By Cliff Rold
It must be fun to prove people wrong.
Danny Garcia is getting good at it.
Mr. Underrated laid aside mountains of skepticism last year when he soundly beat, and even dropped, red-hot offensive machine Lucas Matthysse. Whatever he didn’t prove when he blasted out Amir Khan, whatever doubt remained when Zab Judah mounted a late rally, was set aside.
Garcia is the best Jr. Welterweight in the World until proven otherwise. The man who might be the most fun in trying to knock him off, WBO 140 lb. titlist Ruslan Provodnikov, is likely unavailable for the time being due to promotional and network issues.
It would be better if that wasn’t true.
For now, Garcia makes his first defense of the lineal crown he laid claim to last September on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez with an eye towards perhaps one day sharing the bill with Mayweather himself.
Let’s go the report cards.
Title: WBC Super Lightweight (2012-Present, 4 Defenses); WBA “Super” Super Lightweight (2012-Present, 3 Defenses); Lineal/TBRB/Ring Jr. Welterweight (2013-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’8 ½
Weight : 139.75 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 139.6 lbs.
Hails from: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Record: 27-0, 16 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-0, 2 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 5 (Nate Campbell UD10; Kendall Holt SD12; Erik Morales UD12, KO4; Amir Khan TKO4; Zab Judah UD12)
Title/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 139.25 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 140.1 lbs.
Hails from: Riverside, California
Record: 20-3, 7 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 1st Title Fight
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 3 (Mike Anchondo L8; Ruslan Provodnikov UD12; Mike Alvarado L10)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Garcia B+; Herrera B
Pre-Fight: Power – Garcia B+; Herrera C-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Garcia B+; Herrera B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Garcia A; Herrera B+
Win or lose this weekend, it’s hard not to be happy for someone like Herrera. Like Ruslan Provodnikov a year ago when he got a crack at Tim Bradley, Herrera is a guy who has toiled through the ranks waiting for a chance to show he belongs. That chance is here. Sure, he’s lost along the way but he never looked bad doing it and we can hope he brings his best fight, the culmination of his experience, into the ring on Saturday.
He’ll need to if he’s to have a shot.
Garcia’s evolution since the Campbell and Holt fights is one of the best examples in recent history of grooming a fighter for his time. When Garcia was having rough moments with an old Erik Morales in his first title shot, it was easy to wonder if he was the real deal. All he’s done is continue to prove it.
He does it with an understanding of who he is as a fighter, excellent fundamentals, and enough power to make anyone wary. Garcia’s jab and left hook are real weapons and he’s much harder to catch clean than he looks. He’s able to handle faster fighters with timing and stronger fighters with physicality of his own. Combine that with proven mental toughness, a solid chin, and a chip on the shoulder, and Garcia has become a complete fighter.
Herrera has not been to date and his lack of power will always be an issue. He made a good show with Alvarado but couldn’t match him for impact. The Provodnikov fight was a grueling affair that could have gone either way, Herrera proving his chin and outworking the workhorse with a jab, activity, clever counters and shots to the body when he needed them. Like Garcia, Herrera is the sort of fighter who is always professional. He throws where they should be and doesn’t get flustered when he misses.
He’s likely going to be there all night.
Can he get off enough to make a run at the crown? If this turns into a fight with lots of leather flying, the faster man has the advantage. That’s Garcia. Herrera will have to play off Garcia’s lead and hope he can frustrate him, steadily finding ways to make his offense stand out. Herrera has proven toughness. Does he have the sort of once in a career performance in him that he’ll need to win? The heart may be more willing than the flesh.
Garcia earned his way to the place as lineal king at 140 last year with the win over Matthysse. A winnable but still reasonably competitive victory lap defense is nothing new historically. Herrera is the sort of fighter who can upset anyone on the right night but with no eraser to speak of, he’s got a tough road to hoe. Garcia doesn’t seem to have nights where he doesn’t show up and he’ll want to make a great impression in Puerto Rico. He won’t stop Herrera but he’ll win a commanding decision and build buzz for what should be an eventual, if not quite inevitable, clash with Floyd Mayweather no later than 2015.
Report Card Picks 2014: 8-5
No one is sold on his chin yet and won’t be until it gets proven, but 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist Deontay Wilder (30-0, 20 KO) appears to have everything else a Heavyweight needs: size, speed, power, and a killer instinct. Malik Scott (36-1-1, 13 KO) is the first true test of his career and a place to see where Wilder’s technical deficiencies need work before moving towards the only fight at Heavyweight that really matters for anyone who wants to be the king: a challenge of Wladimir Klitschko. The pick is Wilder by stoppage after struggling early to figure Scott out…The rematch between Juan Manuel Lopez (33-3, 30 KO) and Daniel Ponce De Leon (45-5, 35 KO) seems to boil down simply. Since stopping De Leon in one in 2008, De Leon has gotten better and Lopez has not. Lopez looked shot last time out. De Leon should pick the bones after a cautious start.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org