|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - July 28, 2015|
After dipping his toe into the post-140-pound pool in his past two catch-weight starts, former junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia, 30-0, 17 KOs, is set to fully embrace the welterweight division on August 1st at the Barclay’s Center. In his fifth trip to Brooklyn, Garcia will face former two-time champ and hometown hero Paulie Malignaggi, 33-6, 7 KOs, in a 12-round, 147-pound bout to be nationally televised by ESPN as part of the Premiere Boxing Champions series.
Rising to welterweight represents a big change for Garcia, but it’s not the only transition he plans to make in August.
“August is a big month for me,” Garcia said. “First I got Paulie Malignaggi on August 1st. I’m training hard and I’m prepared, and then a couple days later I become a father.”
Garcia, 27, and his longtime girlfriend Erica Mendez, will welcome their first child, a daughter, later in the month.
“Hopefully the baby don’t come the day of the fight,” Garcia said with a chuckle. “Hopefully it comes August 11th, when it’s supposed to come.”
Often fatherhood, especially the first-time variety, can inspire a fighter and push him to achieve like never before. Garcia fans are hoping this is the case.
Both the step up in weight and his impending fatherhood are big changes that may help Garcia get back to that spot in his career he enjoyed after his impressive victory over Lucas Matthysse in September 2013. With that win, Garcia peaked in his popularity and effectiveness, but has struggled in many aspects of his career ever since.
Although he went home with victories in bouts with Mauricio Herrera and Lamont Peterson, fans dogged him online, saying his performances were not good enough. Further, his crushing KO of Rod Salka was deemed too easy of a match, and widely criticized by the same social media posters.
In this respect, it’s been a rough 18 months for Garcia, who has found himself on the wrong side of many fans, despite stretching his record to a perfect 30-0.
“I really don’t care about it,” Garcia said of the hateful comments he’s received. “At the end of the day, wherever I go, people take pictures of me, they shake my hand. They love me. But the Internet is something else. They get mad because I beat the bigger fighter. Everybody gets mad if I beat the bigger fighter. It’s love and hate, and that’s how it should be in boxing. Not everybody going to love you.”
But once those nasty comments started flowing, Garcia admits it was a surprise.
“I will say this, Garcia said. “When I was a kid growing up, I always dreamed of being a superstar athlete, like a champion in boxing. But I never thought it came with so much hate until I became champion. I never had that vision of people hating me. But people going to love you and people going to hate you.”
It’s strange that an undefeated fighter moving up to a full menu of new, high-profile targets in the welterweight division has to rebuild his career. However, in a way, this is exactly the case with Garcia. So the fight with Malignaggi represents a fresh start for him.
“147 is a new chapter in my boxing career,” Garcia said about becoming a welterweight. “I feel like I did everything I could do at 140. (Moving up) feels great because I feel my style matches up great with anybody at 147. I’m ready, but first I have to handle Paulie Malignaggi. I know he’s coming. It’s Brooklyn, his hometown. He’s got something to prove. This is a big fight for him. He’s got to go in there and look good. So, I prepared myself 110%, and I got to go in there and show my Brooklyn fans and my Philly fans, and all my fans around the world, who’s a better fighter that night.”
The theory is that his recent weight struggles at 140 hampered his performances, especially against Herrera and Peterson, and that those seven extra pounds will make all the difference going forward.
“I feel I’ve been a welterweight two years ago,” Garcia said. “I was just holding my body down to make 140. I strained myself to lose so much weight. I feel a lot stronger now. I’m able to work on things now later in camp. Before at 140, I’d just be coming to the gym to lose weight, checking my weight three or four times a day and feeling weak. Pushing myself, feeling hungry. But now I’m able to eat the right nutrition, the right foods. So my legs are there. I’m a lot faster. I have more agility, and I’m able to think more. So, I believe it will all fall into place on August 1st.”
With the added weight, Garcia says he can do so much more in the gym and presumably in the ring.
“We been working on a lot of explosiveness and a lot of quickness,” Garcia said. “Footwork and explosiveness. More conditioning. I’ve been running more miles than any other training camp before. I’ve just been pushing myself to get stronger and build more endurance.”
“I wasn’t able to cut the ring off the way I wanted to,” Garcia said of his final days as a junior welterweight. “When you cut the ring, you have to be quick, you have to feint. You have to corner him. I just felt like I didn’t have enough energy to do that. So it was like I was just chasing people around the ring. Now with the extra work we been doing and the new weight, I’m able to corner people, use the jab, cut the ring, and hold my ground. (I’m) more comfortable. Now I have the energy. Before, I had to shorten everything up because I would burn myself out. I wouldn’t have enough energy to do it. So now, I have enough energy to run for 10 miles if I have to. I feel good.”
And all of this makes Danny optimistic about the future.
“The sky is the limit for me at 147,” Garcia said. “I just keep moving forward in my career, no steps back. We’re just going to work our way to be the best at 147. I moved up to 147 to fight the best fights. So, whatever the best fights are at that time, then that’s who we going to fight.”
The first step is Paulie Malignaggi on Saturday night. Paulie has accomplished a lot, but may be nearing the end of his career. So this fight should tell the tale of what he has left.
“This is what the networks wanted,” Garcia said. “This is what my manager wanted, and this is how we been doing it my whole career. Give me a name. I never go against the grain. I believe in destiny. I believe that’s what it’s supposed to be. And if you ask me, the fight makes complete sense. He’s from Brooklyn, I’m from Philly. You’ve got the Italian fans, the Puerto Rican fans, the Philadelphia fans, all the fans on the East Coast. He’s a former 147-pound champion and I believe it’s a great fight.”
What does Garcia expect from Malignaggi on fight night?
“I have a pretty good idea of what he’s going to go in there and try to do,” Garcia said. “I think he has a good jab. I think that’s his best game, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to try to utilize it. I prepare for whatever. I’m going to go in there and get off first. I’m going to set the pace. I’m going to go in there and pop my jab at him. So, we’re going to see who got the better jab that night.”
Garcia’s father and trainer, Angel Garcia, sees the fight playing out like this:
“It doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day, you still got to fight,” Angel said. “Running around the ring don’t win fights. If Malignaggi wants to run around and he thinks he going to win a round running around, then he on a different page. Because we coming to smash him. We coming to hit him. We ain’t coming to run around the ring and look pretty. Danny’s coming up to welterweight. We going to execute Paulie first. When we execute Paulie, then we going to execute anybody else that wants to get in the ring with Danny Garcia. Danny knows how to win. If Paulie wants to box, he got to land. He got to come close, and if he come close, he going to get hit. End of story.”
Danny agrees, but expresses it in a much more soft-spoken way.
“I’m not really worried about Paulie. I know that with the past 30 opponents in my career, if Danny Garcia is 110% ready, I have the ability, and the gift, to adapt to any style and always find a way to win.”
Garcia will once again ply his trade to a national television audience watching the fight at home for free, this time on ESPN.
“Free boxing is great,” Garcia said. “That’s what the sport needed. It needed to be mixed up with the other sports. Just by us fighting on ESPN, we might fight after a big basketball game or a big baseball game or a big football game. So, it’s perfect. Now we’re mixed in with all the other sports, and that’s what’s going to make boxing big again. Al Haymon is a smart man.”
“I’m just excited to go out there and showcase my skills at a higher level,” Garcia said. “My weight is great. I’ve been eating the right foods. I’ve been real disciplined. I’m just going to go in there and be Danny Garcia - a smart Danny Garcia. Better, quicker feet, make adjustments, land combinations, land hard shots, and just get the victory. It’s all going to fall into place, August 1st.”
They say change is good, and Danny Garcia will be looking to prove exactly that on Saturday night.