For 39 professional fights, Mikey Garcia didn’t know what it felt like to lose. He’d risen through the ranks on his way to becoming a four-division world champion and being regarded as pound-for-pound one of the best fighters in boxing by taking the toughest challenges along the way.
That was certainly the case when Garcia jumped up two weight classes to battle IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. in front of over 47,000 people at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, back in March of last year. However, things didn’t go Garcia’s way, and Spence dominated from the opening bell to win a lopsided decision.
But instead of sulking and blaming everyone under the sun for why he lost for the first time, Garcia began thinking about the future.
“I wasn’t sad at all,” Garcia told Sporting News. “I wasn’t dwelling on the past. I was just looking forward to the future right away. On the flight back home, I was already preparing for the future. I took time off, and that allowed me to focus my time and energy on other projects that I have. Now, I got the itch to get back into the ring. I’m more hungry, motivated, excited. I feel the layoff also helped me reignite that spark again.”
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Eleven months later, the fire is reignited, and Garcia returns to the ring on Saturday against Jessie Vargas at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, live on DAZN .
One of the questions coming in is why would Garcia stay at welterweight? Spence had the height, weight and reach advantage and bullied Garcia for 36 minutes. Why not go back to 135 or 140 pounds, win world titles, and regain the status of being one of the elite pugilists in the sport?
“That fight isn’t indicative of who I am and what I’m capable of doing,” Garcia said. “The last fight doesn’t represent who I am. It was just one of those nights where I just couldn’t get off or do anything. I feel this a good way to get back on track against a big name in search of winning a world title in a fifth different weight class. I know there’s a lot more I can deliver, and that’s what this fight is all about.”
Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs) had plenty of options on who to take on for his in-ring return. He could have easily taken a tune-up in the welterweight division. However, that’s not the mindset Garcia possesses. It’s about taking the toughest matchups — ones that will further establish himself and help him be remembered after his career is over.
That’s why Garcia is excited about facing Vargas, who checks all the boxes that he’s looking for. Vargas (29-2-2, 11 KOs) is a former two-division world champion and has taken on Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley and brings an exciting style to the table.
Garcia understands if he’s genuinely going to be a legit contender at 147 pounds and be mentioned in the same conversations with Spence, Pacquiao, Terence Crawford and Shawn Porter, then Vargas will provide that litmus test.
“I didn’t want an easy fight in my return,” Garcia said. “I rejected opponents because I wanted a big and tough bout for my comeback. Those types of fights don’t motivate me, get me excited, and feel they would hurt my legacy. I want a fight that can showcase my skills and establish myself as a key player in the welterweight division. Jessie Vargas fits the name.”
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