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Garcia battles Espino ... and nerves

Story & photos by Felipe Leon

Former WBA light middleweight champion Alejandro "Terra" Garcia of Tijuana, Mexico, often fights two different opponents when he climbs in between the ropes. One is the actual flesh and blood fighter who stands at the opposite corner of the squared circle who, in 31 fights, Garcia has amassed a 26-4-1 (24 KOs) record against. The other is the nerves that are with him every step he makes towards the ring when he leaves the dressing room.

In his last loss, the third in five fights, the nervousness was enough to cost him the bout.

"I was very nervous for that fight, very tight,” says Garcia. “I just couldn't shake off my nerves. I think I might of been intimidated a little by the name of 'Yori Boy' Campas and, the truth is, that he caught me. I wasn't able to let my hands go and he knocked me out.

“I have always had nerves but I have always been able to dominate them. Unfortunately against Campas, I wasn't able to get rid of them and he attacked me early. Many times before, I have been able to deal with them, shake them off and go after my opponent, but this time, it wasn't so. I wasn't able to land any of my punches and he got me good. Against 'Yori Boy’, they were more intense, I don't know why. Right now I feel a little bit of nerves, but I know that I am going to be able to dominate them, and I know that I am going to win.""

Garcia will have to deal with not only his nerves but with the WBC's No. 6 ranked middleweight Miguel Espino of North Hollywood, Calif., this Saturday night at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills. Azteca America will televise the Espino-Garcia ten round bout as well as the main event between Omar Salido vs. Eloy Perez.

Espino (19-2-1, 8 KOs) is best known as one of the fighters of the first season of "The Contender" series where he was eliminated by Peter Manfredo Jr. by a five-round unanimous decision. Although Espino was dispatched early on in the tournament, Garcia remembers Espino from the show.

"I have only seen his fights on 'The Contender,’ says Garcia. “I don't really see videos, only to recognize the fighter and that is what I used 'The Contender' video for. I think he looked good, it seems that he can take a punch and that he throws a lot of punches."

But Garcia, 29, practically has seen it all in his nine years as a professional fighter. He began a career relatively late in boxing terms at the age of 14.

"I just wanted to lose weight. As an amateur, I debuted as a heavyweight and as a professional I debuted as a super middleweight. I began to win and I began to like it more and now I live from boxing."

Garcia made his professional debut after only 11 bouts as an amateur, in which he held a record of nine wins against two losses.
"I went to two national amateur tournaments and I felt that I had enough experience to start as a professional," Garcia reminisces fondly. "My debut was here in Tijuana and I knocked my opponent out in the first round. What I remember is being nervous, a nervousness that I feel even today before every fight, which I think is good since I am very cautious because of those nerves and during the fight I began shake them off. Thank God I was able to knock him out."

That knockout was the first the hard hitting Garcia scored on his way to an impressive 21-0 (21 KOs) ledger by the time that Don King had heard of Garcia.

"He spoke with Roberto Sandoval, trainer at the time. Roberto mentioned to me that Don King was interested, we did two fights with him and in the third he gave us the opportunity for the title. I think that King liked my record.  When I won my title my record was 21-0, with 21 KOs."

Garcia won the WBA light middleweight title with tenth round stoppage over Roshi Wells in 2003, to score his 23rd KO in as many fights, a memory that brings a smile to Garcia's face.

"I think it was a beautiful experience. I was going in as a rookie, my first fight in Las Vegas on a huge fight card with Tito Trinidad in the main event. I was very motivated since it was for a world title but the purse wasn't what every body thinks it would be for a title fight. I was paid $10,000 which in reality was a small purse but I wanted the opportunity and thank God I won the title and that has been the most satisfying point of my career."

After winning the title, Garcia was unsuccessful in his first defense, getting stopped by Travis Simms in the fifth round. Garcia was able to capture the interim title with another KO over Roshi Wells and then earning the full fledged version with a win over Luca Messi, this time by unanimous decision in 2005. As Garcia's name began to be coupled with the best in the division, he earned the right to defend his title on Showtime on the biggest stage of his career against Jose Luis Rivera in mid 2006. After dropping Rivera twice but he in turn being knocked down five times, Garcia lost his title once again by unanimous decision.

"That fight for me is very unsatisfying since I lost my world title. After the loss, I think I lost the opportunity to face off with some bigger names since at that time my name was mentioned as one of the best of the division. I don't know what happened in that fight, I didn't feel strong. I didn't do anything wrong. A lot of people thought that I was womanizing or out drinking but that is not true. I prepare myself for two months before a fight but unfortunately I wasn't able to take his punch that night and to this date I don't know what happened."

“That loss set off a series of set backs that Garcia has overcome, one by one. First came his loss to Roman Karmazin on the undercard of the Vargas-Mayorga mega fight, "No, my loss to Karmazin had nothing to do with Rivera. Karmazin just landed a well executed hook to the body and there is no excuses."

After the loss in late 2007 to Karmazin, Garcia decided to leave the gym where he had built the majority of his career.

"I left Roberto Sandoval's camp because I felt that he left me for the wayside,” says Garcia. “I respect him and I thank him for everything that he did for me. With him I won two world titles, which is no easy feat and he taught me a lot. After the injury to Victor Burgos, Roberto was not the same—he was tired of boxing and we spoke and he mentioned that it would be best if I went to another gym.

Burgos suffered a serious head injury which forced him into a coma after his March 3rd, 2007 defeat at the hands of Vic Darchinyan.

"I empathized with him because I know that it is not easy to live with what happened to Victor Burgos," Garcia said. "I was very affected by Burgos' injury. In fact, I think about it before every fight. Victor Burgos and I are very good friends and we started out in the same gym and signed to Don King at the same time. We fought many times together on the same cards in the United States and It did affect me."

Now, Garcia finds himself working out the gym of former bantamweight champion Ricardo "Jibaro" Perez, who has began to make a name for himself in the border city as a top trainer.

"I have worked with him before,” says Garcia. “He was my conditioning coach with my fights with Roshi Wells and Travis Simms. Later on I was informed that he had a gym so I came and I spoke with him. We are great friends outside of the ring so there is a lot of trust and I wanted to work with somebody that I can trust and it was a perfect fit."

"Terra" is eager to prove that his time is not up despite his loss to Campas and his draw to Jose Luis Zertuche, in his last bout. Originally slated to appear on the non televised portion of "Latin Fury 8-Tijuana Thunder" which is being celebrated a week later in his hometown, Garcia jumped at the chance in facing Espino a week earlier.

"This is a very important fight for me. Miguel Espino is coming into the fight very motivated, he is ranked and I am not so beating him will be a great motivation for me. Everybody thinks that I am finished and I would like to earn another title opportunity and I think that Espino is a good opponent to beat so that people can hear my name again.

“I think that I am ready. I don't think that I am at a 100% but at a 90% but it is a very good 90%. I was going to fight on the 28th but I accepted this fight because he is an opponent that doesn't hit hard as his record shows and I think that with my experience I can walk away with the win."

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