken a lot of work from Robert and my Dad to get to where I’m at now. I’m happy I haven’t been rushed at all. I’ve always believed that I will one day be a world champion. Top Rank and Cameron Dunkin have believed in me and never doubted me. I know I have a lot to prove and I have a long ways to get there to achieve my goals.”
Sounds like a strong valedictorian speech should be “graduate” on Saturday night.