Danny Garcia sits next to living legend and fellow Philadelphian Bernard Hopkins. Garcia has unified titles in the 140-pound division as Hopkins once did at middleweight but the jury is still out if THE RING junior welterweight champ can achieve as much as the future hall of famer.
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Danny Garcia kind of rushed up on us. Before one swooping counter left hook in the last minute of the third round in mid-July, the 140-pound beltholder was considered a competent, sturdy fighter with an extensive amateur background.
Vanquishing fading legend Erik Morales twice and destroying Amir Khan, which unified the WBC and WBA titles and earned him THE RING championship, has changed that perception. Somewhat.
Although Garcia is a consideration for Fighter of the Year, he’s still floating in the nebulous state between champion and a top-10 pound-for-pound entrant.
A number of boxing insiders weighed in on where Garcia (25-0, 16 knockouts), is skill wise, and where his true ability and potential lies as THE RING junior welterweight champ readies to fight veteran Zab Judah (42-7, 29 KOs), on Feb. 9 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
The 24-year-old Philadelphian was a topic of a dinner conversation the night before the Khan fight between the HBO broadcast team of Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman and the late, great Emanuel Steward.
“I remember Emanuel brought up Danny’s amateur record, and Emanuel, with his great affinity for amateur boxing, knows the importance of an amateur background gave Danny a good shot to beat Khan,” Lampley recalled. “Max chimed in with the realization you don’t reach the point Garcia has without a great amateur background.
“Garcia knows when to keep pouring the pressure on. To encapsulate him, he’s a well-schooled package, and the superstar element is his record and he wins. He’s quiet, shy. He does sneak up on you a little bit and he does that in the ring too to a certain degree. Most guys won’t think they’re in trouble against Danny Garcia. Then he knocks you out. The one thing missing I would say is there is no dominant weapon. Some people he’ll be matched against have a dominant weapon. With Khan, for example, you have speed as something to worry about. Danny doesn’t present that. The bottom line is he wins; he’s already done a lot. He’s likable and brings a lot of good attention to Philadelphia.”
Trainers Robert Garcia (no relation) and Naazim Richardson, two of the best in boxing today, recall Garcia’s amateur past. Robert Garcia’s younger brother, Mikey, beat Garcia in an amateur tournament, and Richardson has known Danny “since he was a puppy.”
But both have differing views on where Garcia is and where he could go.
“I think right now with the wins that he’s had this year, he’s in a great position for great fights. If they keep his career where it’s going, he’s going to be a multi-million dollar fighter,” Robert Garcia said. “But overall, he hasn’t impressed me very much. He hit Amir Khan with a great punch, and I don’t want to take anything away from him, but it seems like a hook he threw wildly that landed.
“Garcia could be Fighter of the Year by beating Erik Morales a second time, but can he beat someone with sharper technique? He throws his punches too wide. Can be in there with an in-and-out fighter who throws short punches down the middle that will land faster than his wide punches? When he fights Zab Judah, I wouldn’t be surprised if Zab beats him. Danny could be exposed. I truly believe Danny is overrated. I respect Danny. I respect him as a person and the things he’s done. But I do believe he’s very beatable and overrated.”
Anyone is beatable, but overrated? Richardson disagrees.
“I remember talking to him after a bad loss when he was 12, and I told Danny then that everyone is going to eat, we just can’t all fit at the table at the same time,” Richardson said. “Danny was always in a hard fight in the amateurs. That kind of determination would surface, and it sure has. Danny is a special kid and he’s holding Philadelphia down, the way Steve Cunningham did at one time, and the way Bernard Hopkins did.
None of his success has surprised me.
“He does swing wide at times, and he can be countered, but a .357-magnum bullet can miss you, or it can blow the back of your head off, too. Danny has that kind of pop. I like what Danny is doing, but more importantly, I’m very impressed with who he’s become as a man outside the ring. I like the way he feels he has to back his daddy’s words and antics. Danny’s going to remain very relevant in the future. He’s a young kid who’s going to get rich, but the one guy he needs to fight in my opinion is Lamont Peterson. That puts him over the top.”
Showtime analyst Steve Farhood feels Garcia is at the right place at the right time. Junior welterweight and welterweight are the most loaded divisions in boxing, however, promotional entanglements could keep Garcia – and fight fans – from great 140- and 147-pound matchups.
Look over the junior welterweight rankings and there is Brandon Rios, who Robert Garcia trains, Peterson, Lucas Matthysse, Mike Alvarado, the aging Juan Manuel Marquez and Khan.
“The knockout that Garcia scored against Khan was a real slap-in-the-face wake-up call to boxing fans,” Farhood said. “Prior to Garcia winning a title, I don’t think he was that high on the list of young fighters that have big star potential. Given what he’s done against Khan and Morales in the rematch, is there a better exciting young fighter out there?
“I would put Garcia in my top three for Fighter of the Year. His rise has been meteoric and his career arc is a reminder of how quickly someone can ascend with the right fights and the right kind of results. No one is claiming Danny Garcia is the second-coming of Floyd Mayweather, but in America, we’ve become desperate for young stars and right now he’s filling the bill. He’s blessed to be in a division that always gives one opportunity after another for top fighters. I really feel he’s the type of fighter that will be able to withstand a loss or two along the way and remain relevant. But when those losses come is anyone’s guess.”
Al Bernstein got a closer look than anyone in Garcia’s last fight, calling the Garcia-Morales rematch at ringside for Showtime.
“What you have to like about Danny Garcia is that he’s a very solid fighter, he has pop in his punch and he’s tough,” the hall of fame broadcaster said. “The question everyone has and will continue to have is he a really, really good fighter, or a great fighter?
“He has defensive liabilities. His hands are not the quickest, but he makes up with that with a very good chin and his durability. A big issue with him is throwing his punches wide. He is heavy handed. At the end of the day, he may overcome those issues. I think it would help if Garcia is able to tighten his defense. But he is exciting. He’s a fan-friendly fighter. His father Angel is flamboyant and we’ll get a better read in the next three or four fights about Danny.”
Hall of Fame broadcaster Larry Merchant broached a number of pertinent points in regards to Garcia, including the young fighter’s Philadelphia-based toughness and smarts, and his boxer-puncher style. Merchant likes how grounded and schooled Garcia is – in and out of the ring. Also, Puerto Rican fight fans are in serious need of a standard bearer. With up-and-comer Thomas Dulorme getting upset by Luis Abregu on Oct. 27, and Miguel Cotto entering the twilight of his career, Garcia may find a nice niche.
“I think that Garcia can fight anyone at 140 or 147, make a good fight of it, and beat most of them,” Merchant said. “I measure guys by not that you win them all, but if you fight them all, like Carmen Basilio. I’m not comparing Garcia to Basilio, but how he reacts when he’s down.
“There is another factor you have to look into here and that’s Puerto Rican fans are desperately seeking a guy to carry that banner. That can be an asset to him, because they’re looking for the successor to Cotto as an attraction. Dulorme was the young kid they had in mind and he just went down. Beating Zab Judah could create another opening for Garcia. He’s fighting Judah in Brooklyn again, and if he performs there, he’ll be opening on Broadway next.”
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