“It’s always been a dream of mine to fight in Puerto Rico, just to reach out to my fans in Puerto Rico because I am Puerto Rican and they don’t have a champion right now, so I think this gave me the perfect time for me to go over there and show the Puerto Rican fans that they have a true champion. And I’m excited about it. It’s always been a dream of mine to fight in Puerto Rico - and it happened - and I thank Golden Boy for that, for making it happen,” Garcia said.
It’s odd to think that Danny Garcia needs to gain any respect at all from boxing fans. Garcia won his belts by effectively upending Erik Morales’ career, beating him twice, while mixing in an explosive fourth round TKO upset of Amir Khan in between. Garcia followed up the rematch with Morales by going dominating Zab Judah early and going tooth-and-nail late, getting wobbled in the process while prevailing by unanimous decision. And while that win left some questions, the follow-up certainly should not.
As the co-feature to Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Saul Alvarez last September, Garcia was pitted against the boxing media and fans’ favorite boxer-puncher of the last five minutes, Lucas Matthysse. For no apparent reason beyond perhaps a dislike for the outspoken nature of his father/trainer, Angel (or for Garcia’s extracurricular activities such as rapping), fans and media alike treated the fight as if it were a walkover for Matthysse, who had yet to win big at the elite level.
Garcia fairly dominated the action, defusing “The Machine’s” explosive offense and damaging one of his eyes in the process. It was a mature, intelligent performance by a young fighter who has successfully transitioned from contender to titleholder to a champion capable of adapting.
And still, the public hasn’t caught on. Golden Boy, Garcia’s promoter, hasn’t exactly pushed him to the fore either. “He was being fed to Khan and Matthysse,” was the general consensus.
Perhaps all this is for the best as Garcia keeps winning yet has yet to reach the accepted end of the proving ground.
“Man, I train hard for every fight. I put 110 percent in the gym,” Garcia said on a recent conference call. “All I know is hard work and dedication, so there’s no thought in my mind saying that I’m going to let anybody down because I know what I bring to the fight. I know how hard I work in the gym and no matter who believes in me or who thinks I’m a winner or who thinks I’m not going to win in future or past fights, I know what I’m capable of doing. I know how hard I work. And that’s why every time at the end of the fight, I come out victorious because I know the pain and the sacrifice that I put my body through to win these fights and excite my fans.”
That hunger could come in handy versus a fighter like Herrera, who can grab you, hold you, smother your offense and generally play the spoiler all night long.
“He’s a good, tough fighter. I know he wants to be world champion and I know he’s going to come to fight but I fought many amateur fights. I fought the best pros in the world and I don’t think there’s anything he can show me differently than I already do. So I’m going to go in there and do what I do best and that’s go in there, make adjustments and get the crowd excited,” said Garcia of Herrera.
If Garcia is hoping to look good in order to impress the Puerto Rican fans and gain the respect of boxing fans the Matthysse fight didn’t give him, he has an uphill battle in front him, stylistically. Herrera knows very well how frustrating his style can be, being the last guy to beat current WBO junior welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov.
“I think my style does that to the guys, especially the stronger guys. My style tends to come out and blossom even more,” Herrera told the press on a conference call. “And I feel that this fight, I know when Danny fights, he is fighting tough and no-namers but I don’t think it takes a really tough guy and a big name to beat Danny. It could just be a random guy like me who has some skills, some smartness in their arsenal and again, an awkward style that can defeat Danny. And that’s what I’m going in really confident for.”
Herrera is a herky-jerky fighter who can in-fight or fight at long range. A fighter who came to the sport late and learned on the job, Herrera fights at his own rhythm, making it very hard to prepare for him.
“I think the biggest difference between me and those guys is a lot of those guys had a lot of amateur backgrounds,” Herrera responded when asked to compare himself to the résumé of Garcia. “You know, I don’t have a big amateur background, so I’m not following with the basic punches and rhythms as those guys have and that Danny can see and is used to; you know. I’m a little off-rhythm on my shots. And also I drill with power at times and sometimes, I have no power. Sometimes I go with speed and I can go inside. I can control distance and I’m hard to hit if you’ve seen my fights, so I think all of that will make a big difference from those fights and from me.”
Adding to the problems Garcia potentially faces Saturday is the homecoming to Puerto Rico itself. Garcia hasn’t been back to the island for about two years. Coming home a contender is one thing. Coming home the only champion the island can boast is quite another.
“It’s going to be a lot of pressure on Danny during fight week, being there in Puerto Rico, absolutely,” Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told the press assembled on the conference call to promote the fight. “So I think, yes, it’s great for Danny to be fighting in Puerto Rico but since this is the first time, there definitely will be more demands on him from a public relations standpoint, from media, from fans and from whatsoever, so all that are points which Mauricio Herrera I’m sure knows and is ready to exploit.”
But for some fighters, homecomings can be nightmares waiting to happen. Garcia insists that won’t be the case here. His father and he have a deal that they will remain focused until the day of the fight, eschewing meet-and-greets or sightseeing until after the bout.
In Garcia, Herrera is facing a bull-strong fighter with a malleable mind and style. Garcia can adapt to speed and strength. He can diffuse power, box from inside and outside. As awkward as Herrera can be, Garcia is also a puzzle to solve.
“Danny’s a very good fighter. I’m going to have to watch out for everything,” said Herrera. “He’s got a good right hand; he’s got a good left hand. I’m going to have to be careful. I’m going to have to pick my spots, know when to fight him inside and know when to box, so I have to be careful with everything. It’s going to be a tough fight.”
With a versatile fighter in front of him, Herrera understands he will also have to change things up all night in order to be successful.
“Well, as you should know, I throw a lot of punches. I use the jab very well. A lot of fighters don’t use the jab. I don’t think Danny is used to seeing that,” surmised Herrera. “You know, I can come out different ways. I can come out to pressure him. I can come out to box. I’ve shown that I can do a little bit of both and I have really great defense. I think the defense is the main key. You know, I’m not that easy to hit and I have a very good chin. So I know I can out punch a guy and it’s not going to be an easy fight but when it gets down and when we have to go and exchange, you know, I can do that too. So, I’m really ready on all angles.”
Prior to this fight being made, there were some rumors swirling that Garcia was in the Mayweather Sweepstakes but turned them down. Garcia insisted he simply fights and trains, leaving the management decisions to Al Haymon and promotional decisions to Golden Boy.
“As soon as they told me about it, just like any other opponent, we never turned down an opponent. We believe in destiny, so whomever they say is the person, that’s the person that we accept and that’s the person that we fight. It was never, ‘No, we want to fight him,’ or ‘We want to fight him,’ because you know we never do that. We just believe in destiny. Whoever it is, it is, and that’s who we fight,” explained Garcia.
If he is successful here, the option of unifying with Ruslan Provodnikov is there but there’s also the possibility of a move to 147 and richer fights. But to hear Garcia tell it, there is no need to rush to Mayweather or anyone else.
“I’m still young. I’m 25 years old and I’m growing. I’m building my own legacy and 140, it’s a little hard to make. It’s a sacrifice but I’m pretty sure once I go up to 147, it’s going to be hard too. So I don’t think the weight was an issue but I feel like, you know, I grew into the 140-pound weight class and I feel really strong. I feel real good making the weight and I feel so good in the gym, so I didn’t feel like it was possible for me to move up yet,” said Garcia.
Already living a dream, Garcia now gets to live a fantasy. The lone Puerto Rican champion goes home looking to celebrate a rich boxing culture with his people and hopefully be crowned a king among them. We should all live our dreams so vividly.
“It’s very exciting because this is where my family’s from. This is where my roots are and it’s something I always asked Richard,” said Garcia. “And I think this is very special to me because this is one of my dreams that I always dreamed of and to go over there and fight in front of all the Puerto Rican fans that are going to be there is amazing. I’ve never fought in an arena where every single fan was mine and it’s going to be very special to me and I’m going to deliver.”
Making good on my prediction that his WBO middleweight belt would in fact be a shield, Peter Quillin will take on unheralded Lukas Konecny. The Chicago-born Quillin, who also claims Brooklyn, lives in Los Angeles but is of Cuban descent, will be the main support to Bernard Hopkins vs. Beibut Shumenov April 19 in Washington, DC. Yeah.
Referee Tony Weeks made the right call in stopping Alfredo Angulo’s night short in the 10th round of his one-sided loss to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. There was no perceiving this any other way: Angulo, brave and game as he was, didn’t have it on this night. To me, the fight was effectively over after round one. Angulo walked into a hard left hook to start the fight seconds in and was shaken to his foundation. He hid it well but Alvarez was freed up to tee off right from the gate and he took advantage. He laid the ground work for the night in that first round, digging to the body, firing hands to the head and Angulo absorbed it all.
By the time Alvarez suffered his typical mid-round fatigue, Angulo had nothing to challenge him with. When Alvarez landed a giant, telegraphed uppercut to start the 10th, Weeks knew we’d all seen enough. “Canelo” stated his case that with the right style in front of him, he is going to be hard to beat.
At 23, Alvarez is a commodity with great upside. And considering the rumors swirling about a power struggle at Golden Boy Promotions, it will be interesting to see who at Golden Boy has sewn up that relationship.
You can email Gabriel at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim, now at its new home, www.blogtalkradio.com/thenextround or via iTunes subscription at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/leave-it-in-ring-radio-blog/id316004573?mt=2. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show www.Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PT.
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