Like everyone else in the boxing world, Danny Garcia recognizes Erik Morales as a bona-fide legend of the sport.
However, unlike the rest of us, Garcia, who turned 24 on Tuesday, will climb into the ring with “El Terrible” in an HBO-televised main event from Houston on Saturday. So we’ll have to forgive the undefeated contender for checking his admiration at the ring apron as he goes for his first major title (Morales’ WBC 140-pound strap).
“He’s a great fighter,” Garcia (22-0, 14 knockouts) said of Morales during a media conference call on Tuesday. “He did a lot for the sport; three fights with (Marco Antonio) Barrera and with (Manny) Pacquiao. He made his mark in the sport. He’s a crafty veteran, (he’s) smart. (Morales) knows how to fight, knows how to win, but he had his time to shine. Now it’s my time to shine.”
Garcia, who earned his shot at the WBC title with a split decision over former junior welterweight beltholder Kendall Holt last September, says the 12 rounds he went with Holt and the 10 rounds he went former unified lightweight titleholder Nate Campbell in his previous bout have prepared him for the veteran guile he’ll encounter on Saturday.
“Those two fights, against two experienced veterans led me to this fight (with Morales),” Garcia said. “Campbell was crafty. Holt was a real hard puncher with both hands. They gave me the experience I need.”
Enough experience to topple a man who turned pro nearly 20 years ago? Enough experience to defeat a future first-ballot hall of famer who won his first title 10 years before Garcia turned pro? Enough experience to deal with an arena full of hostile fans there to root for their Mexican idol?
The Philadelphia native says “yes.”
“To me, a ring is a ring, it’s me vs. him with gloves on,” Garcia said about fighting in Houston, which has a large Mexican population. “As long as there’s a ring and gloves, I’m happy and I’m ready to go.
“We had a long camp. You gotta be prepared with hard work for a fight like this, and you gotta use your brain once you’re in there. I put that hard work in. I worked so hard the fight will be easy. I’m going to be his toughest opponent.”
It’s hard to conceive Morales losing to a relatively unaccomplished fighter such as Garcia given his classic fights with the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera. But the Tijuana native’s 35-year-old body is battle worn and he’s fighting way above his prime weight classes. Morales lost a close decision to Marcos Maidana last April and he struggled with unheralded Pablo Cano before stopping the 21-year-old fighter to win the vacant WBC belt in September.
Garcia said he watched Morales’ great showdowns against Pacquiao, Barrera and others on TV, never thinking that he may one day fight him. However, now that he will face the legend, he’s only got winning on his mind.
“I always go in there and try to get a knockout,” he said. “I can punch with both hands, so I want to give the fans what they want to see. But if the knockout doesn’t come I’m ready to go 12 rounds.
“Come Saturday there’s going to be a new world champion.”
Photo / Craig Bennett