Danny Garcia has emerged in the last three years as the top junior welterweight in boxing, continually defying the odds and surpassing expectations for his career, and climbing the pound-for-pound ranks.
The 26-year-old Philadelphia fighter didn't have the best 2014, though he went 2-0, beating Mauricio Herrera controversially, and then trucking the unqualified Rod Salka in a deservingly trashed Showtime main event on August 9.
Let's take a look at where Garcia's already been, and what his immediate future may hold. How much more can he accomplish in boxing? Has he reached his ceiling?
- Lucas Matthysse (2013-09-14)
- Amir Khan (2012-07-14)
- Zab Judah (2013-04-27)
- Kendall Holt (2011-10-15)
- Erik Morales (2012-03-24)
Garcia's wins over Matthysse and Khan are his best, and I think indisputably in that order, but even those still come with half an asterisk for a lot of people. Not me, but some people. Those folks argue that Garcia was lucky that Matthysse was cut and couldn't see out of an eye for much of the fight, as if Garcia had nothing to do with that; and that he knocked out Khan with a "lucky punch" after being blown away for a whopping two entire rounds.
I call hogwash on both. Matthysse's struggles against Garcia were Garcia's doing. And that punch that knocked Khan into the following Tuesday might look lucky, but it was timed and measured, and I don't take a lot from two rounds of Khan showing his speed, either. Plus, the whole book on beating Khan is "crack his chin." So Garcia was out there looking to crack his chin. And then he did.
After that, you have the win over Judah, which is odd, because the 2013 Judah was long past his prime and had faded pretty noticeably by that point, but on that single night if nothing else, Zab Judah was gritty, determined, and there until the very end. He even fought through adversity and getting hurt, which frankly had never been a quality of Judah's.
In the fourth spot, I'll go with Garcia's 2011 win over Kendall Holt, which was scored a split decision, because judge Wayne Hedgepeth saw something no one else did. Garcia won that fight convincingly, and it was the final step toward his days as a top junior welterweight.
For the final fight, I'm taking the first win over a bloated, old Erik Morales, who wasn't in good physical shape, couldn't make weight, and didn't look very good. But Morales was still crafty enough to try and play mind games with Garcia during the fight, and Danny didn't fall for them at all.
Up Next and Beyond
Garcia recently agreed to a deal with mandatory challenger Viktor Postol, one that will give each of them time to take an optional fight first, which to me seems to suggest that we may never see Garcia-Postol, as Garcia's move to welterweight has been discussed for over a year now. Bigger money awaits him at 147 pounds, even if he does make one final defense at 140.
Now, if a fight with Postol happens, that is no gimme, either -- Postol is a good fighter, a legit contender who presents some matchup problems for Garcia. A lot of Danny's wins have come against guys who have major technical flaws and can be predictable. I'd say that goes for Matthysse, Khan, Holt, Judah, and Morales, and that's not saying that those wins are "overrated" or anything, because they're not. Those were good wins for Garcia. I'm saying simply that styles make fights, and Postol doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He's a good boxer who employs a sharp jab, has more power than his mediocre KO ratio would suggest, and won't aid Garcia by screwing up.
That's something that Mauricio Herrera didn't do in March of this year, when Herrera arguably should have scored the upset over Garcia in Puerto Rico. Herrera stuck to a game plan, and he and his team seemed to have Garcia well-scouted. I think it's certainly feasible that Garcia also overlooked Herrera a bit and didn't take him seriously. If that's the case, Garcia may not make that mistake again.
That said, he also struggled in 2010 during his prospect days, when he faced the tricky Ashley Theophane, which is another fight Garcia arguably should have lost. (He won a split decision.) Guys who are "crafty" or a little awkward seem to give Danny problems, perhaps because Garcia's own bit of awkwardness is what makes him so effective against fighters who have a more by-the-book style. Garcia's success owes a lot to his timing, and if he can't time a guy, he can struggle.
Postol isn't really awkward, and could be called a textbook boxer, but he doesn't take the sort of risks that Matthysse, Khan, Judah, Holt, and Morales do. He stays contained and works pretty methodically. At any rate, it's an interesting matchup, and one I hope we see.
But I'll take Garcia moving to 147 for legit fights at that weight, too. Golden Boy and Al Haymon have a lot of fighters at 147, depending on how that all shakes out (Haymon has Garcia under contract, and Golden Boy has promoted Danny's fights). If it winds up that Garcia is able to fight Top Rank guys, then you also potentially have Garcia against Manny Pacquiao, which could happen at 147 or maybe even at 140, with Freddie Roach continuing to say Manny's considering a move back down in weight.
I have recently considered the idea that we may have seen the best of Danny Garcia already, and I tried to be aware of what I was doing there. For a long time, I was one of the people who thought that while Garcia never seemed exceptional, he simply "knew how to win," and even then I used that phrase with some disgust, because I hate the way it's used in sports culture. I used it only because I could not figure out why Garcia continued to be so successful.
Eventually, it dawned on me, and it was a shocking revelation. Danny Garcia is a good fighter. Across the board, pick an attribute, and he's a 7 or 8 out of 10, except his chin, which might be a 9 or 10. He's an intelligent fighter, a good boxer with good power, usually has a strong plan and sticks to it, and he enjoys a great fighter-trainer relationship with his fighter, Angel Garcia. Whatever you think of Angel Garcia, I don't think there's any question that he gets the best out of his son, and that he's trained one hell of a good professional fighter.
So sure, maybe Garcia doesn't often sparkle like a Golovkin or a Kovalev. But he gets the job done, and he does it because he's a talented fighter.
If Garcia has reached his ceiling, that could mean another three or four years of winning without losing, depending on the opposition and the matchups. On paper, no, it doesn't seem like Garcia would be a serious threat to Floyd Mayweather, a fight that has been discussed a lot. But who is at this point? Would Garcia be a threat to Manny Pacquiao, Tim Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Marcos Maidana, or anyone else at 147? You bet he would.
What do you think? Is Garcia still a somewhat unappreciated fighter? What do you think he can do at 147 if that's the route he takes?