By Michael Rosenthal
LOS ANGELES – Robert Garcia has suddenly become the trainer of big underdogs.
He’ll be in the corners of Josesito Lopez against WBA welterweight titleholder Keith Thurman on January 26, Abner Mares against WBA junior lightweight titleholder Gervonta Davis on February 9 and brother Mikey Garcia against IBF welterweight titleholder Errol Spence on March 16.
Which of his fighters does Garcia expect to have the easiest time? Lopez.
“I think Josesito has the best chance,” Garcia said Thursday before the press conference to promote the Davis-Mares fight. “I’m in the gym with Josesito every day. Since his last fight in April (a unanimous decision over Miguel Cruz) we already knew this fight was coming. They had already told us.
“Josesito is a fighter hungry to win a title. He’s had his opportunities but has always come up just short. He’s so strong right now, so physically strong, and so motivated.”
Lopez (36-7, 19 knockouts) made a splash when he broke the jaw of Victor Ortiz en route to a knockout victory in 2012 but was stopped by then-154-pound titleholder Canelo Alvarez three months later – Lopez’s only major title fight – and then suffered KO losses to Marcos Maidana and Andre Berto.
Garcia is guessing that Lopez is catching Thurman at the right time. “One Time” had surgery on his right elbow in April of last year, which laid him up. He then injured his left hand during a sparring session, which spoiled his planned return this past May.
Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) will have been out of the ring almost two years when he faces Lopez.
“I think Keith Thurman is at a disadvantage,” Garcia said. “He has been injured almost two years. … I don’t think he’s been sparring much. I don’t think he’s been training much. When Mikey took 2½ years off, he was always in the gym. He was sparring all of my guys, preparing them for their fights.
“That’s different from a fighter who has been off for two years. Who knows how he’s is going to come out for this fight against Josesito.”
Garcia said Lopez has improved even though he’s 34.
“He’s always been a warrior, he’s always pleased the crowd,” Garcia said. “Without disrespecting anybody, now he’s with a great team in a great camp, with great sparring partners. He’s gotten much better. And he’s motivated.
“He told me that he promised his family that he would give it one more try with me now as his trainer, me and my team. He promised himself and everybody he’d give it 100 percent. He’s been doing that.”
We’ll see if the hard work will pay off.