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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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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In Defense of Julie Lederman

Ted Sares

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Some years ago, Matt Podgorski (a former boxing official) came up with a formula for evaluating the performance of boxing judges worldwide by determining the percentage of instances his or her scores were consistent with the other two judges working the same fights. He called it the Pod Index. It was a rare effort to quasi-quantify the work of boxing judges. “Boxing and MMA judges are often evaluated based on whether or not they have had a controversial decision. This is a poor way to assign and regard professional judges,” said Podgorski in an interview with former RingTV editor Michael Rosenthal.

Matt’s Disclaimer: “We are not claiming that judges with low Pod Index scores are bad judges. The Pod Index is simply a measurement of round by round variation compared to other judges.”

Julie Lederman placed very high in Podgorski’s study. In fact, only one  veteran judge — Canada’s Benoit Roussel — had a better score.

For more information about the Pod Index, see http://theboxingtribune.com/2014/12/19/the-pod-index-a-step-in-the-right-direction/

Confirmation Bias

Some of this writer’s favorite judges, in addition to Lederman, are Steve Weisfeld, Glen Feldman, Dave Moretti, Glenn Trowbridge, Joe Pasquale, Max DeLuca, Hubert Earle, Benoit Roussel, Burt Clements, Rocky Young, Joel Scobie, Tom Shreck, Don Trella, William Lerch, Pinit Prayadsab, and Raúl Caiz, Jr. All of them have been maligned at one time or another.

Being a judge is a thankless endeavor and attention is mostly received when something controversial happens. Once a judgment is made about a bad job, that judgment influences future perceptions. This is known as “confirmation bias.”

Thus, Julie Lederman’s highly questionable scoring in the Loma-Lopez fight, though it didn’t change the result, will most certainly label her a bad judge, tarnishing her reputation despite all of the fine work she has done in the past. Moreover, it’s now fashionable to “pile on” and castigate her with a nasty Bob Arum leading the charge.

“…what kind of fight was she watching,…these judges are the craziest…I would advise any fighter I would have to ask the commission not to appoint her…” — Arum

This wasn’t the first time that Arum criticized Julie. Back in 2014, Tim Bradley and Diego Gabriel Chaves fought to a draw. Lederman scored the fight 116-112 in favor of Chaves. Arum had this to say: “She should never be allowed to work in Nevada again….Her scorecard for Chaves is an absolute disgrace …[She was appointed] because they let these [expletive] Showtime guys put a fight on the same night that we did it. They don’t have enough judges. They don’t have enough referees. They want to accommodate both parties. Why? Because they’ll do anything the [expletive] MGM asks them to do.”

“It’s easy to criticize boxing judges. But it’s not that easy to have a sound basis for the criticism. One needs to see the fight the judge saw to be in the position to rightly criticize. Critics should temper criticisms in light of the situations boxing judges are in when judging fights. And judges should likewise understand criticisms from the boxing public, however baseless these may seem.”  — Epifanio M. Almeda

Lederman, 52, is in her 24th year as a professional boxing judge. Her assignments have taken her to eight foreign countries and Puerto Rico. And she has been a fixture this year at the MGM Bubble, working 18 fights across seven shows without incident prior to this past Saturday night.

This, of course, does not excuse Julie’s scoring on Saturday (119-109 for Teofimo Lopez), but it needs to be kept in mind that she has been ranked high over the years and does not have in her past work a pattern of poor judging such as seemed to exist, for example, in Texas and which drew the ire of Paulie Malignaggi.

When she first hit the scene, cries of nepotism and politics accompanied her, but those complaints quickly evaporated. Whether she can bounce back from this controversy remains to be seen. This writer hopes she can.

Photo: Julie Lederman and her father are flanked by Henry Hascup, President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame and Aaron Davis, former President of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board

Ted Sares can be reached on Facebook or at tedsares@roadrunner.com

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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“—C’mon!” (from the pen of Springs Toledo)

Springs Toledo

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-C'mon

“—C’mon!” said Teofimo Lopez with two seconds left in the 12th round. It was a Brooklyn thing to say on a Brooklyn-type Saturday night, and Lopez timed it well. He’d just crashed two hooks at either side of Vasiliy Lomachenko’s head and ended their saga as it began—with sharp words.

“My son will destroy Lomachenko,” Lopez’s father told EsNews in August 2017. Three months later Lopez was in the gym mimicking his style. “Same side always,” he said as he tapped the bag and dipped to his right. “Nuthin’ different.” “Lomachenko is a diva,” he said last week. “I don’t like him … I’m the type of person, I say something I mean it. If you have a problem with it, come see me.” Lomachenko came to see him all right, and both brought their fathers as if the whole thing was a schoolyard scrap.

Lomachenko’s father is a silent sage. His modern training techniques are part of the “performance revolution” that has transformed every sport, including the sport that’s barely a sport, and not necessarily for the better. Papa Chenko’s futurama theories seem at once scientific and idiosyncratic. Pundits who never heard of Freddie Brown think they’re next-level stuff. There’s Lomachenko holding his breath under water to build lung strength; there he is touching that board with blinking lights to improve hand-eye coordination. When Lomachenko was 9, his father went so far as to enroll him in a Ukrainian folk dance school to expose him to hobak, hutsulka, and the kolomiyka, and you can see it in all the hopping and side-stepping he does around the ring at 32.

Papa Lopez is anything but silent, though he too is a sage—a naysaying sage with street instincts picked up during a few round trips through hell. He takes no one’s word for anything and if he takes a break from a tirade and asks a question, it has about as much tact as a shiv. When Lomachenko is holding his breath in the pool is someone else there too, denting his rib cage with hooks? Those lights blinking on the screen, do they feint? And dancing school? Dancing school? Brooklyn itself rolls its collective eyes.

Papa Lopez laughs without mirth at the consensus opinion, at the so-called experts. But he couldn’t laugh off the indisputable fact that Lomachenko has been knocking off a parade of world-class fighters. So he plopped down in front of YouTube to see for himself what was happening.

And what did he see?

He saw that the so-called Matrix style is a series of tricks; that Lomachenko is pulling fast ones on the gullible in the opposite corner and in press row. He saw opponents cooperating with him as he gauged their strengths and weaknesses in the first round or two and measured the distance between his glove and their chin. He saw them mesmerized by nothing-shots—“pitty pats,” he called them, “patty-cakes,” and wondered if it would have been easier or harder, given the language barrier, if Lomachenko just came out and asked them to throw something so he can find the best route around it to sock them in the chops.

Papa Lopez also saw that Lomachenko is preoccupied with not getting hurt; that he habitually slips, dips, and veers off to his right against the conventional stance. Teofimo, 23, saw the same thing. They both know why he prefers that direction: it’s the safest route.

His offense, which has two prongs and lots of frills, doesn’t contradict his preoccupation. Lomachenko wants to draw out his opponents to counter them. He stands a half-step off the perimeter where they can’t quite reach him and he can’t reach them. Then he baits them. If they take the bait, he hops in with a jab and then hops back out of reach. He’s making calculations, looking for patterns, and once he finds them he exploits them with minimal risk to himself because, like Floyd Mayweather, he already has a pretty good idea of what they’re going to throw. When is he most aggressive? When his opponent is least aggressive—out of position or covering up. He isn’t comfortable with uncalculated risks. Like Floyd, he wants control; and that only happens with an opponent’s cooperation.

Stanley Crouch, the late cultural critic and Brooklynite who was at least as contentious as Papa Lopez, understood the set-up. “What a boxer ideally wants to do is turn the opponent into an assistant in his own ass-whipping,” he said. “That’s really what you want the other guy to do—to assist you in whipping his ass.”

Lomachenko built a reputation on willing assistants.

And defeating him was easier than anyone anticipated. The fighter of the future bowed to all-American unruliness and old-fashioned fundamentals.

Old School’s comeback Saturday night was long, long overdue. Lopez used his strength and length to draw an invisible border with a warning that said “this far and no farther.” Then he enforced it. Instead of letting Lomachenko freely angle around him like he’s some stiff at the prom, he angled with him and threw punches. When Lomachenko slipped and sallied past his invisible border, he adjusted his distance and sent the dogs out. He stopped his momentum. He never let him take control. He never cooperated.

By the 8th round, Lomachenko realized that he had no chance to win unless he let go of his preoccupation with defense. He had to “sell out,” as Andre Ward said, by getting closer and sallying in when it wasn’t safe. Lomachenko won the 8th round—the first of only three that two judges scored his way—but it didn’t matter. His mouth had dropped open as if he was getting ready to admit futurama’s failure. “I heard him huffing and puffing and I knew I had him,” said Lopez.

The 12th round reminds us that Old School remains the gold standard in the sport that’s barely a sport. When Papa Lopez had a nervous moment in the corner and urged caution, Lopez refused. “I’m a fighter, I can’t give him that,” he said, as if to remind us that Old School is more than dust, that it’s a disposition.

Teofimo Lopez now stands in a succession of lightweight kings whose dispositions were the impetus behind achievements that make this succession very possibly the most majestic of them all: Joe Gans. Benny Leonard. Tony Canzoneri. Barney Ross. Henry Armstrong. Ike Williams. Carlos Ortiz. Roberto Duran. Julio Cesar Chavez. Pernell Whitaker.

Floyd Mayweather is in that succession too, but the business model that guided his career was rebuked Saturday night. Lopez pointed to the past, polished it up, and declared its superiority. “We’re bringing back what the Old School was. You fight the best and push on it. I’m not here to pick and choose who I want to fight because I want to defend my title and keep that 0,” he said and shook his head. “No. Nah!”

The lightweight king now beckons chief rivals Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia, and Gervonta Davis to disavow the business model and take up the red flag. He looks north to Josh Taylor and Jose Carlos Ramirez’s battle for the jr. welterweight crown and beckons either of them—or both.

 “—C’mon!”

 

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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Kelsey McCarson’s HITS and MISSES: Takeover Edition

Kelsey McCarson

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Boxing is back!

Okay, boxing had technically been back for a few months now. But didn’t it seem to be more fully back to normal with the weekend’s lightweight unification battle between Teofimo Lopez and Vasiliy Lomachenko on ESPN?

Make that double the case now that another edition of HITS and MISSES follows the latest big weekend in boxing, the first installment since the global pandemic began. 

HIT: Teofimo Lopez’s Undisputed Takeover

It’s one thing to parade something like “Takeover” around as your nickname while promising to be the next great fighter in the sport. It’s quite another to actually pull that takeover off, and do it at the tender age of 23 against a three-division world champion that’s a massive betting favorite. 

But that’s what Lopez did on Saturday night in Las Vegas, and he accomplished it in a way that almost nobody expected. 

Lopez dominated Lomachenko from the start of the fight. He outboxed the clever southpaw savant in a way few people dreamed possible and took home the unanimous decision win. Even among the few who thought the young lion might somehow usurp the old guard, most of that crew thought it would probably be one big punch that sent Loma down for the count.

By the end of the night, Lopez had solidified his status as boxing’s newest superstar. He also became the first undisputed lightweight champion since Pernell Whitaker. 

But even if the whole WBC Franchise fiasco leaves you in a place that questions that specific designation, Lopez used his post-fight celebration time to call the other WBC belt holder Devin Haney about a possible future showdown. 

So, Lopez is the undisputed best thing to happen to boxing in a long time. 

MISS: Vasiliy Lomachenko’s Slow Start

I like to think Lomachenko is still somewhere out there right now feinting and shuffling his feet around like a dancer. Seriously, though, what was Lomachenko doing for most of Saturday night? He certainly wasn’t attempting to win the fight. 

Much was made by the ESPN announcers about how Lomachenko would start slow in fights because he liked to download his opponents’ movements before settling on his attacks. But Lomachenko didn’t seem all that interested in attacking Lopez until somewhere around the eighth-round. By that time, the 32-year-old was way too far down on the scorecards for anything to matter all that much.

Sure, the last third of the fight was fun to watch. Lomachenko did end up having his moments including a strong 11th round, but it would have been a better fight if Lomachenko had started sooner. 

Instead, the fighter ESPN has long argued deserved to be ranked above everyone else regardless of weight class dispassionately saw his titles ripped away from him with relative ease. 

HIT: Edgar Berlanga’s KO Streak

Last year, I noted that Berlanga’s incredible streak was probably a case of matchmaking gone awry and that Berlanga would likely suffer later in his career because he wasn’t getting any rounds under his belt that mattered. 

My reasoning? Even terrifying power punchers like Deontay Wilder and Gennadiy Golovkin didn’t dispatch their early opponents in such decisively one-sided ways. 

Maybe it was just the lack of boxing around due to the global pandemic, but now I’ve flipped on Berlanga’s knockout streak. The 23-year-old scored his 15th first-round stoppage in a row against Lanell Bellows on Saturday’s Top Rank on ESPN card. 

It’s become one of the most interesting and noteworthy streaks in the sport, and this time Berlanga stopped an opponent who had never suffered that fate before in any round, much less the first. 

Berlanga’s 15 KOs in 15 fights is good television. 

MISS: Boxing Judge’s Viral ‘Social Dilemma’

Lewis Ritson was awarded a split-decision victory over former lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez on Saturday in England in a junior welterweight bout dubbed by the Sporting News as the “worst decision of 2020.”

According to CompuBox, Ritson’s “constant forward movement and snappier punches” earned him the nod on two of the judges’ scorecards even though Vazquez had out-landed him in all the important punch stat categories (193-141 overall, 80-75 jabs, 113-66 power).

But the biggest controversy was the viral picture of judge Terry O’Connor apparently looking at his phone during the fight that he scored 117-111 for Ritson. 

That didn’t sit well with anyone who believes judges should be watching the fights they’re tasked with scoring.

But in the wake of Netflix’s documentary film “The Social Dilemma,” that shows just how ingenious today’s artificial intelligence is at boosting user engagement so companies can sell advertising time to the unwitting people on the other end who don’t know why they can’t put their phones down. Maybe O’Connor and others should be mandated to place their phones in a place they can’t be accessed during fights. 

That would keep the social media outrage that’s going on right now over the few seconds O’Connor spent looking away from the action and point it more toward what appears to be boxing’s bigger problem: phones or no phones, too many boxing judges don’t know how to score fights. 

HIT: The Wonder of Complementary Programming 

Boxing counterprograms itself so much these days through the different promotional companies and networks out there that it’s nice to enjoy at least one day in recent history where a big fight happened and there weren’t any other big fights attempting to grab our attention. 

Not only did that happen, but ESPN wisely chose not to split programming between it’s MMA and boxing audiences on Saturday. 

ESPN is the home to Top Rank on ESPN boxing as well as the world’s leading MMA promotional company, UFC.

Like Top Rank, the UFC had a massive fight card on its schedule on Saturday, and the boxing/UFC audiences are fractured enough that both cards could have somewhat reasonably ran against each other. 

Instead, the UFC’s Fight Night card in Abu Dhabi ran early in the evening, and it meant UFC fans who might be somewhat interested in the big fight in boxing could be funneled to the main card featuring Lopez vs. Lomachenko. 

That’s great for both sports, the promoters and ESPN, too. Top Rank’s Bob Arum and UFC’s Dana White might hate each other for personal and political reasons, but the rising tide of complementary programming on ESPN will ultimately have all ships rising. 

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

 

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