Joseph Santoliquito

Homebody Garcia is used to being underestimated

A black sign with the words “Swift Boxing Club” scrawled in big red letters hangs on the side of the Harrowgate Boxing Club in North Philadelphia. Below the sign is an arrow that points you to a door that leads to a rickety, narrow flight of wooden steps.

You wouldn’t know a world champion is at work in the quaint, sterile boxing gym. There are no limos or camera crews unloading their vans out in front.

But this is where Danny Garcia, who earned the WBC’s 140-pound title by outpointing Mexican legend Erik Morales in March, calls home.

The first thing you notice about Garcia (23-0, 14 knockouts) are his arms – his biceps are like tiny bowling balls that fill his shirt sleeves. With thick shoulders and a barrel chest, the Philadelphian looks like a scrappy bull dog.  

However, despite his talent and accomplishments, the boxing world considers Garcia to be an underdog against former beltholder Amir Khan, who he fightson July 14 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Garcia is aware that he’s not supposed to win this fight against the favored, popular challenger from Britain.

“I do know what people think,” said the powerful 24-year-old counter puncher. “This is like a life-changing fight for me, taking me to a new level. Erik Morales was beating the hell of the young kids and I beat him. Morales never said anything to me after I beat him; he didn’t even want to shake my hand. I don’t get credit for anything.

“I go on Twitter, and I used to like it, but I don’t go on that much anymore because there is so much hate on it. People follow me just to hate me. Khan has the bigger name and it’s why everyone thinks he’s going to win. I don’t worry about that. I’m taking this fight because he’s nothing special to me. I know I can win. I’ve been told the last four fights that I wasn’t going to win.”

You get the impression that Garcia has heard that line a lot – but never from his father and trainer, Angel. Coming up through the amateurs, Danny would be the walk-over champion in a tournament and routinely have his name forgotten.

“It used to happen all of the time to him in the amateurs,” Angel Garcia said. “Danny was just young; he would come over crying wondering why they kept doing this to him. I think it still goes on today. Everyone underestimates Danny and I feel some kind of way about that. They want to see evidence, we’ll show them evidence.

“I try to stay away from reading about this fight, and what people are telling me and saying about Danny. Danny always had that feeling since he was an amateur, that everyone was always underestimating him. Danny is always in shape, and that’s all he does, trains and fights. Danny is gifted and he’s someone who is talented. People will get their eyes opened July 14. We work on God’s time, not on our time.”

Garcia spars Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays against once-beaten lightweight Mikey Perez and undefeated former amateur standout Karl “Dynamite” Dargan, and hopefully they’ll get some work with unbeaten lightweight prospect Omar Figueroa. Angel’s goal is to get his son as much quality work as possible.

“I don’t want anyone to hold back; we’re focusing on Khan right now and we believe Khan is overrated, he has two left feet,” Angel said. “Plus, we’re normal people and Khan is spoiled. Khan never came across people like us. What’s so special about Khan? He’s overrated and we’re going to prove it July 14th. Danny’s been a fighter all of his life.”

The elder Garcia recounts the time he was in the delivery room when Danny was born. Danny had the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around his neck and wasn’t breathing. The newborn’s face had a purplish hue and Angel thought the worst for a few seconds that seemed like hours.

“I thought Danny was going to die, it was scary,” he recalled. “Danny was born a fighter; he had the umbilical cord wrapped around his throat and he was choking death.

“Another little known fact about him is that Danny has six toes on his right foot. It’s why I say there is something special about him – he’s inhuman. I wanted to make his fight name ‘Six Toes Danny Garcia.’”

Danny Garcia feels pressure will be his keys to victory against Khan, who was stopped by hard-punching Breidis Prescott in 2008 and recently lost a controversial decision to a more aggressive Lamont Peterson.

“To me, Khan fought the same against Peterson as he’s always fought, he slaps and runs; he doesn’t like getting hit, but if you hit him, he’ll run for three rounds,” Garcia said. “He knows he can be knocked out, and that’s a big thing. Once that happens, it’s always in the back of a fighter’s mind. I know it’s in the back of Khan’s mind.

“We don’t have the limo taking us to the gym, like Khan probably does, but we have the privacy of our place, my little gym here in North Philly.”

So Garcia will keep coming back to his tiny gym, something he’s done every day at 5 p.m. since he first put on gloves. He likes the benefits of training at home, and knows he’s disciplined enough to do it.

By Garcia’s side is Tony Davis, his conditioning coach since he was 16.

“We’re attacking some things, and with Danny, he’s 80-percent nature and 20-percent push,” Davis said. “We’ll work on his back, stomach, arms and shoulders, everything where the power comes from. He’s walking around about 152, 153 and he’s been getting stronger and stronger with each fight. He’ll come in strong and ready to go for Khan.”

“We’re undefeated and if it works, you keep doing it,” Garcia said. “Training at home has worked for me, and I don’t get too much attention around here. I know a lot of people don’t think I can win. But after I win, I’m sure I’ll have everyone knocking on my door and I’ll just shut it.”



Photos / Bob Levey and Victor Decolongon-Getty Images

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