Mikey Garcia was on the verge of becoming a major boxing star. He was a two-division champion and universally ranked among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He was 34-0 and had strung together several important victories, including a stoppage of Juan Manual Lopez.
That was more than two years ago.
What happened next was a lawsuit between Garcia and his promoter, Bob Arum. At the heart of the dispute were the value of Garcia’s purses and whether or not the contract expired or could be extended. The two sides finally settled in April, and Garcia became a promotional free agent.
Finally, after 30 months without a fight, Garcia returns to the ring against Elio Rojas on July 30 at the Barclays Center. He will fight a 10-round co-feature on the card televised by Showtime. Leo Santa Cruz defends his WBA super featherweight title against Carl Frampton in the main event.
“In what has been typical of Mikey’s career, he hasn’t taken the easy road,” said Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports. “He found someone who is a worthy fighter, a tough challenger and a former world champion. We are excited to see what he has planned for a new division.”
Garcia is returning as a junior welterweight and is within range of fighting the likes of Adrian Broner or Danny Garcia. But first is Rojas, a former WBC featherweight champion with a record of 24-2. Rojas is also coming off a near two-year layoff.
“I could have chosen a much easier opponent,” said Garcia. “But I didn’t want the fans to criticize me or my opponent. I remember him, he’s a very good fighter, he has excellent skills. I want him to come in and perform to the best of his ability because that will bring out the best in me.”
Garcia doesn’t feel the absence will hurt him because he has consistently remained in the gym and has sparred with many of the top fighters that his brother, Robert, has trained.
“I’m ready,” said Garcia. “I think the fans are going to be very surprised with my performance on July 30. I stayed in the gym almost the entire time. I took maybe two or three weeks off over the entire two-year period. I sparred a lot. I was the main sparring partner for Marcos Maidana when he fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. That allowed me to stay in shape. It only seems like a few months because I never took much time out of the gym.”
This will be Garcia’s fourth fight in New York. The Californian’s three previous fights were at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
“New York has always been very good to me,” he said. “There is a lot of boxing history in New York. And the fans are real boxing fans, they know the sport.”