“I Was Always a Fighter”

Montreal super featherweight Golden Garcia is a born fighter. His professional career, still in its infancy, has begun with a suitably concussive boom for someone who steps into the ring eager for a battle. With three KO’s in six wins, he breaks his opponents down with his heavy hands, applying power and pressure in equal measure. Tonight he’ll be in action again, this time against Jesus Perez of Mexico at the big show going down at the Tohu Theatre in Montreal, another important step on the path to carving out a boxing legacy.

Garcia first came to the sport when he was 19. A self-described “hardcore head,” he was looking to get in shape, and the boxing gym was the logical place to begin for someone with a longstanding passion for boxing’s “Golden Age” of the 1940s and 50s.

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A native Montrealer, the affable Garcia is of Peruvian descent and cites Latino greats Julio Cesar Chavez and Roberto Duran, his self-described “hero,” as inspirations, admiring their skill, positioning, targeting, and intelligent aggression. But, though clearly enamoured with aggressive ring styles, Garcia is also respectful of slick boxers who can stick and move.

Garcia cites his power as one of his greatest assets. He admits he doesn’t necessarily possess one-shot, Tommy Hearns-like force in his punches, but his combination of heavy hands and pressure is a formidable one. “I have power where a guy will respect me when I touch them up,” he says. Against defensive opponents, he will hit every available target — body, forearms, shoulders — because he knows the damage will accrue and take its toll.

It’s a style that has allowed for a smooth transition from the amateur game to the pro ranks. He feels better suited to the punch-for-pay game, which, unlike the amateurs, is more about substance than style. But a fighter cannot solely rely on power and pressure, something Garcia is aware of, and working with Howard Grant has allowed him to polish his fundamentals, in particular, working behind the jab and using body shots to break down an opponent over time. He applies the same focus to his preparation outside the ring: getting up early for his road work and living a disciplined lifestyle. Garcia knows to obtain mastery over such a nuanced sport, one must embrace its endless learning process. “I’m like a sponge,” he says. “I just want to soak everything up.”

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This past June Garcia’s furious attack led to a stoppage win over Csaba Bölcskei.

Garcia prides himself on being responsible, and it’s precisely his maturity, work ethic and focus that allows him to pursue his prizefighting dreams. He has a job outside of boxing and divides his time between work, the gym, and home. Away from the ring he spends time with family and his long-time girlfriend, and looks forward to Sunday, which is the rare space in the week in which he can rest.

It is a disciplined, sometimes difficult life. So why does he do it? Garcia’s answer is emphatic and reinforces the integral role boxing plays for someone who’s never backed down: “I love it. It’s my passion. I feel good saying I bested some guy who said he was going to best me. In high school I was always getting into fights. I didn’t always win, but I was always a fighter. I never turned my back on a challenge.”

What sort of fight will he get Saturday? His opponent, Perez, is 7-7-1 with 5 KO’s. He’s the sort of foe Garcia must beat, ideally in impressive fashion, if he’s to fulfill his ambitions. Golden knows these formative matches are part of the building process, because regardless of the opponent, his mantra remains the same: “I know that if I grind it out in the gym and listen to my corner, I’ll be able to get another victory.”

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Garcia with trainer Howard Grant: “I never turned my back on a challenge.”

For Garcia, boxing is not only a vocation through which he can realize practical goals, like earning money for his family, but a path to even loftier ambitions. “More than anything,” he says, “I want a name. I want recognition. You can have anything in the world, but if nobody remembers you, what’s it worth? I want guys to say ‘I watched Golden Garcia fight. I loved the way he used to break guys down.’”

To create the legacy he craves, Garcia must build his profile patiently, fight by fight. Focused and forthright, he’s keenly aware he plies his trade in the right city.

“Montreal is the mecca of Canadian boxing,” he says. “The sport is flourishing here. I absolutely want to represent Montreal. I love this city with a passion. And I want to put Montreal on the map.”

As Garcia himself acknowledges, Montreal is already on the map with fighters like Jean Pascal, Lucian Bute, and David Lemieux drawing large crowds to the Bell Centre. But the strength of its scene lies in its robust depth. David Lemieux didn’t become a star before first coming of age on the regional level. Golden Garcia has the same dream that Lemieux has realized. Blessed with the right attitude and ability, he is already an important part of the city’s fighting future.                       — Eliott McCormick

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