On Saturday (July 30), two division champion Mikey Garcia ends a two-year hiatus against Elio Rojas. Forced into “business exile” over a contract dispute with former promoter Top Rank, Garcia returns to a boxing landscape markedly different from the one he left in 2014. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are in retirement (for now). Golovkin vs. Canelo is the sport’s new “delayed super fight.” Vasyl Lomachenko, Terence Crawford and Roman Gonzalez are universally recognized as top Pound 4 Pound fighters. The biggest change for Garcia is also the most humbling — he now has to prove himself all over again.
In this exclusive interview, Mike Garcia speaks on why the best is yet to come, and how becoming a smart businessman will enhance his remaining in-ring career.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: 140 is a new weight for you and brings a whole host of potential opponents like division champion Terence Crawford. Any chance you’ll stay at this weight depending on how you feel Saturday night?
Mikey Garcia: Around December and New Years I did gain some weight. That’s why we wanted to slowly bring the weight down. I’m very comfortable with my walk-around weight so I know there won’t be any problems making 140. But the goal is to get to 135 for a title fight after this return. That’s why we picked this fight so I can slowly get down.
I’ve had the WBO title at featherweight and super featherweight so I really want that third title in a third division. I don’t want to skip lightweight but I will eventually move up to 140. Crawford is the king of the division and that is who I’ll want. Maybe I’ll pick up a title before that fight to create even more pressure to see a unified winner. I’ll fight anyone that’s available that has a title.
I don’t want to waste time fighting nobodies. I don’t have time to be picking easy fights. The second half of my career will determine how I’m remembered.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Since your target is lightweight, which champion are you focused on?
Garcia: I’ve kept a small eye out there. The name that sticks out more than the others is Terry Flanagan, who’s champion for the WBO and was at super featherweight. I want to gain another WBO title pretty soon.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: You know more than anyone that the “business of boxing” is just as important as what you do in the ring. With Top Rank, it seemed the business dispute got personal on both ends. You’re on record as stating you’d work with Top Rank again under the right circumstances. How did you not stay antagonistic towards Top Rank after being forced to sit out for two years?
Garcia: Well, it really is just business. I can’t see it any other way. I was a key business asset to Top Rank and a fighter they obviously did not want to lose. They attempted to starve me out and see if I’d accept whatever they offered. Clearly I was ready to fight until the very end and they finally gave up.
If they really believed I was still under contract they should have waited and gone through with the final ruling from the judge on the lawsuit. But they realized they were in trouble and didn’t want the final ruling to be public and have the judge rule in my favor. They negotiated a release that I accepted. We all walked our separate ways with no one having to pay anything.
With business, who knows the future. We might work together down the line to make a fight. This isn’t first time a fighter has had to go through this and won’t be the last time.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: I can’t think of any other fighter that was able to get out of a contract dispute with Top Rank. Have you had other fighters in similar circumstances approach you for advice?
Garcia: Not quite but I’m always reminding fighters that there’s nothing wrong with fighting back. Don’t let them take advantage of you and make sure to have the right people around you. You need real attorneys that can back you up and fight to make sure the promoters are doing their job.
While I was in litigation, I was never offered a fight from Top Rank. If they really felt the contract extension was valid, they should have been doing their job and offering fights to me. We’re the ones getting in the ring and putting our lives on the line. Not the managers. Not the promoters. And not even the fans.
At the end of the day, the business has to be worth it.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: You’re fighting on Showtime/PBC card but as a free agent. What do you need to see from a promoter to sign another long-term deal?
Garcia: It’s got to be a fair deal. I know the promoter has to make money putting together and running the show. Yes, I get that they have expenses. But on a long-term deal everything has been to shown. No hidden agendas — everything up front. I need to know exactly where the revenue comes from and what is being spent.
When a promoter doesn’t want to show you want you’re gonna make, promises a certain purse and then comes back with less, or even lying about what your opponent makes and pocketing the extra money, it’s a problem. They don’t even want to tell you how much money is being brought by the sponsors, international licensing fees, or how much is available from the gate. These categories will be blank or marked as zero on the contract disclosures. Those are red flags and I will not accept anything blindly.
How can we have a working business relationship when the fighter doesn’t know the money available? The promoter knows — they’ve been doing it for years. They should be able to give you a close estimate on what money will be coming in.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Floyd Mayweather is the best example we have of a fighter that mastered the business side of the sport. However, it came with a detriment to his in-ring legacy. We’ve spoken a lot about the business side being right for the rest of your career. Does that take precedent over your in-ring legacy?
Garcia: I think I can be successful in both ways. I want to leave a good legacy by fighting all the champions. I want to be right there with the best. What I learned through litigation and discovery can be balanced to make a great career. The money will be there by going for the big fights.
Mikey Garcia vs. Elio Rojas will be on the undercard of Leo Santa Cruz vs. Carl Frampton, airing July 30 on Showtime at 9 p.m. ET.