Former two-division titleholder Danny Garcia is looking to make it three divisions in time, as the 34-year-old Philadelphia native will move up to the 154 lb division for a July 30 Showtime main event.
Garcia (36-3, 21 KO) is not only into his mid-30s and moving up to a weight where many question his physical ability to succeed, but he’s also breaking a pretty long layoff — he hasn’t fought since his Dec. 2020 loss to Errol Spence Jr at welterweight.
“2020 was a good and bad year for me. I fought twice and made a lot of money, but at the same time, there was the pandemic. It was a tough year for me outside of the ring,” he said at a media workout on Wednesday.
“It was stressful for everybody. I just needed a break. I was tired. I trained hard at the beginning of the year and then we went through the pandemic. I had to wake myself up to train hard again for one of the biggest fights of my career. It just took a mental toll on me. I was mentally tired. I banged it out with Spence. He got the decision, but I was still able to go in there and scrap for 12 rounds. I knew if I just took a break and came back, nobody could touch me.”
“The time off was very important. After you’ve been fighting for a long time, I’ve been fighting world champions for the last 10 years, I realized that my body felt great, but my mind felt foggy,” he added. “It felt tired. It didn’t feel sharp. I knew that I needed my mind to rest, have some fun, and spend some time with my family. I needed time to enjoy everything that I worked so hard for, start to miss the game of boxing and then come back strong. I think that’s what I’ve done.”
Garcia says he’s been training for three months now, and that he feels “fantastic” as he recharges the batteries to make another run in the ring.
“You know what’s crazy? You miss the smell of the gym,” he said. “When you haven’t been in the gym in a while and you walk in the gym, it’s like your mom’s home cooked food. I missed this.”
At a listed 5’8” with a 68½” reach, it’s hard to escape that Garcia seems small for the division, in terms of the way people actually make weight to fight anymore. Benavidez (27-1-1, 18 KO) is himself someone who started down at 140 and has mostly fought at 147, but he’s listed at 5’10½” with a 71” reach. Jermell Charlo, the division’s top dog, is six feet tall with a 73” reach.
Long story short, yes, Garcia is physically small on paper for this division, but he believes it’s the best weight for him now.
“I always knew that 154 was my walkaround weight. A lot of people think I’m naturally small because I used to fight at 140 and 147, but I was squeezing myself down to get to those weights,” he stated. “Now I’m a little bit older, a little bit wiser. I don’t think that’s the right thing for me to do to lose all that weight.”
He also says he won’t be looking past Benavidez, a 30-year-old who was once a top, blue chip prospect, but whose pro career has never quite taken off.
“Benavidez is a tough fighter. He has some skills. Obviously, he’s 27-1-1 and he’s fought some good fighters. I expect the best of him,” Garcia said. “I want to knock him out but if the knockout doesn’t come, then we’re ready for 12 rounds.I just want to go in there and give the fans a great show.”
His outspoken father and trainer, Angel, doesn’t have quite the same stance on Benavidez.
“Jose Benavidez Jr is not a skillful fighter,” the elder Garcia said. “He can’t fight going backwards. He doesn’t have any skill. He doesn’t dip. He doesn’t slip. He doesn’t duck hits. He just comes forward, I guess. I don’t know what they’re teaching him. I teach perfection. I don’t teach just going in and getting beat up.”
And while he’s not trying to ignore that Benavidez can be dangerous, Garcia is like any fighter, and has longer-term plans; one being potentially facing Errol Spence Jr again down the road.
“I would definitely want to revisit the Spence fight at 154 lbs. We have history already. Once I start looking good at 154, there’s going to be a lot of great fights for me,” he said.
“Danny did great fighting at 147 lbs,” Angel added. “The Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter fights could have gone either way. And then the Spence fight, we were going through a lot of changes because of COVID. I’m not trying to sugarcoat anything, I’m just being honest. Danny was suffering from anxiety leading up to the Spence fight. There was too much going on. We had a difficult camp. I’m not making excuses. But he still did great and he still threw 750 punches.
“Don’t forget, we were supposed to fight Spence in March and then he had the car accident. So instead, we fought Ivan Redkach. But if the Spence fight would have gone down that day, Spence wouldn’t have had a victory.”