PHILLY BOXING HISTORY  -  August 05, 2014


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 Story & Photos by John DiSanto


When Danny Garcia and Rod Salka face off Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, they couldnít be in more diverse positions.  One fighter doesnít figure to win, even though heís almost guaranteed a victory.  The other isnít given a snowballís chance in the fight, but should find himself in a better position, no matter how bad he may lose. 

Since it was announced, the fight, which will be televised live on Showtime, has gone through quite a few growing pains.  What was originally scheduled as a 12-round junior welterweight world title fight, was rejected for sanction by the WBA and WBC, shrunken to 10 rounds, and then bloated to a 142-pound catch-weight bout.  To say that this fight has had a rocky road would be an understatement. 

ďTo me, it doesnít really matter if this is a title fight or not,Ē Garcia said.  ďItís my show.  Iím going to put on a great performance.  Iím going to go out there and give the fans a great fight.  So donít worry about it not being a title fight because itís still a fight.Ē 

Some fans say that the fight is such a waste of time that it should be scrapped completely.  Yet given the unlikely nature of the match and the stakes for both boxers, it might still turn out to be an interesting pairing, especially if the most unlikely of scenarios plays out. 

ďIf it ainít somebodyís way, they not going to agree with it,Ē Garcia said.  ďOne thing I can guarantee is that August 9th is going to be a great performance, and if people donít watch it, theyíre just going to miss out on a great night of boxing.  I always go for the knockout.  I need the knockout.  I havenít had a knockout since the Morales fight in Brooklyn.Ē

Philly-born Garcia is the heavy favorite, and expected to get that knockout.  He is an undefeated world champion, who for the past two years has built an impressive legacy.  His successful run up to the title and subsequent defenses was capped with an upset victory of boogeyman Lucas Matthysse, a fighter considered to be unbeatable.  Unbeatable until Garcia soundly defeated him last September.  Prior to that, Garcia also beat Amir Khan, Erik Morales (twice), Zab Judah, and others in a string of fights that made him a budding star.

However, Garcia hit a bump this past March when he faced a far-lesser-known Mauricio Herrera in a manufactured Puerto Rican homecoming for Garcia that did little but distract the young champion and feed his growing sense of self.  It seemed to cost him. 

The general attitude was that Garcia would, of course, easily turn back Herreraís challenge in front of his his ďhomeĒ fans and set up bigger, better, and more lucrative fights (like a welterweight challenge of Floyd Mayweather). 

But no one told Herrera that he came to Puerto Rico to lose.  As a result, the Mexican-American boxed circles around Garcia, bloodied and broke his nose and almost left town with Garciaís title belts.  It was a tough night for Danny, and more or less the first time he'd ever had one.  Ever since the close call, Garcia has been slammed with negative press and nasty social media comments. 

That he chose to follow up the Herrera fight against an unheralded foe like Salka, just added to the disapproval by the suddenly fickle fans. 

ďI respect everybodyís opinion,Ē Garcia said.  ďI donít knock anyone for their own opinion.  If thatís how you feel, thatís how you feel.  I canít tell you what to say. But I can tell you what Iím going to do on August 9th.  Iím going to go in there and fight hard for my fans.Ē 

Many felt it was a disgrace that he would even consider defending his championship against a fighter not only unranked at 140 pounds, but barely rated in his natural division of lightweight.  That lack of ranking led to the bout becoming a non-title fight. 

Was Garciaís confidence so shaken by the Herrera fight that he needed such an ďeasyĒ opponent?  Were the skills he showed over the past two years suddenly so uncertain that the powers that be needed to ensure a victory just to keep the possibility of a Mayweather fight alive for 2015? 

ďIíve always got something to prove,Ē Garcia said.  ďItís either Iím fighting somebody (and) Iím not going to win.  Nobody believes in me.  Or Iím fighting somebody (and) Iím supposed to win, and then he fights good, and I still didnít win.Ē 

It seems no matter what Garcia does or says right now, he canít win.  Will it be the same after he fights Salka?  Will anyone care if he walks right through his opponent from Pittsburgh?  And if he somehow loses, or looks ordinary, as he did with Herrera, just imagine the fallout he would hear over that. 

ďThe fans know what theyíre going to see when they see Danny Garcia,Ē the champion said.  ďThey going to see blood, sweat, and tears.  They going to see power.  They going to see an exciting fight.  Somebodyís going to get hurt, and it ainít going to be me.Ē 

Salka on the other hand, has no pressure on him, nothing to prove.  No one expects him to win, so oddly, he has a golden opportunity to prove something. Anything he does with Garcia would be considered a plus. 

Salka has not exactly been embraced by the fans for this fight, but it doesnít seem to bother him much. 

ďBoxing fans are entitled to say whatever they want to say,Ē Salka said.  ďI did ten years in the military.  You have that right in this country.  Say whatever you want to say.  I get it.  People are mad about the fight, but you have to look at it from my point of view.  I didnít expect to get the fight.  Iím not going to sit here and argue that Iím the most qualified (to fight him).  But at the same time, I put myself in a good position signing with Golden Boy.  If I had signed with some other promoter, I probably wouldnít have gotten this fight.  You have to get a break sometime.Ē  

His position is clear.  This is that break that every fighter waits for.  Heís been given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and heís looking to capitalize on it.  The fact that heís never been in with a fighter of Garciaís level doesnít concern him. 

ďIím not saying that Iím going to go in there a 2-1 underdog,Ē Salka said.  ďI know when the odds come out, Iím going to be a big underdog.  But recently I have been finding more of who I am as a fighter.  Iím pretty good at it.  I move around really well.  I have good hand speed and good foot speed.  Iíve got sneaky power.  Iím not out there trying to walk you down and knock you out.  But if you watch my recent fights and watch his recent fights, you could foresee me giving him some real problems, and even beating the guy.  Anything can happen, and I really think I have a really good chance to go in there and prove a point.Ē 

Salka talks a good game, sounds extremely confident and grounded.  Heís not under any delusion that this will be an easy fight for him, but he says heís ready for that challenge. 

ďI started in boxing late,Ē Salka said.  ďI was destined to have a couple missteps and some losses on my record (early on).  Itís just growing pains.  I was getting my own fights; I was putting on my own shows.  With this fight, Iím even more confident that Iím more comfortable with what Iím going to do.  So Iím just excited for the fight.Ē 

After the difficulty Garcia had in his last outing, and the avalanche of criticism heís received leading up to this one, Danny may be looking to make a statement to all those critics.    

ďI think Iím going to get a Danny Garcia thatís fighting Erik Morales for the first time.  (Heíll have) something to prove,Ē Salka said.  ďMaybe as a champion, you can get complacent after a while.  Fall into a certain groove where youíre not training the same, or maybe your head gets a little big.  I donít know if thatís the case with him.  But I know after that last fight and all the crap heís getting for this fight, heís going to be coming.  Iím going to get the best Danny Garcia that anybodyís seen in the last couple years.  Especially with all the crap that the fightís getting.  I donít doubt that for a second.Ē 

The question is will Salka be ready to face that version of Garcia? 

ďAs a fan, Iíve watched his fights on TV, but Iíve never watched one twice,Ē Salka said.  ďI kind of know what he does, but I donít want to have any preconceived notions about what heís going to do when we step in that ring.  Iím just going to go in there and come forward and implement my game plan.  And then, however he reacts to my game plan, is how Iíll have to make adjustments and go from there.Ē 

Garciaís approach to the fight is similar, but a bit more focused on a specific result. 

ďI seen him fight on ShowBox,Ē Garcia said.  ďHe beat an undefeated guy.  He boxed pretty good.  Heís an awkward fighter.  Last time (against Herrera) I made a lot of mistakes.  This time, Iím not going to make mistakes.  Iím going to go in there and be Danny Garcia on his A-Game.  On August 9th, weíre going to call it the Purge.  Team Garcia is going to purge the Barclayís Center.  A few hours of killing, bleeding.  The Purge.Ē

ďIím excited for the fight,Ē Salka said.  ďIím excited to get on TV and have a large audience watching live.  So if you didnít know who I was before, now you do. Thatís been the whole question - Who is Rod Salka?  Iím hoping that after August 9th everybody will know who I am and everybody will be happy about the fight.Ē 

Thatís the talk of a fighter with nothing to lose. 

ďAll I care about is having no regrets,Ē Salka continued.  ďIf I worked my hardest and know that I did my best, then at the end of the day, I can live with that.  So thatís fine, no matter what happens.  But with that being said, Iím happy to be here, but Iím not just happy to be here.  Iím coming to win the fight.Ē 

So is Garcia. 

ďAt the end of the day, itís about me winning.  No matter how I win,Ē Garcia said. ďA fight is a fight.  A lot of people count people out because they donít have a name.  But a fight is a fight.Ē 

That may be true.  This is a fight, but Garcia may find that even if manages to purge the Barclays Center and Rod Salka, he may still be waging his fight with the fans. No matter how big his victory, this time Danny Garcia is a fighter in a no win situation, and he may learn that a win isn't always a win.




John DiSanto - Philadelphia - August 05, 2014