Mikey Garcia feels whole again.
He owned a featherweight title, but he was disappointingly stripped when he failed to make weight for a June defense against Juan Manuel Lopez. But Garcia has a world title belt wrapped around his waist again after moving up in weight and knocking out Rocky Martinez with a sensational left hook to the liver in the eighth round on Saturday night in Corpus Christi, Texas.
"It definitely feels a lot better than losing my title on the scales," Garcia told ESPN.com on Monday. "I'm very happy with how things turned out and that I'm getting recognition for my achievements."
Garcia (33-0, 28 KOs), at 25, is one of the best young fighters in boxing and seems headed for a long run. He has excellent power, great poise, a diverse skill set and underrated defense, which means he doesn't get hit a whole lot -- although Martinez did clip him and drop him in the second round. But the always-calm Garcia, down only once before that in his career, brushed it off.
"Being calm is just part of the way I am as a fighter. I'm calm and patient," he said. "It was something new, getting dropped, but I never panic. The experience is there. I've seen what other fighters do and learned from other people's mistakes and I'm able to control my emotions. I'm more comfortable in the ring than other fighters [are], maybe. I'm just comfortable with the atmosphere in the ring."
Other than the knockdown, Garcia dominated the fight until the violent ending.
"It was a normal night for me," Garcia said. "It was not too difficult for me to find my rhythm. I found my range and distance and landed some good punches. He did catch me with a good shot [for the knockdown], but I wasn't hurt at all. I laughed a bit at the situation, got up and continued my game plan. I was surprised he dropped me, but he landed the right punch."
With the dominant victory, to go along with several other quality wins, Garcia is now considered by many among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Although getting the recognition is nice, he said he does not dwell on it like some other fighters do.
"We're happy with making sure we win the fights," he said. "I don't worry too much about the ratings. Every writer and critic has their own list. Where they put me doesn't bother me, but it's nice that people can start to recognize me and give me credit. But it doesn't mean too much to me.
"It's not one of my goals or something I strive for or try to reach and accomplish, but it's great to be recognized. I'm just doing my job."
As good as Garcia is, junior lightweight isn't a deep division. There are no marquee fights for him there, so he said he would be content with a unification fight of some kind. There is also the prospect of a fight with Yuriorkis Gamboa, the former unified featherweight titlist who now holds an interim lightweight belt.
"I'm willing to fight anyone. It doesn't matter," Garcia said. "I'm willing to fight anybody, even if it's not a big name. I know my worth and where I am in boxing, so I have to make sure it's in the best interest for me to make the fight with Gamboa happen, but I am definitely willing. We just need to make sure any negotiations go well, but if he's my next fight, fine. I'll fight him in either weight class [130 or 135]. The weight is not going to be an issue.
"I've seen Gamboa a couple of times. It would be a good fight. He has skills and he can be explosive, so it would be a good challenge for me."
As for a unification, Garcia mentioned Argenis Mendez, who first has a mandatory due against Rances Barthelemy, which is likely to happen in January.
"Unifications would interest me," Garcia said. "We could put it together. My brother [and trainer] Robert [Garcia] mentioned Mendez to me. Hopefully, we could do that."
Cameron Dunkin, Garcia's manager, said Garcia's next fight could be as soon as Jan. 25 in New York on HBO. Another potential opponent Dunkin mentioned is Juan Carlos Burgos, who was held to a controversial draw when he challenged Martinez this past January.
"I'm talking with [Top Rank's] Bob [Arum] about different guys, but we don't know which direction we're going to go in and what HBO wants to do," Dunkin said. "What we do know is Mikey is one helluva champion."