It’s a long way from the steaming sugar cane fields of Puerto Rico to owning a raft of businesses in the blue-collar Juniata Park section of Philadelphia. But Angel Garcia made that transition, and he says he has tried to instill the same tenacious work ethic in his son Danny.
Apparently, the lessons passed on from father to son took root and flourished. Danny “Swift” Garcia (29-0, 17 KOs) is the WBC super lightweight champion of the world, a title which will not be on the line when he squares off against IBF junior welterweight champ Lamont Peterson (33-2-1, 17 KOs) the night of April 11 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Neither man’s belt will be on the line as the fight will be at an agreed-upon catch weight of 143 pounds.
Garcia-Peterson is the main event of the second Premier Boxing Champions series on NBC, to be preceded by the co-feature, in which WBO middleweight champ Andy Lee (34-2, 24 KOs), of London, defends his title against Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (31-0, 22 KOs).
Not that the absence of title-unification status – there has been more than a little discussion about that — means a whole lot to either Garcia. To them, any fight is a fight to be won, whether it is or isn’t for a bejeweled strap or straps.
“I wish we were fighting for that IBF title because that would be Danny’s, too,” said Angel, who talks loud and proud, with some justification because, well, his kid backs it up. “It’s OK, though. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still a championship kind of fight. And when it’s over, Danny will still be undefeated.”
It irks Angel that Danny, who has defended his championship five times, was the underdog against challengers Lucas Matthysse (whom he defeated on a unanimous decision on Sept. 14, 2013) and Amir Khan (whom he stopped in four rounds on July 14, 2012).
“We’re used to being disrespected,” said Angel, disregarding the fact that Danny is nearly a 3-to-1 favorite against Peterson, who now lives in Memphis, Tenn., by way of his birth city of Washington, D.C. “But what can I say? I like for Danny to be the underdog. There’s nothing wrong with being favored, but it does motivate you more when people don’t expect you to win.
“As far as I’m concerned, Peterson is the favorite this time, too. He’s probably thinking that April 11 will be an easy night for him. He’s imagining himself on the top of the mountain, but it’s not going to happen. We’re going to ruin his party.”
The Garcia family complex on Jasper Street – five businesses under one roof– is a testament to the value of sweat equity, as continually espoused by the patriarch.
“You can bring your car in to be fixed at the auto body shop, get your hair done (at the barber shop or the beauty salon, which is currently under construction) or cut a record (at the recording studio),” said Angel, the budding entrepreneur.
If you’re a fighter and are a dues-paying member of the gym around the back, you can also train alongside Danny, widely considered to be the best 140-pound fighter in the world – at least until he makes his expected move up to welterweight, which could be as early as this summer.
“I would love to defend my title one more time, but if I can’t make 140 by the summertime, I’ll go up to 147,” the 27-year-old Danny said as he wrapped his hands in preparation for going through his paces during a media availability session Wednesday afternoon. “I’m just building my legacy one fight at a time. A lot of fighters say their careers go by so fast. This is my 30th professional fight and they’ve all been a blessing. I soak in every moment of it.”
Angel said Danny always strives to get better because, well, nothing less than maximum effort in the cozy little enclosure to the rear of the low-slung, white cinderblock building is acceptable. Sure, the trip up that figurative mountain has been exhilarating, but Angel remembers what it was like when he was an impoverished youth who had nothing, and the only way to get something was to attack every task as if it were the most important thing in the world.
“When I was a child in Puerto Rico, they still had a lot of people cutting sugar cane,” Angel recalled. “It was hard work, cutting that sugar cane. People here think Puerto Ricans came to America to just go on welfare. That’s a lie. There wasn’t no welfare when I lived in Puerto Rico. People worked hard. I worked hard. There was nothing free there.
“Now, people are a little more pampered. But Danny got his work ethic from me. That’s why he’s champion of the world.”
That, and maybe an old-fashioned butt-thumping when Danny lost a bout in the amateurs, giving what Angel considered to be less than his best effort.
“I took him in a room and whipped his ass,” Angel said, an admission that sounds harsh in light of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson incidents that darkened the 2014 NFL season. “He never lost again after that. I didn’t whip his ass to abuse him; I whipped his ass to wake him up, so he wouldn’t ever lose to himself again.”
For his part, Danny appears to have no qualms about having survived Angel’s brand of tough love. If he puts in the dedication required to gain his father’s approval in the gym, he figures he’s most of the way toward winning it on fight night. He said he is prepared for anything and everything Peterson might throw at him.
“I’m ready for whatever,” he said. “If he wants to box, I’ll be a lion and stalk him down. If he wants to fight, we can fight. Everybody knows I can fight. That’s not hard for me. But I’m not going to go crazy and try to knock his head off. I’m going to go in there and be Danny Garcia.”
Should he get past Peterson – Angel said Danny “on his worst day” could handle his April 11 opponent – there are a wealth of attractive options available to him. His next fight could be against his mandatory super lightweight challenger, Ukraine’s Viktor Postol (26-0, 11 KOs), who is scheduled to appear on the Garcia-Peterson undercard, or Adrien Broner (30-1, 22). Welterweight contender Marcos Maidana (35-5, 31 KOs), he of the two most recent challenges of WBC/WBA/IBF 147-pound ruler Floyd Mayweather Jr., also has been mentioned.
Any mention of Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs) or Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs), who clash May 2 in Las Vegas in what is sure to be the highest-grossing prizefight of all time, certainly gets Danny’s attention.
“Big money,” Danny said. “I would love to fight either of those guys. That’s what boxing’s about. It’s every fighter’s dream to fight on that kind of stage, for a lot of money and all the exposure in the world. But I take it one fight at a time. Every fighter gets his chance to eat. They all can’t be at the table at the same time.”
As confident of success as the Garcias are, Danny enters the matchup with Peterson with at least one perceived blemish on his undefeated record, and with a hint of controversy. More than a few observers believed he should not have gotten the majority-decision victory over challenger Mauricio Herrera on March 15, 2015, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Danny’s first fight in his father’s homeland. Others derided his most recent bout, a two-round blowout of the overmatched Rod Salka in the Barclays Center that was so non-competitive that it was not sanctioned as being worthy of sanctioning as a championship event.
The fact that Garcia-Peterson is at a catch weight is suspicious, if for no other reason than both fighters are advised by the all-powerful, seldom-seen Al Haymon, the money man behind the Premier Boxing Champions series.
“I know a lot of fans wanted it to be a unification fight, but it’s still a big fight,” Danny said. “It’s a fight the public wanted. I’m going to give them a good night of boxing on NBC. It’s time to show the world who the star on NBC is – Danny Garcia.”
Which means that winning in and of itself might not be enough. The old adage is “Win this win, look good the next time out,” but the Garcias know there is no time like the present to make a splash.
“The whole idea (of PBC on NBC) is to broaden boxing, to bring it back to where it used to be,” Danny said. “I think the first showcase on NBC (on March 13) had, like, 4.6 million viewers. I know this fight will be even better. I can’t wait to go out there and showcase my skills.”
And, maybe, avoid another butt-thumping from dear old dad.