There has been a fair share of media of attention on former world champion Mikey Garcia (35-0, 29 KOs) of late. He will pursue his third world title in as many divisions on January 28. In contrast, there has been little talk of the WBC lightweight world champion he will look to dethrone at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. His name is Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0, 15 KOs).
Zlaticanin of Montenegro became his country’s first world champion winning the vacant world title this past June. This may have been his biggest achievement in boxing but not his biggest name opponent. That was former world champion Ricky Burns, who he beat by split decision in Burns’ hometown. Zlaticanin, who is managed by Alex Vaysfelfd (Union Boxing) and Milorad Martinovic, enters this bout as a 2:1 underdog. But, he’s unfazed and determined to retain his title.
How has the reception been from you in your country after becoming their first world boxing champion?
When I came back to my country thousands of people greeted me at the airport. I became an instant hero in my country.
Do you feel Garcia is looking past you with talks of future megafights after fighting you?
I hear him talking about future fights but that’s his problem. It’s my job to make sure I win this fight.
Do you feel his activity will be a disadvantage when he faces you?
I don’t think it’ll be a disadvantage for him. The bottom line is he wanted a chance to fight for my WBC green and gold belt and I am giving him that chance. Now it’s on me to not give him my belt.
Do you feel that you’re a more natural lightweight since you have been fighting at the weight much longer?
Yes, I think that will be my advantage because I’ve been fighting all my career at 135. I see a lot of U.S. boxers cutting a lot of weight and sometimes this can lead to bad results in their performance. You’re not the same when you lose your weight as when you train and gain 15-20 pounds more than your weight division’s max weight allowed.
Any concerns knowing you will be fighting in front of a crowd that will be for the most part supporting Garcia?
I don’t care about that. It motivates me and gives me the strength mentally and physically in my preparation for this fight. Still, I don’t want to leave this fight for the judges to decide the outcome. The fans will be on my side after I beat Garcia.
Do you feel beating Garcia will make you an instant star in boxing?
Yes, a win over Garcia opens the doors for even bigger fights. All of his popularity will be to my benefit by beating him. I have no doubt that fans in U.S. will love me because they love real fighters who fight with no fear.
What kind of fight should fans expect given your styles?
Fans can expect a very tough and exciting fight if Garcia fights like many brave Mexican boxers do. If he does, we’ll fight in the middle of the ring. A toe-to-toe fight. If he tries to make it a distance fight, he’ll find out quickly that I fight well at the distance too. I can adjust to my opponent and that’s the most important key to winning the fight.
You have anything you want to say to the fans in closing?
I want to tell the fans to come to the MGM Grand and enjoy this exciting fight. I promise all the fans I will make this an exciting fight. If you can’t attend in person please watch it live on Showtime.
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Garcia-Zlaticanin is scheduled for twelve rounds as the co-main event on a Showtime-televised fight card headlined by Carl Frampton defending his WBA “super” featherweight title in a rematch with Leo Santa Cruz.