Dallas • Mikey Garcia fights as defending WBO featherweight champion for the first time Saturday night against former title-holder Juan Manuel Lopez.
He has prepared to battle his nerves as well.
"I don't feel any different, but people treat you different," said Garcia, who will face Lopez at American Airlines Center in a fight that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban helped promote. "Now I'm coming in as a champion, so it might be a little more excitement this time."
Garcia took the title from Orlando Salido on a unanimous decision in New York in January. He is 31-0 with 26 knockouts.
The only two losses of Lopez's career came to Salido. The first one cost him the WBO belt, and the second led to a one-year suspension by Puerto Rican boxing officials when he accused the referee who stopped the fight of betting on the match.
Lopez, who is known as Juanma, has said several times the fight with Garcia is the biggest of the Puerto Rican's career.
"It is a very important fight and one that I had to take at this point in my career," Lopez, who is 33-2 with 30 knockouts, said through an interpreter in a conference call. "I know this fight can get me back to where I want to be."
Lopez showed a little gamesmanship by essentially trying to take credit for Garcia's win over Salido. Lopez said Salido was "beat up by me," and that the Mexican fighter "wasn't as fresh when he fought Mikey as when he was fighting me."
Not surprisingly, the California-born Garcia had a different view of his win in a fight that was stopped after the eighth round when an accidental head butt by Salido broke Garcia's nose. Garcia was dominating the fight.
"I thought I fought a really good Orlando Salido," Garcia said. "I never let him get into his fight. I knew what I needed to do against him and I think that was the difference. I was able to control the fight."
Lopez has won twice since his one-year ban ended, beating Aldimar Silva Santos in February and knocking out Eugenio Lopez in an undercard bout in Mexico City in April.
"I think those two fights I had were very important because after the long layoff I was able to get in the gym, get on my diet, get a rhythm of training and fighting," Lopez said.