With little more than a week to go before the biggest fight of their lives, four-division world champion Mikey Garcia and trainer-brother Robert have been shaken by the deaths of two members of their promotional family and a drive-by shooting that left a stablemate paralyzed.
“It’s hard,” Robert Garcia told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday as he continued to oversee his brother’s camp in Riverside in preparation for a March 16 fight for a fifth division belt against unbeaten welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“In the past two weeks, three members of the RGB [Robert Garcia Boxing] team — one is fighting the toughest fight of his life, the other two, they’re gone.”
Over the weekend, the Garcia-trained super-featherweight Izaac Colunga, 24, was shot in the back of the neck by a drive-by shooter at a house party in Riverside. Another individual was shot at the party but has been discharged. No arrests have been made.
“It’s very unfortunate, very sad,” Mikey Garcia told video reporter Elie Seckbach on Tuesday at his media day workout. “Wrong-place, wrong-time scenario … just a random thing, and now he’s fighting for his life. He was always happy to be here, working hard, learning. We’re hoping he can pull through.”
Colunga (3-0), a former football player at Corona Centennial High, was scheduled to fight at a Garcia-promoted card in Dallas on March 15. His parents told Robert Garcia that their son has no movement in his legs and limited feeling in his arms.
His family has created a GoFundMe page.
“We helped him every day. He’s one of our guys. It’s just so sad and difficult to know that one of our guys is lying in the hospital, fighting the fight of his life. It’s just unbelievable — a good kid, very athletic, with dreams of one day becoming a world champion like the ones we have in the gym, fighting under Garcia Promotions … devastating. Mikey and everyone in the gym is so sad about it.”
Garcia visited Colunga in the hospital Wednesday, a day after attending the funeral of his childhood friend and Oxnard gym employee Jamie Tourtillott, the twin brother of Garcia Boxing’s assistant trainer Jody Tourtillott.
“I grew up with the brothers in the gym,” said Garcia, a former world champion himself. “One of them took the wrong direction and got involved in drugs. The other is working with fighters in my gym in Oxnard. He was with Brandon Rios last week” for a fight in Tijuana.
“We had gotten Jamie in a [drug-treatment] program in San Diego for about a year,” Garcia continued. “He got out, was in camp with me, helping out, cleaning the gym. He thought he was good and clean and told me he had his family in Oxnard, so he went back home and found the bad friends … he got back into drugs and died of an overdose.”
That compounded the stunning news that Mikey Garcia’s longtime friend Jovani Robledo, a truck driver from San Antonio who routinely attended the Garcia family fights and assists in fight-week preparations, was killed in a car crash. The Garcias will have a life-size cardboard cutout of Robledo at the fight in Texas.
Instead of falling into grief, Robert Garcia says he and brother Mikey (39-0, 30 knockouts) are trying to draw inspiration by dedicating their underdog bout against Texas’ International Boxing Federation-champion Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) on March 16 to their boxing family.
“These tragedies have given us another push to go out and perform and do good for our three close friends,” Robert Garcia said. “Izaac is the one fighting the toughest fight of his life…. He’s young and hungry, and I know if he comes through this, he’s young enough to get back into boxing and make a miracle. Anything’s possible.”