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Danny Garcia’s Continuing Boxing Quest Began as a Kid With His First Trophy

It began for Danny “Swift” Garcia, as it does for many, with the presentation of a small, inexpensive trophy. He was 11 years old then

Bernard Fernandez

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It began for Danny “Swift” Garcia, as it does for many, with the presentation of a small, inexpensive trophy. He was 11 years old then, a kid of Puerto Rican heritage from a Philadelphia neighborhood full of them who wanted to take possession of something, anything, that would make him feel as if he might actually turn out to be someone special.

“Winning my first trophy motivated me to keep fighting,” said the three-time former world champion, now fully grown at 30 but still seeking objects, like another bejeweled belt, to validate himself as he prepared for Saturday night’s Showtime-televised confrontation with another former world champ, Shawn Porter, for the vacant WBC welterweight title at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. “I wanted more trophies. All my friends had trophies – football trophies, basketball trophies. I never had no trophies. So I was, like, `Damn, I need some trophies.’

“Then I went from one trophy to 20 trophies to 50 trophies and maybe 40 medals. I was traveling around the world. I had never even gotten on an airplane until I traveled for boxing. My first time to ever get on an airplane, I was going to Kansas City for the Silver Gloves. That alone was like a dream come true.”

It has been said that boys with toys strive to continually achieve because enough is never enough. There is a television commercial now airing for a luxury car favored by successful people who have been upgrading their rides since furiously pedaling their first bicycle. And so it is for Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) and, one might presume, Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs), another 30-year-old from Las Vegas, by way of his native Akron, Ohio, who took pride in his first childhood trophy and has been obsessively adding to his collection ever since.

Garcia and Porter are both trained by their fathers, longtime boxing guys who correctly figured that all it took was a little encouragement at the right time to make their sons become as infatuated with the sport as they were.

“It’s not about the money at that age,” Angel Garcia said last week at the DSG Gym in the Juniata Park section of Philly before putting Danny through his training paces. “It’s about that little trophy.”

But the money is a pretty strong incentive as a fighter becomes older and has the financial wherewithal to enjoy the fruits of his labors. The Garcias, now men of property, own a block of businesses in their neighborhood and are wealthier than they ever could have imagined when a beaming Danny brought home that first little trophy. Not that he’s Floyd Mayweather Jr.-rich, but, as with the case with drivers of that luxury car featured in the commercial, enough is never really enough, not when a fighter still has the talent and, well, drive to keep pushing to take full advantage of his physical gifts before they inevitably begin to wane.

“My goal,” Danny told a media assembly, “is to get this belt, have another big unification fight at 147 and then I want to go up to 154 and win a title in a third weight class.”

It that continual quest for more – more money, more fame, more glory, more embellishments of a legacy still under construction – that spur Garcia onward now. He can afford to take a longer view, to a time when all the hard work will have paid off in a manner that supersedes anything that went before.

How about an appearance on the stage of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., where a then-retired Danny Garcia will be giving an acceptance speech that will officially certify him as a boxing legend?

“That’s my ultimate goal,” he said. “I visited there once, before I fought in a Golden Gloves tournament. It would definitely be another dream come true. I think this fight puts me that much closer.”

But the road from that first little trophy to now, even with all he has gained for himself to this point, can seem like a short skip and a hop compared to the heavy lifting that still must be done on the obstacle-strewn trail from now to what passes for ring immortality. The great middleweight champion Marvin Hagler once observed that it’s difficult for a rich and accomplished fighter to get up before dawn to put in his roadwork when he goes to bed wearing silk pajamas. Garcia understands that rationale, although, as he wryly noted, “I don’t wear pajamas.”

“Some days I wake up and I say, `I want to do this,’” he said of the rigors of training. “Other days I wake up and I say, `I don’t feel like doing this.’ It all depends on how I wake up that day. But I always find a new motivation, a new goal. Whenever I feel that I no longer have the passion for it and don’t want to work hard and push myself to go in a hot gym, that’ll be when I stop.”

For Garcia – and his pop, too – fresh motivation arrived in an XXXL-sized package after Danny relinquished his WBC welterweight title on a split decision in a unification matchup with WBA champ Keith Thurman on March 4, 2017. Not only was it the first professional defeat for Garcia, it was also the first time he no longer could call himself a world champion since he won the vacant WBC super lightweight title on March 24, 2012, with a unanimous decision over Mexican standout Erik Morales – who, incidentally, was inducted into the IBHOF earlier this summer. It was as if Garcia had lost the most cherished part of his identity, or a thief in the night had entered his home and scooped up all mementos of his boxing successes, even that first little trophy.

“It was tough,” he said of his frame of mind after the loss to Thurman. “I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t affect me a little bit. But I have the mind of a winner. Waking up that day, I thought I was going to be unified champ of the world, WBC and WBA. I was real confident when it came to scorecards that I was going to win the fight because I finished strong. I pushed the fight and I thought I won by a point or two. But it didn’t go my way.”

For the always-excitable Angel, it wasn’t so much disappointment as anger. He is convinced that his son – who, truth be told, had won a couple of fights that were close enough to have conceivably gone the other way – was the victim of poor judgment or, worse, bias.

“I ain’t  gonna lie, I couldn’t sleep,” he said of the restless nights for him that followed the Thurman fight. “We had lost before, in the amateurs, but it was the amateurs. You brush it off and keep it rolling. But that fight … I felt crushed. I felt betrayed by the politics of it. People don’t know the business that went on with the (New York) commission. I was messed up for months. I wanted a rematch the next day. We still want Thurman. We gotta give him an `L,’ man. And I want Danny to give him his first loss.”

Settling the score with Thurman is also objective No. 1 for the younger Garcia, but it might be an even more indeterminable wait than it already has been. Thurman has not fought since his close victory over Garcia, in which he suffered an injury to his right elbow that required surgery. When he was able to get back to the gym he sustained another injury, a deep bruise to his left hand, lengthening his layoff and prompting him to voluntarily relinquish the WBC version of his title, which the winner of the Garcia-Porter bout will claim.

Even without a do-over with Thurman to keep his competitive juices flowing, Garcia has rekindled the inner fire that began with the spark of his first little trophy. He returned to action on Feb. 17 of this year when he stopped former WBA lightweight and WBO welterweight titlist Brandon” Bam Bam” Rios in nine rounds in Las Vegas, after which Porter entered the ring and challenged him to the fight that is about to take place this weekend. If Thurman is unavailable at the moment, Porter makes a dandy substitute. To knock out an opponent who never has been stopped would be an added bonus.

“You never want to leave anything in the hands of the judges,” Garcia said. “To go in there and stop (Porter), it would definitely feel great. I’ve stopped a lot of guys for the first time in their career. So (if I do it), it wouldn’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last.”

Interestingly, the specter of Thurman – who retained his WBA welterweight championship with a close but unanimous decision over Porter on June 25, 2016 – lingers over this pairing of his onetime victims like a low-hanging cloud. Asked for his thoughts on Garcia-Porter, Thurman opined that the slightly favored Garcia has the edge in power, defense and boxing ability, but he isn’t sure that’s enough in what he terms “one of the best matchups of the year.”

“I try not to overthink it,” Thurman said. “It’s Porter by decision or Garcia only by KO. I lean toward Porter.”

Little wonder that Garcia, in or out of pajamas, has been getting up early to put in the work necessary to reclaim what was once his. There is always another trophy to be won, another chance to announce himself to the world as someone special. When the guy in the other corner feels the same way, something remarkable tends to happen.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Crawford, Canelo, Caleb Plant and More

Arne K. Lang

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Although a lot of disinformation comes out of the mouths of boxing promoters, Bob Arum was apparently serious when he broached the idea of a two-fight series between Terence Crawford and Conor McGregor, the first fight to be conducted under MMA rules and the second under boxing rules.

Crawford is amenable. “I just have to have the proper time to prepare myself,” he told ESPN’s Dan Rafael. “…I haven’t been in that (wrestling) environment in a long time, but most definitely I feel I can compete with anyone given the proper time to train on the MMA side, being that I have a wrestling background.”

Crawford, 32, last wrestled in middle school so he would certainly need a refresher course. However, he would have a better chance of defeating Conor McGregor in an MMA match than McGregor would have of defeating him in a boxing match. So, if Arum’s proposed two-fight series ever comes off, the tailpiece may be unnecessary.

– – –

As first reported by ESPN’s Steve Kim, Andy Ruiz Jr. has dumped trainer Manny Robles. According to Kim’s report, Ruiz’s father informed Robles of the decision and said it was Al Haymon’s idea.

Andy Ruiz appears to be one of those people that can gain weight just looking at food. He weighed 297 ½ pounds for his pro debut at age 19, carried 268 pounds for his first meeting with Anthony Joshua, and ballooned up to 283 ½ for the rematch after leading reporters to believe that he had actually slimmed down for the sequel.

Ruiz, noted Kim, went from a feel-good story to a cautionary tale in just six months.

– – –

Who ya’ gonna believe?

A certain disreputable web site, bragging that it had an exclusive, told its readers that Canelo Alvarez had settled on Billy Joe Saunders as his next opponent and that they would meet on Cinco de Mayo in Las Vegas. The next day, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, a far more trustworthy source, reported that Ryota Murata had emerged as the frontrunner and that negotiations were underway to stage the fight in Japan.

Perhaps it makes sense for Canelo to promote his brand in a new market. However, if he fights Murata, who holds a WBA belt, he would reportedly be dropping back to 160 and at age 29 he appears to have outgrown the weight class.

Stay tuned.

– – –

If Caleb Plant were an NBA player, his name would be Kevin Love. Plant, who recently married FOX/PBC reporter Jordan Hardy, is the only U.S.-born, non-Hispanic white person among the various champions in the 17 weight divisions.

Plant, who hails from tiny Ashland City, Tenn. (23 miles from Nashville) defends his IBF super middleweight title on Feb. 15 at Nashville’s 20,000-seat Bridgestone Arena. In the opposite corner will be Germany’s Vincent Feigenbutz who will be making his U.S. debut.

The 24-year-old Feigenbutz, who turned pro at age 16, has won 10 straight and 30 of his last 31. He represents a big step up in class from Plant’s last opponent, Mike Lee, who was in way over his head.

– – –

A sad note from South Africa: Five days after the death of trailblazer Peter Mathebula, his widow, Emma Gabaitsiwe Mathebula, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. Peter Mathebula’s funeral, originally set for Saturday, has been pushed back until Tuesday and will now be a joint funeral.

Mathebula, who won the WBA world flyweight title in 1980, basically died a pauper, having sold all of  his boxing memorabilia to keep his head above water. His heirs had reached out to the government for assistance in defraying the costs of his burial.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 82: Jason Quigley Returns to SoCal and More

David A. Avila

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Southern California prizefighting heats up with Jason Quigley headlining a fight card in Orange County and then, two days later, another fight card takes place in the heart of Los Angeles.

Ireland’s Quigley (17-1, 13 KOs) faces Mexico’s Fernando Marin (16-4-3, 12 KOs) on Thursday Jan. 23, at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, Calif. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions fight card live.

Quigley, 28, seeks to reclaim territory lost when he suffered a defeat last July against Tureano Johnson. Ironically, Marin would lose 10 days later in Hollywood to super welterweight contender Serhii Bohachuk.

For several years Quigley had trained in Southern California but decided to change trainers and location. He moved to Great Britain and still prepares near his native country but primarily fights in the U.S.

At one time Quigley clamored for a match against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin or Saul “Canelo” Alvarez but now finds himself trying to prove he belongs in the upper tier of the middleweight division. It’s loaded with talent.

Also on the same fight card will be popular North Hollywood super welterweight Ferdinand Kerobyan who was headed to contender status when he ran into Blair “the Flair” Cobbs. At the time Cobbs was an unknown quantity but no longer.

Kerobyan (13-1, 8 KOs) meets Azael Cosio (21-8-2) in an eight-round clash in the semi-main event at OC Hangar. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Red Boxing International

On Saturday Jan. 27, Red Boxing International hosts its first boxing card of the year at Leonardo’s Night Club located at 6617 Wilson Ave. L.A. 90001. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Super welterweight Bryan Flores (13-1, 6 KOs) meets Brandon Baue (15-17) in the main event  in the first event of the year for the ambitious promotion company. For the past two years Flores fought primarily in Tijuana, Mexico where he racked up six wins. Now he’s back on Southern California soil.

Another match features lightweights Angel Israel Rodriguez (5-0) facing off against Braulio Avila (3-6) in a six-round fight.

Rodriguez fights out of Pico Rivera, Calif. but recently fought in Costa Rica where he won by first round knockout in November. He will be fighting Avila who just fought two weeks ago at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif.

It’s a long fight card with 11 bouts on the schedule.

JRock and Rosario

Boxing fans received another lesson on never underestimating a ranked contender regardless of the name recognition.

Jeison Rosario knocked out Julian “J Rock” Williams who was making the first defense of the WBA and IBF super welterweight world titles he won last year in my selection as “Fight of the Year.”

Rosario walked in with little recognition and was thought to be a soggy piece of bread for Williams. The long armed Dominican fighter walloped Williams in front of his hometown fans in Philadelphia. It was yet another warning for fans to understand that anyone who steps in the boxing ring ranked as a contender can do the unthinkable. In this case Rosario knocked out the champion in five rounds.

Many felt Williams was far too skilled, especially on the inside where he showcased those skills last May against former titlist Jarret Hurd. It was a remarkable display of the art of inside fighting. But against Rosario, he never got a chance to exhibit those skills.

The loaded super welterweight division has another dangerous champion in Rosario.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. 6 p.m. DAZN – Jason Quigley (17-1) vs Fernando Marin (16-4-3).

Sat. 6 p.m. Showtime – Danny Garcia (35-2) vs Ivan Redkach (23-4-1).

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Recalling Three Big Fights in Miami, the Site of Super Bowl LIV

Arne K. Lang

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The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs collide on Feb. 2 in Miami in Super Bowl LIV (54) in what will assuredly be the biggest betting event to ever play out on American soil. It’s the 10th Super Bowl for the South Florida metropolis which ties it with New Orleans as the most frequent destination for football’s premier attraction.

With its heavily Latin population, Miami would seem to be natural for big fights. However, this hasn’t been the case. Several great champions fought here, including Roberto Duran who twice defended his world lightweight title in these parts, but these weren’t big fights. In the case of Duran, his opponents were lightly regarded and the Panamanian legend was still three years away from his first encounter with Sugar Ray Leonard, a match that increased his name recognition a hundred-fold.

There were, however, three fights in Miami that summoned the interest of virtually all of America’s A-list sportswriters. Here they are in reverse chronological order.

Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello (Nov. 12, 1982)

Alexis Arguello (72-5) was bidding to become boxing’s first four-division champion. In his way stood WBA junior welterweight title-holder Aaron Pryor (31-0, 29 KOs), a man now widely regarded as the best 140-pound boxer of all time.

Arguello, a Miami resident, having been exiled from his Nicaraguan homeland by the Sandanista rebel occupation, was a textbook boxer who defeated his opponents with surgical efficiency. Pryor was a typhoon. He mowed down his opponents with relentless pressure. It was a great style match-up and it didn’t disappoint. Contested before nearly 30,000 at Miami’s iconic Orange Bowl, Pryor vs. Arguello was a fight for the ages.

“There was power, finesse, poise, courage and a tremendous ebb and flow,” said Associated Press writer Ed Schuyler who dubbed it Manila in Miniature. In the ninth, 11th, and particularly the 13th rounds, Arguello hit Pryor with straight right hands that would have felled an ordinary fighter, but Pryor had an iron chin.

In the 14th, Pryor buckled Arguello’s knees with a straight right hand and then unloaded a furious combination as Arguello fell back against the ropes. He was out on feet when referee Stanley Cristodoulou intervened and he would lay prone on the canvas for several minutes before he could be removed to his dressing room.

Sonny Liston vs. Muhammad Ali (Feb. 25, 1964)

If you happen to find a poster for this fight with the name Muhammad Ali on it, don’t buy it. It’s bogus. Liston met up with Muhammad Ali in their second fight. In their first encounter, Liston opposed Cassius Clay.

Clay’s Louisville sponsors, after a brief flirtation with Archie Moore, settled on Angelo Dundee as his trainer. Angelo operated out of his brother Chris Dundee’s gym located at the corner of 5th Street and Washington Avenue in Miami Beach. The fighter who took the name Muhammad Ali trained here and kept a home in Miami for most of his first six years as a pro.

Clay/Ali was 22 years old and had only 19 fights under his belt when he was thrust against heavyweight champion Sonny Liston at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Liston was riding a 28-fight winning streak after back-to-back first-round blowouts of Floyd Patterson.

In a UPI survey, 43 of 46 boxing writers picked Liston. “Clay has no more chance of stopping Liston than the old red barn had of impeding a tornado,” wrote Nat Fleischer, the publisher of The Ring magazine.

This would be the first of many famous fights for Muhammad Ali who emerged victorious when Liston quit after the sixth frame citing an injured shoulder. What is not widely known, however, is that the fight, which was shown on closed-circuit in the U.S. and Canada, was a bust at the gate. The 16,448-seat Convention Center was only half full.

The expectation that Liston would take the lippy kid out in a hurry depressed sales, as did sky-high ticket prices ($250 tops when $100 was the norm). And there may have been more subtle factors. “This may not be the best place for a fight between two Negroes,” wrote Robert Lipsyte of the New York Times, cognizant that people of color were not welcome as guests at the ritzy beachfront hotels along Collins Avenue.

Jack Sharkey vs. W. L. (Young) Stribling (Feb. 27, 1929)

A big fight, as I define it, doesn’t have to be a blockbuster. An important fight that produces an upset automatically becomes a bigger fight in hindsight. The Sharkey-Stribling fight of 1929 didn’t draw an immense crowd by Jack Dempsey standards, but the turnout, reportedly 35,000, far exceeded expectations and the fight – which preceded Miami’s first Orange Bowl football game by six years — really established Miami as a potentially good place for a big sporting event.

Promoted by the Madison Square Garden Corporation, the bout was originally headed to a dog racing track but it quickly became obvious that a larger venue was needed. A stadium was erected on a Miami Beach polo field, taking the name Flamingo Park (not to be confused with the thoroughbred track of the same name).

Slated for 10 rounds, the bout was conceived as one of two “eliminators” to find a successor to Gene Tunney who had retired. What gave the fight it’s primary allure, however, was the North-South angle. Sharkey, born Joseph Zukauskas, hailed from Boston. Stribling, born into a family that traveled the fair circuit with a variety act, was from Macon, Georgia.

The fight, which aired on the NBC radio network, was a dud, a drab affair won by Sharkey who had the best of it in virtually every round. Both went on to fight Max Schmeling for the world heavyweight title. Stribling, dubbed the “King of the Canebrakes” by Damon Runyon, lost by TKO in fight that was stopped late in the 15th round. Sharkey took the title from Schmeling on a split decision after losing their first meeting on a foul.

Young Stribling died in a motorcycle crash at age 28, by which time he had engaged in 251 documented bouts, the great majority of which were set-ups. Jack Sharkey lived to be 91.

—-

The strong earnings of the Sharkey-Stribling bout inevitably drew the Madison Square Garden Corporation back to Miami for an encore. On Feb. 27, 1930, Jack Sharkey opposed England’s “Fainting” Phil Scott. Four years later, on March 1, 1834, Primo Carnera defended his world heavyweight title here against former light heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran, the Philadelphia Phantom.

Both bouts were big money losers, as were the great majority of major fights during this period. Eight months after the Sharkey-Stribling cash cow, the stock market crashed, plunging the United States into the Great Depression. Few Americans could afford to vacation in Florida, let alone travel anywhere for a big fight.

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Fast Results from San Antonio: Munguia TKOs Brave but Out-gunned O’Sullivan

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