Photo Credit: Esther Lin/Showtime
And mama used to say
Take your time, young man
Mama used to say
Don’t you rush to get old – Junior, “Mama Used to Say”
You hear the above a lot when you’re young. Enjoy life. Don’t rush too fast into complicated situations. But as the years past and the age mounts, that luxury does a 180. You better start rushing before your window for success closes. Such is the case with 29-year-old Mikey Garcia, who is perhaps facing his most dangerous opponent in undefeated slugger and WBC lightweight titlist Dejan Zlaticanin. Just one fight removed from a 2.5-year sabbatical due to promoter issues, Garcia doesn’t have time to play political games and pick up easy titles. His window to achieve greatness is now.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Before we get into your big fight on Saturday, I wanted to go back to your first comeback bout last July. How would you evaluate that performance now that you have some time to look back on it?
Garcia: I think it was a very good performance for my return. There was a lot of concern regarding the layoff with 2.5 years off and fighting in a different weight class. I strongly believed none of that would be a factor. Everyone saw I was as good as I was before. My opponent Elio Rojas was tricky — he tried to use his speed and footwork to give me angles and make it difficult for me. But once I set the pace, distance and timing, I took over the fight. I put him down a few times and stopped him so overall I feel good about it.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Was there any nervousness? Even Muhammad Ali mentioned when he came off his layoff he was nervous and felt his stamina suffered a bit from it.
Garcia: Not really. He was just another fight. Even though I was gone for 2.5 years, it felt like nine months to me. I never left, I was always working in the gym, training and sparring throughout the layoff.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: The reaction to you taking on Dejan Zlaticanin has been interesting. On one hand, fans last year complained that we didn’t get a lot of quality, 50/50 fights due to political and business issues. But some of those same fans have said you’re taking this fight too soon against an undefeated, aggressive fighter…
Garcia: Y’know what, we can’t please everybody. I’m here to do what I believe is right for my career. I want to pick up right where I left off before my layoff. I was forced to vacate the title at 130 pounds because of the layoff. I would’ve been moving up to 135 shortly after, so that’s why we’re fighting for the WBC title. We’re not trying to cherry-pick opponents to get a vacate title by finding the “right opportunity” with the “right guy.” We’re after the strong, heavy hitters like Dejan Zlaticanin.
Maybe it’s too soon, maybe I should wait? That’s exactly what I’m trying to disprove. I’ve been here and I’m ready to take over.
We’re not trying to cherry-pick opponents to get a vacate title by finding the “right opportunity” with the “right guy.” We’re after the strong, heavy hitters like Dejan Zlaticanin.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Is Zlaticanin’s style completely new or do you have some experience with powerful, pressure southpaws like him?
Garcia: I’ve fought southpaws but this will be the one southpaw I’m facing that has a relentless pressure style. He seems to never take a step back. He’s very dangerous because he has power in both hands, especially that left. But that’s why I have the right sparring partners and my dad and brother are preparing me well.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Zlaticanin comes off low-key but I noticed he’s really good at back-handed compliments. He said you’re better than Terry Flanagan, a guy I know you’re targeting, but Zlaticanin also said he felt you’re easy to hit. Did you get any impressions from the press conferences that he might be underestimating you?
Garcia: I’m not sure. I don’t keep up with anything he has to say and only met him at the press conference. But I’d prefer it if he’s that confident and comes to fight. That’s only going to help and push me to show my greatness. I don’t want him coming in unmotivated and going down by taking a knee. No, I want him to push me to the best of my abilities.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: You have a very good right hand that should be primary weapon in this fight. Where do you feel your right has been most effective: outside, mid-range or up–close?
Garcia: Y’know what, I actually like to wait and figure out my opponent before deciding the range. I’ve never seen a full fight of Zlaticanin’s; maybe a round or two. I leave my dad and my brother to come up with the game plan and study my opponent.
From what I’ve seen, he’s very good at applying pressure and fighting on the inside. He’s very powerful but I’m not sure how well he can switch up his style to box and move off the backfoot. But, he is a world champion so I have to assume he has other tricks he can pull out.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: With the winner of the rematch between Anthony Crolla and Jorge Linares being a target, who do you see coming out on top?
Garcia: I think Linares has more of the advantage since he’s been here before. He’s a world champion in three divisions and has a win over Crolla. I’m leaning towards him just due to the experience and his heart.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Any closing thoughts?
Garcia: I promised everyone I’d be back. You’ll remember me from what I accomplish going forward over what I did before the layoff.
Garcia vs. Zlaticanin airs live on Showtime Saturday, January 28 at 9 p.m. ET