Roman Martinez told to fight Garcia

Junior lightweight titlist Roman "Rocky" Martinez was ordered Thursday to face mandatory challenger Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia or risk being stripped of his 130-pound belt.

WBO president Paco Valcarcel said that Martinez must make the mandatory defense no later than October. If the sides do not come to an agreement, a purse bid will be ordered.

The fight is likely to be made without the need for a purse bid because Garcia promoter Top Rank also co-promotes Martinez with Puerto Rico Best Boxing Promotions and the companies are very close.

It is also a fight that interests both sides and one that HBO and Top Rank have been talking about putting on later this year.

Garcia (32-0, 27 KOs), 25, of Oxnard, Calif., won a vacant featherweight title in January when he dropped Orlando Salido four times en route to a dominant eighth-round technical decision, but he was stripped of the 126-pound belt for failing to make weight for a June 15 defense against former titlist Juan Manuel Lopez.

The fight went ahead anyway with only Lopez eligible to win the title, but Garcia routed him in a fourth-round knockout victory.

Even before the fight with Lopez, the plan being discussed by Garcia and his team was to fight Lopez and then move up in weight for a shot at Martinez. That plan was made easier to work out when Lopez was installed as the mandatory challenger despite never having faced a junior lightweight contender.

What is surprising about the timing of the order for Martinez to face Garcia is that Martinez made a mandatory defense in January on the undercard of Garcia-Salido, battling to a draw with Juan Carlos Burgos. Martinez followed with a split decision win against Diego Magdaleno in an April 6 defense in Macau, China, but his next mandatory is not due yet.

Martinez (27-1-2, 16 KOs), 30, of Puerto Rico, won a vacant belt via split decision against Miguel Beltran Jr. last September and will be making his third defense against Garcia, assuming a deal is finalized.