The ‘departure’ of Floyd Mayweather Jr, coupled with the demise of long established industry leaders like Klitschko, Hopkins and Pacquiao has left vacancies on the sport’s pound-for-pound podium. And fans can expect an almighty scramble among the rising elite to fill them.
One man primly placed to stake a claim is unbeaten Philadelphia welter Danny Garcia who collides with Gilroy, California southpaw Robert Guerrero for the vacant WBC crown at the Staples Center, Los Angeles this Saturday. The showdown will be screened coast-to-coast on the free to air FOX network in the US while BoxNation broadcast live and exclusive in the UK.
At 27, the one-time Amir Khan conqueror could be the right age, in the right division and with the right connections to soar to superstardom.
‘Swift’ certainly has fighting pedigree. A Puerto Rican descendant raised in the north Phillie project known as ‘The Badlands’, Garcia claims to be inspired to uphold the rich fighting heritages of both ‘The City of Brotherly Love ‘ – think Frazier, Hopkins, Balboa – and a motherland that blessed us with Carlos Ortiz, Wilfredo Gomez and Tito Trinidad.
A fist fighter since being bullied at kindergarten, Garcia’s combative father Angel fibbed about his son’s age and enrolled him at the Harrowgate Boxing Club aged just seven. Once rumbled, his debut was delayed for three years but in 1998, weighing just 75lbs, he began a 107-13 amateur innings that brought junior and senior US national titles whilst still a teen.
Defeat to Javier Molina in the US Trials extinguished his Olympic dream in August 2007 and forced him to enter the pros without fanfare.
However, eight and a half years on, he is still to be beaten as a pro. And since announcing himself at world level in March 2012, by roasting Mexican legend Erik Morales, Garcia has systematically compiled a CV comparable if not superior to most other P4P aspirants.
His unblemished 31 fight resume lists victories in six world title fights for either the WBC or WBA Super belts, not to mention the scalps of eight world champions, past or present. And if Morales and New Yorkers Zab Judah and Paulie Malignaggi could be filed under shop soiled, Amir Khan, Lucas Matthysse and Lamont Peterson certainly were not.
Garcia is a prime example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. He excels at little yet areas of deficiency are hard to find. He is multi-dimensional and – bar an off night with Mauricio Herrera on his Puerto Rican homecoming in 2014 – frighteningly consistent.
‘Swift’ has the tools to fight either hard or smart. He slaughtered Khan with home run right hands yet put Morales to sleep with a left hook. He showcased impressive technical skills to school Judah and Malignaggi and tactical nous to defuse Argentine bomber Lucas Matthysse. Yet to tumble amateur or pro, his jaw is seemingly concrete.
Though pleasant, humble, reserved and soft spoken, behind the serenity lies real steel. Do not mistake his shyness for weakness.
In his 18th gig, aged 22, he braved a disturbingly hostile Cancun crowd to spank heavy handed home hero Jorge Romero in nine and lift the WBC Youth title. Four years later, he tamed Judah in his native Brooklyn. He was a 7-1 outsider prior to flattening Khan and a significant underdog against Matthysse. As they say down Bermondsey way: he fears no foe!’
And any thoughts that Garcia’s introverted nature might compromise his commercial value evaporate once you chance upon his excitable, obnoxious but consistently entertaining father Angel.
Pops has served as chief coach since Danny first laced ‘em up and always assumes top billing at every press gathering. Trash talker extraordinaire, his jibe that ‘I’ve never seen a Pakistani that can fight’ unhinged Khan just as much as his son’s fists did.
In addition to selling the tickets and TV, cancer conquering Angel, serves as Garcia minor’s main source of motivation. ‘He always talks crap and I gotta back it up!’ concedes a slightly embarrassed Danny.
Having cleaned out the 140lb class, the fearless Garcia has now thrown himself head first into boxing’s most talent laden division.
Aligned with the mysterious and fast monopolising Al Haymon – a man hellbent on restoring our sport back into the mainstream by showcasing his Premier Boxing Champions on major network TV – one senses Garcia’s defining fights remain ahead.
The runners and riders at 147 could include a returning ‘Money’ Mayweather, a soon to depart Pacman, Brits Amir Khan and Kell Brook, elite compatriots Keith Thurman, Tim Bradley, Shawn Porter and fast soaring Errol Spence. Chuck present light-welter leader Terence Crawford – who Garcia beat in the 2006 US nationals – into the mix and you have easily the strongest decimal in any division.
Mentor Haymon carries the clout to force the showdowns, deliver the exposure and mould a legend. Expect Garcia, fearless and focussed, to feature strongly. It will take someone exceptional to beat him.