|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY April 23, 2013||
by John DiSanto
Junior welterweight champion Danny "Swift" Garcia, 25-0, 16 KOs, has been a world champion for a little more than one year now. He took his first share of the title in March 2012 by defeating legend Erik Morales, and saw his life permanently change as a result.
In beating Morales, Garcia achieved the dream he had set for himself many, many years before when he was a skinny little amateur boxer working hard at the Harrowgate Boxing Club in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. Before long, his dream didn't seem that farfetched.
"I always knew that if I got the opportunity, I would take advantage of it," Garcia said as he wrapped up training camp for his title defense against former champion Zab Judah, on Saturday at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, NY. "And now I'm just living it. I'm just living my dream, and working hard to keep winning."
Against Judah, Garcia will face a man who one year ago, seemed to turn back the clocks on his career. Coming off a dreadful performance against Amir Khan, Zab looked like the "Super Judah" of several years prior with his TKO of then-undefeated Vernon Paris. He was fast, powerful, and seemingly young again, or at least refreshed.
If that Judah, 42-7, 29 KOs, shows up on Saturday night, he has a chance to put a crimp in the dream Garcia is now living. But Danny has worked hard to get here, and isn't planning to give up what he's earned.
"I feel that I'm hungrier now than ever, because everybody wants what I got," Garcia said. "I got to be on my A-Game."
Garcia has been performing at his A-Game level for quite a while now. He became a celebrated amateur, before turning professional in 2007 with a load of expectations heavily set upon his shoulders. Danny ran through his early assignments with relative ease, and met all expectations. However his performance against Enrique Colin to finish out 2010, suddenly showed that Danny Garcia might just exceed the potential that so many saw in him.
Enrique Colin wasn't a world beater by any means, but he was a seasoned and well-travelled pro with a 28-6-2 (24 KO) record. Garcia was 14-0. Colin was Danny's toughest test to date, and it was also his first time he would fight before his Philadelphia hometown crowd. Garcia dropped Colin in round one and blasted him back to Mexico at :55 of round two. It was a sudden and shocking arrival for Garcia, who proved to have much more ahead of him.
Garcia continued winning and continued to impress. Through 2011, he was still undefeated with a record of 22-0, 14 KOs. By then he had two former world champions on his resume, and was rated #2 by both the WBC & IBF at 140 pounds.
All this led him to the fight with WBC champion Erik Morales and that dream of being a world champion.
Garcia handled the legendary Morales with a careful but clear-cut unanimous decision. The win by "Swift" surprised a few, but to those who knew Garcia, it just confirmed that he was of championship caliber.
His new WBC crown made him the 30th Philadelphian to win to a world title, and gave him the distinction as Philly's first Latino to ever do it.
"It means a lot," Garcia said. "Philadelphia is a fighting city. It means a lot to boxing fans and to the Latino community."
A few months after the Morales bout, Garcia faced Amir Khan in a unification title fight. Garcia was the underdog, but four rounds later he added the WBA and Ring Magazine belts and became the new "Golden Boy" at Golden Boy Promotions. The win has begun to make him a star. A contract with Showtime followed, as did another fight with Morales.
Garcia defended his titles against Morales with a brutal 4th round knockout in October at the Barclay's in Brooklyn.
Judah was slated next, but their February title bout was postponed when Garcia suffered a rib injury while in training. The delay gave Judah an opportunity to raise questions about Garcia's willingness to face him, and Zab did a lot of talking in the press and on social media outlets.
"I got hurt in sparring," Garcia said about his injury. "It's a contact sport. It happens. It was my first injury ever in the professionals. I feel like there should be no questions. I'm the champion. Why would I back out of a championship fight? I don't have to explain myself to nobody."
Garcia resumed camp as soon as his rib healed, and never lost focus on Zab Judah, or on keeping his dream alive.
"He's fought a lot of high level fights, Garcia said of Judah. "You can't take that away from him. He's been in big fights before. He was young like me before. So he's been here before, and you got to respect that. It's always a challenge when you're fighting a world championship fight. It's always going to be a challenge, but I'm going to be the best Danny "Swift" Garcia that night and I promise I'll have a great performance."
Zab Judah is a southpaw and brings a ton of experience with him. He also hails from Brooklyn, although he left there long ago, and his fight with Paris was the first time he ever fought at home as a pro.
This will be his second consecutive appearance at the venue for Garcia, and Golden Boy plans to pair Danny and Brooklyn more in the future.
"I'm the hometown guy," Garcia said. "He's from Brooklyn, but he's burned a lot of bridges in Brooklyn. A lot of people don't respect him in his hometown; that's what I've been hearing. I think the crowd is going to be there for me."
Another win will keep Garcia on track.
"I'm not really concerned about nothing (with Judah)," Garcia said. "I know that I'm going to be 110% in shape, and I know that once I'm in great condition, nobody can beat me. I've fought tons of southpaws before in the amateurs. I fought a couple southpaws in the pros. To me it's easier (to fight a lefty) because I can land my hard right hand and my hard left hook."
Suddenly Garcia's father-trainer Angel Garcia breaks into the conversation. He's an outspoken guy, and words tend to burst out of him.
"The question is, can he (Judah) fight a right hander?," Angel asked. "Because he always loses to everybody right handed. So that's the question. Experience don't mean nothing when you get hit. It's how you can take a punch. When you're in the ring and you let your hands go, experience don't mean nothing when you get hit clean."
"I feel like I have to keep proving myself," Danny said. "Showing the world that I'm the best 140-pound fighter, and I keep taking the best fights to continue to prove myself."
"I think the fight is probably going to go 8 to 10 rounds," said Demarcus "Chop Chop" Corley, one of Garcia's southpaw sparring partners. "Danny's going to let his hands go. Zab is going to try to use the ring, and try to steal rounds. Danny's game plan is to let his hands go, hit Zab as much as he can, and go for the knockout."
Corley was also working with Garcia in January when the champion injured his ribs.
"We all know Zab has great hand speed, and that's going to be his weapon in the early rounds of the fight," Corley said. "His speed is going to play a factor in the first five rounds. But he don't take a great punch, and he fades at the end. That's Danny's advantage. He's very strong for a 140 pounder. His thing is he has to exchange with Zab. He has to go when Zab goes. He can't wait."
"It's never easy," Garcia said. "I tell people it's hard work that I make look easy, but it's always hard. Once I know I'm 110% ready, I know no one can beat me. The only person who can beat me is me, if I go into a fight when I know I'm not ready. But I know for a fact that I'm on my A-Game. Nobody can beat me."
Judah has been to the top and back a couple of times, but this feels like his last chance to do it again. If Garcia can turn back his challenge, Judah won't have many places to turn. That either makes him easy pickings or very dangerous. But Garcia says he's ready.
"I'm just taking this fight like I always take my fights," Garcia said. "Work hard, stay focused, and get the job done. I think it's always personal when you're going into a fight and a man is trying to hurt you. "
"You got to think like a champion," he said. "You got to act like a champion. Everything you do. You got to walk like a champion. So I wear my championship on my sleeve. It motivates me and makes be train harder. Every time I step in the ring, I know I'm the champion. I got to go in there and fight like a champion and defend it like a champion. Act like a champion. This is my dream."