If there's one person who would love to thwart his former promoter Bob Arum's plans, it's Mikey Garcia.
So even if skepticism abounds that the Riverside-trained Garcia (37-0, 30 knockouts) would leave his manager Al Haymon's close ties to Showtime for HBO, Garcia told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that he's interested in a May 12 lightweight title unification bout against Jorge Linares.
Arum, the promoter for two-division champion Vasyl Lomachenko, complained last week that Linares' U.S. promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, was denying him a chance to fight Lomachenko on May 12 on ESPN. Late last year, Garcia rejected an offer from Golden Boy that would have bound him into a multi-fight with the promotional company, including a Linares bout. Linares proceeded to defeat Mercito Gesta by unanimous decision at the Forum on Jan. 27.
Golden Boy President Eric Gomez said that he preferred Linares to fight on HBO on May 12 on a card that will net a license fee to Golden Boy from HBO. That fight will be complemented on the broadcast by a replay of the anticipated May 5 pay-per-view rematch between middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.
Arum knows well that drawing Linares away to ESPN would draw viewers away from HBO.
But Garcia, the World Boxing Council lightweight champion, knows that his fighting World Boxing Assn. lightweight champion Linares in a unification could fare well against a secondary Lomachenko bout.
Garcia first needs to emerge healthy and victorious from his bid to collect a fourth world-title belt March 10 in San Antonio, Tex., against Russia's International Boxing Federation junior-welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets (13-0).
If he does, Garcia said he would explore meeting Linares, who Garcia is mandated by the WBC to meet next anyway.
"I'm definitely interested in facing Linares," Garcia said. "If I'm healthy enough — no bruises, no cuts, no damage — then we'd definitely entertain that proposal."
Garcia sat out of boxing for more than three years due to a contract dispute with Top Rank Inc.'s Arum, splitting to declare himself his own man but remaining closely allied to Haymon and Showtime.
"I don't have much to say about Bob. He doesn't have anything good to say about me, but I'd rather just be quiet," Garcia said when asked if his pursuit of a May 12 fight to compete with Arum's Lomachenko bout on ESPN was made out of spite.
"They're doing their job with their fighters," Garcia said. "I know how that company works. I got a good first-hand taste of how the company works and I see what they're doing, but I'm in control of my career now and doing what's best for me."
Garcia is referencing the speculation that Arum didn't have genuine interest in a Lomachenko-Linares fight because he initiated contact with Linares' Japan-based promoter and was well aware that HBO was saving May 12 for a fight to complement its Golovkin-Alvarez replay.
Arum admitted over the weekend that Lomachenko probably will fight his newly belted World Boxing Organization lightweight champion, journeyman Ray Beltran, May 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"I've heard and read how things are going, the issues with the networks of matching up the date for Linares and Lomachenko," Garcia said. "That leaves the door open for me.
"Hopefully, we'll still able to get in the ring with Jorge."
Lipinets said at a media workout with Garcia in Los Angeles on Tuesday that his review of Garcia fight footage has revealed patterns that could lend itself to a knockout punch.
"I have no idea what his mindset or plan would be," Garcia said, "but if winning by knockout is his goal, then I have to think about how I'll approach the fight.
"I traditionally like to be patient, calm and look for openings — try to box for a few rounds until I figure out what the best thing in the ring will be for me. I'll use the same strategy and decide what that next step will be. But if I feel I can hurt him, then I'm going after him as well and if he's coming with the mindset to attack me, then that makes for a better fight."
Should Garcia win a fourth belt at age 30, he'd be positioned to pursue a run toward Manny Pacquiao's record seven belts by the end of his career.
"I haven't had that [thought]," Garcia said. "I don't have a number set that I'm chasing, but I do believe I'll be a champion at 140, and again at 147."