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Mikey Garcia and his brother are a winning combination in the ring

Mikey Garcia and his brother are a winning combination in the ring
World Boxing Council lightweight champion Mikey Garcia holds a media workout at Fortune Gym in Hollywood in anticipation of his Saturday title match against unbeaten Robert Easter Jr. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Mikey Garcia knows how siblings typically behave.

“My kids are four years apart. They’re constantly fighting, hitting each other, grabbing the toy away from the other,” Garcia, 30, said.

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But in Garcia’s successful union with his brother and trainer, Robert, that tension is absent from a sibling bond separated by 13 years.

“There was no arguing because of the years of difference … we didn’t baby Mikey, but we knew his age and never wanted to make him feel bad,” sister Jackie Garcia, 41, said.

Oxnard-raised and Riverside-trained, Mikey Garcia (38-0, 30 knockouts) has grown to become a four-division world champion. He will defend his World Boxing Council lightweight belt Saturday night at Staples Center in a Showtime-televised bout against International Boxing Federation lightweight champion Robert Easter Jr. (21-0, 13 KOs) of Toledo, Ohio.

Mikey Garcia was originally cornered by his keen-eyed father, Eduardo, whose best-known fighters were his son and former world champion Fernando Vargas.

Robert Garcia captured the IBF super-featherweight belt in 1998, but lost it the next year in a technical knockout to Diego Corrales and retired in 2001.

The admiring kid brother was enamored by nearly everything his older brother did, from winning fights at the Forum and scoring knockouts at the old Olympic Auditorium to La Quebradita dancing in the 1990s with girls at strip malls to playing Mike Tyson’s Knockout on the Nintendo system inside their mobile home.

As their father complemented his strawberry-picking job with boxing training, gloves were ever-present around the home.

“When Mikey was real little, he’d wear these big gloves and I’d get on my knees to see if he could hit me … when he couldn’t, he’d get so mad,” Jackie Garcia said. “Sometimes Mikey would put on my brother’s boots and he could barely walk on them, but he’d still try … he wanted to be like him … and he’d box a lot.”

Boxing was not a joyous undertaking for Robert.

“My dad’s old school,” Robert said. “I’ve told Mikey about the experiences, where making weight was not drinking water two to three weeks before the fight. Nobody can perform like that, so I wouldn’t do well in sparring and my dad would get mad at me, thinking I wasn’t in shape.”

It influenced Robert in retirement as he transitioned first to assist his father in the amateur training of Mikey and ultimately fully handled world champions Brandon Rios, Antonio Margarito, Marcos Maidana and Abner Mares.

“Robert doesn’t want his boxers to hate the sport. My dad was so strict and Robert would get mad and say he didn’t want to box anymore,” Jackie said. “That’s why Robert has his own way of training. And it’s been successful.”

His prized student became Mikey, who ascended to winning a world title five years ago with Robert in charge of the corner.

“When my dad started feeling the age, getting tired with the laborious work, my brother stepped in for the world-title fights and with his experience as a champion fighter while relying on my dad’s training principles, we make a better team,” Mikey said.

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“They know me better than anyone else. They raised me. They understand what I’m capable of doing and I know everything they instruct me to do is for my own good, so I pay attention.

The mutual respect that exists remained true even as Mikey became locked in a contract dispute with his then-promoter Bob Arum that resulted in the significant financial loss of leaving the sport for more than two years.

Robert Garcia said during the hiatus that he nudged his younger brother to settle, and Mikey countered that he was determined to see a headline reading “Garcia beats Arum.”

“Mikey always wanted stuff his way or he’d make a tantrum,” Jackie said of their childhood. “It had to be his way.”

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