|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - November 07, 2016|
The last time Danny Garcia, 32-0, 18 KOs, had a homecoming fight, it turned out to be quite a difficult evening. That fight, a 2014, 140-pound title defense, in Bayamon against Mauricio Herrera, was Garcia’s Puerto Rican homecoming, and it turned out to be perhaps the worst appearance of his career. Garcia managed to defend his title belts by a razor-thin majority decision in his ancestral homecoming, but most believed he was lucky to come away with the win.
On Saturday night, Garcia, now the WBC welterweight champion, returns to Philadelphia, his true hometown, for a 10-round non-title bout against Toronto-based Columbian Samuel Vargas, 25-2-1, 13 KOs, at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in North Philadelphia. The locally-stacked fight card, promoted by Marshall Kauffman’s Kings Promotions and Danny Garcia’s Swift Promotions, will be televised live on Spike TV.
Garcia hasn’t had a Philly fight since 2010, before he was even a contender at junior welterweight. He returns a wealthy and relevant fighter with many accomplishments already achieved and with many big fights on the horizon. Garcia already has a unification fight with fellow undefeated welterweight belt-holder Keith Thurman set for March. So he must get past Vargas before moving on to the next chapter of his still developing career.
“It feels good to be back home,” Garcia said. “I’ve been asking for it. I’m glad I finally got it. I told Al (Haymon), that I need a home fight, and he said, alright let’s do it. Then it was just like that. That’s how it happened.”
Few will believe that Vargas can upset Garcia. He’s not nearly the crafty spoiler that Herrera is, and his penchant for battling and ready-to-rumble style appear to play toward Garcia’s strengths.
“I know he’s 25-2,” Garcia said about Vargas. “He’s coming off five wins, and I know he’s coming to win. So, I got to be prepared. I watched a couple tapes on him. He’s a gritty guy, he’s a tough guy. It seems like he doesn’t give up, so I got to be ready. I got to prepare.”
There are a few similarities in the feel of this fight that harken back Garcia’s fight with Herrera in Puerto Rico.
Firstly, the temptation to look past Vargas is understandable. Vargas is a tough fighter, but has not yet proven to be in Garcia’s class. Secondly, the fact that Garcia is already scheduled to face Thurman in a hotly anticipated meeting to determine the top dog at 147, is a natural distraction of epic proportions.
“It’s a unification fight,” Garcia said about his meeting with Thurman on March 4th. “So, that will determine who is number one in the welterweight division. It’s a goal of mine to unify another division, and that was my plan coming into this division. No doubt about it. That means it’s the best fighting the best.”
When he faced Herrera, Garcia was coming off a career-best performance against Lucas Matthysse and was looking forward to possibly grabbing one of the final slots on Floyd Mayweather’s schedule before retirement. Garcia was a front-runner in the Mayweather sweepstakes, but after struggling past Herrera, no such fight was ever again suggested – until now.
Since the Herrera fight, Garcia has been out of the flame and fighting safer opponents. Vargas is the final hurdle to a meatier section of his career that will include Thurman and may even include Manny Pacquiao and a come-backing Floyd Mayweather.
“I look at it this way, once I beat Thurman the favor’s on my side,” Garcia said. “I want the biggest fights. I want the biggest fight that could possibly happen after that fight (with Thurman).”
Garcia’s options at welterweight are many. In addition to Manny and Floyd, there is the latest streaking standout at 147 making quite a bit of noise, Errol Spence.
“I can’t even look that far for a Spence fight,” Garcia said. “I’m booked for a year. So, I can’t do no gigs. I’m booked.”
“I think he’s coming back,” Garcia said. “When you’ve been fighting your whole life and you get 50 million a fight, you coming back.”
Most expected Floyd to be back already, but recent rumors of his return to the gym have fueled speculation of his immediate future.
“I think it’s a great match up,” Garcia said. “A Philly kid versus a Michigan kid. We’re just talking (here), but it would be epic, legendary. A lot of money too.”
Serving as a further distraction, this homecoming fight has been rolled up with a food drive campaign with Philabundance, an area non-profit food bank. The charity effort will help Garcia give back to the community – and also help promote the fight.
A young champion like Danny is always pulled in many directions at home. The lead-up to this fight is no exception.
“Not only did I want to give my fans in Philly a fight, I wanted to give back to the community and give back to the people who need it,” Garcia said. “As long as we’re giving back, I’m happy. It’s important to me. That’s what it’s all about. I’m from this city and I know how hard it is. So, to make a difference is very important to me. I know this will make an impact. The holiday season is coming up. Thanksgiving is coming up. Christmas is coming up. I know when I was a kid, I wish someone would give me something. So, I know it’s definitely going to make a difference.”
Last year, Garcia became a parent for the first time. However instead of being a distraction, Garcia feels that his young daughter is helping him to focus.
“I’m not going to lie, at first I was kind of scared,” Garcia said of fatherhood. “Having a baby, I hoped that she wouldn’t make me feel like I had everything (already). Like, I don’t need anything else. But it motivated me to train harder to do better for her and secure her future.”
That focus will be the key against Vargas. The Canadian is trained by Philadelphian Billy Briscoe, an old-school trainer who knows Garcia well – and vice versa.
“I know Billy’s tricks,” Garcia said about his old friend and new rival. “He should have never told me them, but I know them (laughs). Billy is a good guy, and I know the type of trainer that he is. But at the end of the day, it’s different when you’re in there with me.”
Garcia has felt some heat from the fans, who are uninspired by this non-title fight, but fully focused on Danny’s next one.
“I know a lot of fans get upset quick in the sport of boxing,” Garcia said about his fickle fans. “Sometimes they want it faster than… it’s just not that simple. One thing I learned about boxing is that everything gets made in time. All the fights are going to happen, but a lot of fans get disappointed because they don’t happen right away. But it’s not that simple. It’s like, you want a raise at your job, but you’re not going to get it right away. You got to wait, you got to prove yourself. Sometimes you got to let things build up, and that’s what it’s all about.”
So one more fight before the big one.
This is my third fight at welterweight. I had a good year to build myself into the division. That’s why now we want to take on the best. I already knew it (Thurman fight) was going to happen, but I couldn’t say anything. I’ll let the fans do what they do. I knew, at the end of the day, that once they saw the bigger picture, everything would be alright. But I still can’t overlook nobody. This is boxing. I’ve seen some crazy shit happen in this sport.”