By John DiSanto – Philly Boxing History (.com)
Photos: John DiSanto
Coming off his breakthrough victory over Amir Khan, Danny Garcia was poised for more mega fights against the best fighters in the world. But the fight the young champion from Philadelphia was given was another go-round with bona fide legend and future Hall of Famer Erik Morales, the man from whom Garcia won his first world title in March. No one should ever take a fighter like Morales for granted, but the rematch feels like a bit of housekeeping, a chore, that Garcia must endure before moving on with his career.
The problem is that Morales held his own against Garcia last time, and although he’ll be seven months older, he figures to be much better in the fight that appears to be his last hurrah. A stumble by Garcia would be a real setback for him, while another victory may feel like a lateral move. It’s a classic performance trap that Garcia must avoid.
The 12-round junior welterweight championship fight scheduled for Saturday night, headlines a huge title-heavy card at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, that will also be telecast live by Showtime.
Before a bout, most fighters will tell you that they are only focused on collecting a win, and that getting the win is the only thing that matters. Fighters use this phrase like a mantra. But do they really feel this way?
For Garcia, he has to be thinking bigger than just getting another win over Morales. Although by beating Khan Danny opened some eyes around the boxing world, he is still in the phase of his career that requires he prove himself over and over again. If he wasn’t, the Morales rematch would have been avoided by the powers that be. But here Garcia is facing the old warhorse again.
“I’m fighting a legend,” Garcia said at his gym before leaving for New York. “I just fight who they put in front of me. My job is to train, and to go in there and give my best performance. But he gave me a shot at the title when nobody knew me. So if anybody deserves a rematch, he deserves a rematch. He didn’t have anything to gain if he beat me. So it’s only right that I give him a rematch.”
But the assignment this weekend must be to go in against Morales and return the favor by emphatically defeating the legend. Part of the job is to leave no doubts that Garcia is ready to take on all comers in and around the 140-pound division.
“I know he’s going to come hard, but I’m ready for him,” Garcia said. “I’d be happy if I stop him, but I’m ready for 12 rounds.”
The last time they fought, the fight went the full distance, and in retrospect, Garcia feels he gave the legendary champion a bit too much respect.
“It was my first championship fight,” Garcia said. “I was facing a legend. I was standing in front of him too long. I was letting the older guy think and pick his shots. This time I can’t let him think. I just have to go in there and destroy.”
Rematches can be tricky – especially when they come against ring legends who have seen it all before. Garcia clearly has the advantage in the second bout, but an argument can be made that Morales, who could not make the weight for the first bout, can only be better this time, assuming he can hit the scales at 140.
“If he makes weight, I’ll be happy for him,” Garcia said. “I’ll clap for him.”
Garcia’s outspoken father and trainer, Angel Garcia, sees the fight clearly and doesn’t bother selecting his words too carefully.
“The second time doesn’t feel no different,” Angel said. “It’s basically the same thing. The only thing this time is that Danny is hungrier.”
But after playing it safe the first time against Morales, and then shocking Khan in his next fight, will Garcia approach the Morales rematch differently?
“Danny needs to put his youth into Morales,” Angel said. “Danny can’t look at him. He’s got to fight Morales the way he fought Khan. Morales is too slow for Danny. Khan brought the youth out in Danny. Danny has to fight Danny’s fight. He has to make Morales think ‘What is this kid doing to me? What is he hitting me with?'”
That’s the difference with Team Garcia, they don’t seem afraid to openly hope for more in a fight. Angel Garcia is the talker between the two, but even Danny is willing to tell you that just winning isn’t enough. Danny says it more subtly, but his heart is every bit as much on his sleeve as his father’s.
“I think five rounds,” the father predicted for the rematch. “I keep saying five rounds. But Danny says four. He never predicts, but if I say five and he says four, you know he’s going to do something.”
“A lot of people say (when they look back), ‘Damn, when I was there, I didn’t do it. I couldn’t do what I had to do.'”, Danny said. “I’m actually in the moment. I see every single thing. It’s just that I have to deliver now. I don’t want to be one of those fighters that say ‘I could have been this… I could have been that’. I’m kind of living in the moment right now, and just making it all come true.”
If Garcia can make it come true against Morales on Saturday night in Brooklyn, much could happen for him in 2013. He’s had a great year, and has one more hurdle left for 2012. If he can beat Erik Morales in a big way, perhaps the rest of the boxing world will start believing in him the way they do in Philly.
The future looks bright for the 24 year old fighter, and once he gets by Morales he might find stardom and success that may even leave his talkative father speechless.
For more on the Philly fight scene – past and present – visit www.phillyboxinghistory.com.