By Jake Donovan
Danny Garcia continues to learn that life is rough at the top. The unbeaten 25-year old is widely regarded as the top-rated 140 lb. fighter on the planet, though the jury remains out on whether or not he’s actually the division’s best.
Proof was to have been offered in last summer’s fourth round knockout of Amir Khan. Garcia was trailing nearly every second of the fight before rallying to drop the Brit late in the third round and then flooring him twice more in the fourth to seal the biggest victory of his still rising career.
Yet there are still many who give former two-division champ Zab Judah a tremendous shot at pulling off the upset when the two collide at Barclays Center in Brooklyn this weekend.
The bout airs live on Showtime as part of a split site tripleheader which also features a middleweight grudge match between Peter Quillin and Fernando Guerrero as well as Khan in a homecoming in his native United Kingdom. For good reason, all eyes are on the main event.
Both camps did their part to draw attention to the show, particularly the Judah camp following their role. A brawl nearly erupted at Modell’s Sporting Goods in downtown Flatbush during a Tuesday media session in honor of Garcia, as the former champ did his best to remind the new kid in town whose house it was and of his plans to reclaim his spot near the top of the division.
While members of Garcia’s camp – including his father and trainer Angel Garcia – struggle to bit their tongue or curb their emotions, good luck trying to rattle the guy who will actually get in the ring to fight.
“I feel like I have nothin' to prove, I have to just go in the ring,” Garcia (25-0, 16KO) insists, always focused on the task at hand. “I don't worry about what nobody say about me; how I fight, the way I fight, fighting older guys and none of that. That's not my job. My job is not to match make. My job is not to worry about what people think.
“My job is to train and get ready for a fight and give the fans of boxing a great performance no matter who is it against. That's my job. And that's what I'm going to bring into the ring April 27th, a great conditioned Garcia and he's gonna go in there and do what he does best.”
The fight was originally supposed to take place on February 9, but was postponed by nearly three months. The lengthy delay was in part due to a reported rib injury suffered by Garcia earlier in the year, though the other part of the lengthy delay was due to a lack of available televised dates between then and now.
With any injury naturally come claims of deliberate stalling. Garcia heard such cries, in part due to the conflicting information coming out of his own camp. His own reports of a rib injury were preceded by claims from sparring partner DeMarcus ‘Chop Chop’ Corley of an injured thumb, causing immediate confusion and doubt.
“Any time something happens, there's always going to be a controversy, but I can't do nothing else to prove it but get ready for April 27th and fight. That's behind me,” Garcia says. “I'm looking at the future and now that's the past and the future is April 27th. I know ... everything is going great, no injuries, no nothing and it's going to be a great night.”
Garcia already enjoyed a great night at this very venue, serving in the lead role of the building’s first ever boxing event last October. The Philly native scored a repeat win over former four-division titlist Erik Morales, knocking out the faded star in four rounds just seven months after settling for a unanimous decision to win the first of two major titles on the year.
The pair of wins over Morales sandwiched a career-defining knockout win over Khan to make for a Fighter of the Year-level 2012 campaign. The rematch win against Morales delivered a message in that Garcia was ready to carry the boxing scene on the East Coast, which for far too long has played second fiddle in regards to stateside boxing. Las Vegas remains the premier fight town, leaving most of the sport’s biggest moments residing on the West Coast.
Making his second straight appearance at Barclays, Garcia is ready to become the face of East Coast boxing.
“Yes, definitely. It's an east coast fight in the east,” Garcia says of the matchup of Philadelphia versus Judah’s Brooklyn roots. “Philadelphia is right next to New York. There's a great atmosphere. I think when I fought at the Barclays Center that was one of the best atmospheres I ever fought in. It's a brand new arena. The atmosphere was nice. The people are nice out there. I got a lot of love out there and they made me feel like I was at home and I'm looking forward to doing the same thing April 27th.”
The same might not hold true this weekend. Garcia was closer than Morales in regards to bringing the hometown. Philly is a much shorter drive (or flight) than Morales’ Mexico home land, but the same certainly cannot be said of his fight with Brownsville’s own Judah. The former champ has done his best to drive that point home at every turn, particularly during fight week.
Garcia is well aware that the entire crowd won’t be on his side leading to the opening bell, but is confident that he will still be well-represented on fight night.
“There's already a whole bunch of people I know that's going out. I bump into people in traffic when I'm going to the store, anywhere I go, people tell me, hey, I'm going to the fight,” Garcia insists. “I'm going to the fight; I already got my ticket, so already I know I got a lot of support coming from Philadelphia. I'm pretty sure I got fans in New York, the Spanish fans, the hip hop fans, whatever. I know they're going to come out and they just want to win. It's a great night and I know I'm going to have the support. I know I'm going to be ready and I know it's going to be a good night.”
The fight marks just his seventh overall appearance on the East Coast, a startling statistic considering that one of the bouts includes his pro debut. Garcia kicked off his career an hour from his hometown, having played Atlantic City in his first fight back in November 2009.
Sadly, the occurrence served as what would become an annual event, fighting at or near his Philly home just once per year for the first three years of his career before enjoying a pair of hometown showcases in 2010.
Last year’s trek to Brooklyn marked his first East Coast appearance in two years, though the four rounds of action were indicative of his quick exits when close to home. Garcia’s seven fights on the East Coast have all ended in knockout, lasting a combined total of less than 21 rounds – an average of three rounds per fight.
But as most boxers will tell you, none of its participants get paid for overtime. Fans love a good knockout, and Garcia plans to keep bringing them as often as his handlers plan to keep bringing him back home or thereabout.
“I'm happy. I'm very excited because I'm happy that I'm bringing a big fight back to the East Coast and a lot of people on the East Coast they're missing out on boxing, because there hasn't been a lot of big championship fights,” Garcia says. “So just bringing a big fight back to the East Coast for the Puerto Rican fans, the Philadelphia fans, the Brooklyn fans, all the fans in the East Coast - that means the world to me, because we're bringing boxing back in the East today.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: Zab Judah , Danny Garcia , Garcia-Judah , Garcia vs Judah