ATLANTIC CITY—A group of opposing trainers in the locker room asked Vineland native Ismael Garcia how long it’s been since his last fight.

“Too long,” Garcia said without hesitation.

Garcia (4-0, 1 KO) looked anything but rusty with a first-round TKO of Kenneth Moody at Resorts Casino Hotel's Superstar Theatre on Friday.

Garcia and fellow local fighter Josh Mercado of Wildwood Crest each entered bouts Friday following separate two-year layoffs.

“We had a layoff, but we’ve been training,” Garcia said. “We’ve had three or four camps within that layoff. It’s not that we weren’t active. We just weren’t getting the fights.”

Garcia may have raised some eyebrows for a possible future fight with an impressive performance in his middleweight fight with Moody of Virginia Beach, Va.

A series of early combinations by Garcia set the pace.

Moody never found his way into the fight.

Garcia staggered Moody with a left hook to the chin.

“He was coming in a little wide so we tried to catch him with the check hook,” Garcia said. “He didn’t take it so well and when I saw him backing up and squinting his eyes, I had to jump on him.”

The referee stopped the fight 1 minute, 9 seconds into the first round.

“It felt good, real good,” Garcia said. “It’s about time. Hopefully this gets the ball rolling and we get a couple more fights before the end of the year.”

Garcia opened his career with a unanimous decision against Mercado in 2010.

Mercado stepped away from boxing following a decision over Kwame Hill on July 9, 2010.

Since then, the Lower Cape May Regional High School grad became a history teacher at Cape May Tech, where he coaches basketball and baseball. He coaches football at Wildwood High School.

“I’m going to be honest,” Mercado said. “I had 60 amateur fights and this is my seventh pro fight and I’ve never been so nervous.

“I coach three sports in high school (at Cape May Tech) and I’m a teacher and I have kids out here. The kids know everything black and white. Coach Mercado loses and he’s a nerd. I’m not listening to him. That pressure is unbelievable.”

Mercado easily had the largest cheering section at Friday’s fights with more than 200 seats reserved.

“The energy in the crowd made all the difference,” Mercado said. “When it’s quiet I know I’m doing something wrong. Then when they start cheering you want to keep the cheers going and it brings you adrenaline.

“The people out there are not fans. They are friends and family and now students. They mean everything. There is no way I’m fighting anywhere else. I’m not fighting in Virginia or Vegas. I’ll always stay in Atlantic City because that’s where they are.”

After feeling out Philadelphia’s Korey Sloane in the first round of their four-round junior welterweight bout, Mercado took over in the second.

Mercado kept Sloane at bay with his jab and worked in behind with a series of combinations.

He nearly knocked Sloane out in the final seconds of the bout but Sloane was able to keep his feet long enough to send it to the judges, who unanimously favored Mercado.

Mercado said he will take a few days before discussing his future with trainers and friends.

“It was a great win,” Mercado said. “But even though it was a great win, realistically, I would have a long way to go if I was going to make this a realistic dream

Philadelphia super middleweight Farah Ennis won by unanimous decision over Richard Pierson of Paterson in a 10-round co-main event.

Raymundo Beltran of Phoenix earned a majority decision of Philadelphia lightweight Hank Lundy for the NABF title.

Atlantic City welterweight Anthony Young fought in a late bout.s.

Contact John O’Kane:


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