LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 14: (R-L) Danny Garcia throws a right to the head of Lucas Matthysse during their WBC/WBA super lightweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 14, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)2013 Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 15: Boxer Danny Garcia poses during a photo call in front of the Brooklyn Bridge on October 15, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)2012 Getty Images
On a cold, overcast afternoon in early March, Danny “Swift” García made his way through the streets of his native north Philadelphia.
He drove past blocks of decaying row homes, graffiti-covered storefronts and used car lots. But as he pulled down Jasper Street and into a complex he owns that houses his own gym, a recording studio and a personal barbershop, García’s mind was far from the wet streets of Philadelphia.
For all intents and purposes, he was already in a ring in Puerto Rico.
Less than a week and a half before García, the WBA and WBC light welterweight champion, was scheduled to square off against Mauricio Herrera, he had blocked out all the talk, the inevitable hype and the puffed-up controversy surrounding what many have labelled his “homecoming fight” at the Coliseo Rubén Rodríguez in Bayamón, Puerto Rico.
“My training and my camp right now are all focused on March 15,” García told Fox News Latino of Saturday’s upcoming bout. “I’m just looking to get the job done, and I’ll figure everything else from there.”
But for all that García, a 25-year old with a 68.5 inch reach and an undefeated professional record featuring 14 knockouts, appears solely focused on Herrera, he still finds it hard to keep back how much fighting in Puerto Rico means to him.
“It’s going to be a real special place for me and my family,” he said.
While García was born and raised in the working-class Latino Philly neighborhood of Juniata Park, Angel García, Danny's father and trainer, grew up running barefoot through the streets of Naguabo, a small, Puerto Rican sugarcane town just 45 minutes from where Saturday’s fight will take place.
Angel, a former boxer himself, introduced his son to the sport at the Harrowgate Boxing Club, a storied boxing facility that has gone to seed. But García seems to like keeping the different parts of his heritage close at hand: Harrowgate is less than a half mile from where his own, less ramshackle DSG (which stands for "Danny 'Swift' García") sits.
And he knows that fans in both Puerto Rico and Philadelphia will be watching every jab and hook on Saturday night.
“I’ve got the best of both worlds,” García said. “I’m Puerto Rican and from Philadelphia, it’s a perfect combination.”
The Favorite Underdog
Sporting a close-cropped goatee and a bent boxer’s nose, García avoids the grandiose statements that have made fighters like Floyd “Money” Mayweather lightning rods for criticism – but also household names. Instead, he likes to keep things simple and instead let his fighting do the talking.
Something about his quiet repose before fights and his unwillingness to make outlandish statements has led García to be called the perennial underdog.
Which no undefeated fighter with García's ring record should be considered.
García beat Erík Morales twice – once for the WBC light welterweight title and once defending it – took Amir Khan's WBA belt in between, and won a 12-round unanimous decision against Lucas Matthysse last September, all of which attest to his pugilistic prowess.
García acknowledged his reputation as an underdog, but pointed out that on Saturday he most certainly will not be the underdog in the minds of the fans at Coliseo Rubén Rodríguez.
“I was never the underdog as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
And when cameras caught him walking out of the airport in San Juan on Tuesday, a few days after that rainy afternoon in north Philly, García looked to be all swagger as he arrived to prepare for the fight.
Flanked by an entourage, García looked every inch a champion: gold headphones resting on his shoulders, a diamond necklace hanging from his neck, silver-colored basketball sneakers and a T-shirt that read, “Flyer Than Most.”
Despite the Vegas odds that made him the clear favorite to retain his title, when we spoke García was playing nice before the fight. Mostly.
“He’s a tough fighter,” he said of Herrera. “I just want him to be ready to for the fight.”
García said he is excited to fight in front of the Puerto Rican crowd, but he’s trying to not get too distracted. “I want to give the people a good fight and something to cheer about,” he said.
As for what his opponent should expect, García had only one thing to say. “I just want give him 12 good rounds.”
Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.