Danny Garcia Going Home Again – As it turns out, Danny “Swift” Garcia and his father-trainer, Angel Garcia, were correct. The younger Garcia, the WBC welterweight champion, is going home again, although in every way other than boxing, he never left.
Nearly a month ago, at his gym in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia, the 28-year-old predicted that the first defense of his 147-pound title – which had been vacated by the retired Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose slot he filled by scoring a unanimous decision over Robert Guerrero on Jan. 23 in Los Angeles – would be in the city of his birth, where he had not fought since knocking out Enrique Colon in two rounds on Dec. 2, 2009.
“It’s another dream come true to me, to be a Latino boxing champion from Philadelphia defending his title here,” he told the Sweet Science. “It’s never been done.”
The press conference to announce Garcia’s ring homecoming supposedly was to be held “in a couple of days.” But those days passed, and so did the following week, the week after that and still another week after that. It was beginning to appear that Garcia’s cheery vision of reintroducing himself to his local fan base was apt to go unfulfilled. It wouldn’t be the first time that what the former WBC/WBA super welterweight champ thought would happen in a career that has been marked by periods of inactivity not of his choosing would again not happen.
But whatever snags led to the delay apparently have been smoothed over, and Garcia (32-0, 18 KOs) will be fighting an opponent yet to be named on Nov. 12 at the Liacouras Center on the Temple University campus in North Philly. The bout will headline a Premier Boxing Champions card on Spike TV.
At the time the Garcias enthusiastically spoke about Danny’s “imminent” return to Philly, in a professional sense, there was some speculation that he would be paired against two-time former welterweight champ Andre Berto (31-4, 24 KOs). The omission of Berto’s name from the announcement that world championship boxing again is coming to Philly suggests that PBC honcho Al Haymon might be looking at other possible opponents. The identity of the mystery man presumably will be revealed at a press conference next week.
Garcia has makes no bones about his love of Philadelphia, which runs so deep that he even named his now-2-year-old daughter Philly Swift Garcia. But while Philadelphia is a boxing hotbed that traditionally has produced as many world-class fighters as any American city, financial realities have dictated in recent years that the best of the best take their act on the road. Garcia has fought just four times in the town that gave the world Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins, Joey Giardello, Jeff Chandler, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Bennie Briscoe, Meldrick Taylor, Tommy Loughran, Harold Johnson and a host of other ring notables.
“I think it’s very important to have your hometown behind you,” Garcia said. “I think the people in Philadelphia love me although I haven’t given them a championship fight before. I’ve only had a couple of professional fights here, but I had my whole amateur career here. You always want to build yourself up in your hometown. That’s the best way to do it. You just have to cross-promote.”
As if to emphasize that point, Garcia said his next fight after mixing it up with Mr. TBA likely would a unification showdown with WBA welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs), of Clearwater, Fla., “probably in Las Vegas or New York, although I’d prefer for it to be in Philadelphia.”
“That ain’t no Vegas fight,” Angel Garcia quickly interjected. “We ain’t fighting in Vegas. You’re fighting in your hometown again.”
“Whatever my coach wants, man,” Danny said, smiling.
More likely, it’s what Haymon wants, and it’s no secret that PBC’s once-bottomless cash reserves are dwindling to a point where Haymon’s stable of 150-plus fighters are finding it increasingly difficult to procure the prized TV dates that once were so plentiful under the PBC banner. Even when they get one, chances are it’s for smaller paydays than they became accustomed to when the publicity-shy Haymon was throwing money around as if it were confetti.
Garcia has been out of sight, and thus out of mind, for a variety of reasons. The Nov. 12 date will mark only his fourth bout since August of 2014.
“There’s been a couple of fights that fell through,” he noted. “I’m the champion, but some of these guys, they want more money than me. They all call me out, but when it comes time to sign (contracts),they start making excuses. Reality hits them. They’re, like, `I have to fight Danny Garcia? Oh, damn.’ Then they say there’s not enough money or they don’t want to fight me in Philadelphia. But I’m the champion. They have to fight on my terms. I used to be the fighter that had to fight on somebody else’s terms. That’s just the way the sport goes.”
In addition to the longer-than-expected layoffs, Garcia has lost some of the momentum created when he became a breakout star when he stopped England’s Amir Khan in four rounds on July 14, 2012, and scored a unanimous decision over Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse on Sept. 14, 2013. Garcia was the underdog in both of those fights, which were staged in Las Vegas. Since then, he’s looked less spectacular in defeating journeyman Rod Salka and former world champs Lamont Peterson, Paulie Malignaggi and Guerrero.
“People still underestimate Danny,” Angel said. “They still don’t give him the respect. And that’s OK, because I like the odds to be against Danny.”
Angel predicted that his son will not only be more active in 2017, but will be the consensus pick for Fighter of the Year.
“If everything falls into place like it should for next year, Danny’s going to have all four (welterweight) titles and be the Fighter of the Year,” he said.
Wishful thinking, or reasonable possibility?
“As far as unifying all four belts, that’s complicated,” Danny acknowledged. “In a perfect world, I would love to do that. But nobody does that anymore. There’s too much politics. But I’m not in this sport to worry about politics.
“I know I’ve beaten top fighters. I know I’m one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. That’s all that matters. As long as I know what’s going on, the rest doesn’t matter.
“Listen, everybody thinks, or at least says, that they can beat me. They keep saying it until they get in there with me and I kick their ass. I watch all these top guys fight. I don’t see nothing I can’t handle. I see good fighters, but I don’t see nobody who’s the whole package. I’m the whole package.”
It is a package that might be delivered on at least a semi-regular basis to Philadelphia, which hasn’t hosted a world title bout since Hopkins retained his IBF, WBC and WBA middleweight belts with an eighth-round stoppage of French fraud Morrade Hakkar on March 29, 2003, at the since-demolished First Union Spectrum.
“It’s about time we gave something back to Philadelphia,” Angel said. “We are from Philadelphia. We’re 100 percent Philadelphia, Puerto Ricans from Philly. From now on, anybody wants a a shot at Danny, they got to come to him.”
With that, Danny went back to work in a training session played out to the beat of Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill, whose bring-it-on lyrics seemed to capture the mood of the moment.
“You come to Philly,” the boom box blared, “you gonna be smacked silly.”
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