By John Disanto – Philly Boxing History (.com)
A couple of months ago, newly crowned WBC junior lightweight champion Danny “Swift” Garcia seemed to be on the same track as many other young champions still getting used to that feel of a world title belt around their waist. After beating Mexican legend Erik Morales by decision in March, Garcia waited to hear who his first title challenger would be. Based on the way things usually work in the sport, most believed Garcia would be pressured by the WBC to next face the undefeated and equally unknown Ajose Olusegun, a 30-0 Nigerian who fights out of the UK. Despite Olusegun’s impressive record, the fight figured to be little more than another sanctioning fee opportunity for the WBC and a first defense payday for Garcia. Just a routine move on the boxing chessboard. However, something happened that made the far from anticipated Garcia vs. Olusegun bout suddenly evaporate. Real opportunity knocked for Garcia.
Instead a run-of-the-mill mandatory defense, Garcia was offered a fight that, if he can win, could provide him with a streamlined trip to boxing stardom. On July 14th, Danny faces Amir Khan. Perhaps you can call it fate. Garcia does.
“It wasn’t planned,” Garcia said as he wrapped training in Philly before his trip to Las Vegas. “It just happened. When Peterson fell out, I told my Dad, if it comes our way, we’ll fight him. Then the phone call came and we took the fight.”
The lure of this fight is that besides it being a competitive style match up, both boxers are young, in their primes, and fighting the other while both are still on the rise. Too often fighters like Garcia and Khan follow their own paths while boxing fans are forced to sit back and hope that one day fighters like these will meet in the ring.
Angel Garcia, Danny’s out-spoken father and trainer agrees that the time for this fight is now.
“Boxing gotta come back like it used to be,” Angel said. “And the only way to do that is to have two great young fighters. That’s the way it should be. You don’t know your destiny. Things happen in life. That’s why when opportunities come, God is opening doors for you. You gotta take advantage of those doors. Because you only get one chance in life. That’s why this fight is meant to be. This is destiny.”
Some handicappers of the fight will tell you that the timing of this one favors Khan, who is a bit ahead of Garcia on the experience curve. The theory goes that a little more time and a few more fights would better suit Garcia’s chances of coming out on top. But Danny, 24, doesn’t see it that way.
“I think more than anything, I respect him for taking this fight,” Garcia said. “Because he didn’t have to take it. I mean, I’m hungry. I’m young. I’m undefeated. I’m the champion. And it’s a risky fight for him. Because if he loses again, that’s two straight losses.”
So Garcia grabbed the chance to fight the former WBA & IBF champion who lost his titles last December by the slimmest of margins to Lamont Peterson after being dubiously penalized by the referee. Those penalty points cost Khan the decision and his titles. More recent developments surrounding Lamont Peterson’s possible steroid use gives further credence to the opinion that Khan, 26-2 (18 KO), should still be considered a champion. Garcia is happy to give Khan, 25, another title opportunity.
“I feel like all champions should be like me,” Garcia said. Give the fans what they want to see – two young champions fighting instead of a young champion milking his record and fighting all these guys that ain’t no competition… fighting old horses and stuff like that. I think boxing is about fighting the best, and that’s why I took this fight.”
Garcia, 23-0 (14 KO), has really stepped it up lately. Khan will be the fourth straight current or former world champion that he’s faced. The other three were Erik Morales, Kendall Holt, and Nate Campbell.
“He grew more as a fighter, mentally,” said Angel Garcia about his son’s development over the last year. “He’s stronger, physically. I’ve seen him grow experience-wise. He’s more of a thinker now. He goes in there and he works and he takes shots, and he gives shots. It’s very important, taking a good shot. He toughs it out and doesn’t melt away. Like when Morales hit him with that big right hand on top of the nose – I thought it was broken, honestly. But he didn’t melt away. He just stood there in front of Morales. You know, that’s very important for
a young fighter. If you get hit with a good shot, would you stand there, or would you melt away? He showed the world that he IS the WBC super lightweight champion world.”
At this moment Khan, with seven world title bouts to his credit, figures to be the Garcia’s toughest foe to date.
“He’s a former champion,” said Garcia of Khan. “He’s a good fighter. He’s fast. He’s strong. And I’m expecting a great fight. I expect him to hit and run, like he always does. He’s going to try to step to me, but as soon I hit him with those bombs, he’s gonna get on that bicycle.”
“I don’t see him as the toughest opponent,” said Angel. “I only think Khan is a bigger name. He’s not a tough opponent at all. They fed Danny to the wolf. They didn’t feed Khan to the wolf as a young fighter.”
So how do they plan to beat Khan?
“We going to test the chin, and we are going to test the heart,” said Angel. “See if he got the heart to stand in there with a puncher – especially with a dangerous puncher who can punch you with either a left hook or a right hand. See that’s a very dangerous puncher, a guy that punches with two hands.”
“I think the key is to do what I always do and to win, and be me,” said the fighter. ” And whatever happens, happens. Adapt to the fight, listen to my corner and get the job done.”
“I guess everybody is still in the dark; their eyes are dark,” said Angel. “Some people need more years to open their eyes. He’s going to shock the world. This is nothing yet. This is only the beginning of his career.”
What is the one thing Garcia must avoid doing against Khan?
“Don’t let him get ahead,” Danny said. “Get ahead and run around and try to out-box me for 12 rounds. That’s what he’s thinking, but it’s not going to be that easy. I don’t see anything else that I’m worried about.”
“He predicts a KO,” Angel said of his son. “And when Danny usually predicts things, he does it. But you know, I’m going for 12 rounds because we trained for 12. But the whole game is to go in there, adjust to Khan, and take it to him. See if he really is the fighter he says he is.”
Father and son now prepare for their fights at the “Swift Boxing Club”, their own gym located on the top floor of the Harrowgate Boxing Club in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. The Harrowgate has been around since before Danny was born, and has been his boxing home since childhood. After Garcia became champion in March, he took over the top floor of the Harrowgate club. It keeps him close to his roots, but also allows the Garcia family to set their own rules and completely focus on their preparation.
The Swift Boxing Club has its own entrance at the side of the building, just off Venango Street. Garcia and a handful of other local fighters train there. But also at the gym every day are a small army of neighborhood kids who come by to watch the champion work. They nag the older guys at the gym for pocket change so they can run downstairs when they hear the ice cream truck rolling up the street. The kids bring their frozen treats back into the sweltering gym to watch more sparring.
These kids seem fascinated with Garcia. Perhaps it is because he a “champ”, or because they hear he’s making the big money now. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that he is Puerto Rican, like most of them. Danny Garcia is the first Puerto Rican boxer from Philadelphia to win a world championship. In fact, he’s the first Latino champ in all of Philly’s storied boxing history.
“This is it,” Danny said of his simple hard scrabbled gym. “This is the definition of Philly. “I’m from Juniata (a predominantly Puerto Rican section of the City), right up the street. I’m fully aware (of the kids in the gym who obviously admire him). I’m pretty sure they see somebody that started just like them and became a champion. I opened the door for them and give them faith. It’s so much easier when you see somebody make it.”
“Danny’s a natural born fighter,” Angel said. “He’s a gifted fighter. He was born to do this. Danny don’t know how to do nothing else. He can’t even fold a tee shirt. That’s hard. I mean, you can’t fold a tee shirt? I’m not saying he’s dumb or nothing. I’m just saying that he just knows how to fight. That’s all he does. God gave him this gift. As long as he’s happy, I’m happy. That’s all I want.”
“It feels great,” said the young champion. “How many people can say they won a world title? I made history. I’m happy, and now is the time for me to make a little bit of money.”
“He (Khan) got his hands full, honestly,” said Angel. “They think Danny is a pushover. I don’t care what they say. All I know is Danny is going to go on July 14 and show the world that Khan is nobody and Danny is the super lightweight champion of the world.”
The fighters will battle for Garcia’s WBC belt and the vacant WBA title, once held by Khan and recently stripped from Peterson.
“It’s time to make more history,” said Danny. “Two titles in a row, back to back. Two-time champion. This fight will put me at a whole new level, a whole new platform as champion. And I’m ready for it.”