By Jake Donovan
If you are a fighter in or near the welterweight division, then every fight is basically an audition.
Fighters in that general weight range who are with Top Rank or a promoter with whom they regularly do business, then Manny Pacquiao is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Those at or near 147 lb. and aligned with Golden Boy Promotions and/or Al Haymon are standing in line in hopes of a multi-million dollar showdown with pound-for-pound and box office king Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Danny Garcia was in the perfect position to demand to move to the front of the line for that sweepstakes following his win over Lucas Matthysse last September. The win came in chief support to Mayweather’s victory over Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez atop the most lucrative boxing event in history. It also silenced a lot of critics who insisted that the unbeaten Garcia was a protected fighter who didn’t mean it when he said he wants the very best.
Following the career-best win, Garcia could have demanded any fight that he so desired. Chances are that Golden Boy and Haymon would have hustled to make that happen. Months went by without an opponent attached to Mayweather’s next fight, which was always scheduled for May 3 in Las Vegas.
Fans waited for Garcia to step up and stake his claim in the race. Instead, the unbeaten Phili-Rican stayed true to the token phrase of simply facing who his handlers put in front of him.
Rather than a career-changing payday against Mayweather and a move up in weight, Garcia agreed to defend his lineal 140 lb. championship and assortment of alphabet titles against Mauricio Herrera. That bout comes on Saturday in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, with Showtime to televise.
The sales pitch is that Garcia is embracing his Puerto Rican roots and returning home. If ticket sales are any indication, then the fans aren’t really buying it.
What they are buying –or at least asking about – are the chances of a win on Saturday leading to a move seven pounds north against the very best in the game.
“I think as it relates to Floyd, I'm getting more and more questions (if) Danny (is) going to fight Floyd,” insists Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer. “[A]nd so there's more and more excitement building up about that fight. So assuming Floyd handles the challenges ahead of him, do I believe that maybe sometime next year, maybe a year from now, Cinco de Mayo 2015 we might see, assuming Floyd keeps on winning, are going to see a Floyd, Danny Garcia fight? Absolutely.
“Danny's young and he's going to be ready, and if the opportunity would be today he'll fight him today, but, you know everything has its time.”
Cinco de Mayo 2015 is a long time away, and a lot can happen between now and then. Garcia is a considerable favorite to turn back the challenge of Herrera, while Mayweather is a massive favorite to come out aces in his May 3 challenge of Marcos Maidana, who landed the coveted assignment over Amir Khan.
Fans were forced to choose between the two, simply because they were the two choices floated by Mayweather and Golden Boy. When the choices expanded to other options (aside from Pacquiao and any other Top Rank fighter, given the ongoing Cold War with Golden Boy), Garcia’s name was often found high among the list.
Never the type to force the hands of those who guide his career, the multi-belted champ decided to sit back and wait until he was told who he’d next face.
“You know, I let Al Haymon do what he does and I'll let Richard do what they do. We weren't really pressing for the fight, we just let Golden Boy do their job and I let Al do his job,” Garcia (27-0, 16KO) admits. “I never question what Al does, I never question what my team does, so whoever they tell me to fight, I'll fight and I'll train and I'll get ready for it.”
When he was told that Herrera (20-3, 7KO) would be next in line, Garcia simply accepted, packed and went to training camp. The part that seemed to excite the fighter and his team the most was that he would get to fight in Puerto Rico for the first time in his career.
“The experience of fighting in Puerto Rico was actually something Danny had personally spoken to me for the past couple of years or so,” Schaefer said. “During fights he comes to me and he's telling me, 'I've got to fight in Puerto Rico. You've got to do a fight in Puerto Rico.'
“And so when you look at the guys he fought in the last couple of years, it wasn't just really natural to take a fight like that to Puerto Rico. But we felt this was the perfect opportunity to fulfill one of Danny’s dreams, which was to fight in Puerto Rico. And, I hope it's the first of many.”
Barely a week away from his 26th birthday, Garcia still has plenty of time after this weekend to return to Puerto Rico. Time is far more of the essence when it comes to a Mayweather showdown, however; with just three fights left on his contract following his May 3 date with Maidana, it’s possible that the sport’s biggest draw decides to call it a career the moment his nine-figure deal with Showtime expires.
Garcia has never been one to worry. He was patient when he was told that a title shot will come when the time is right. Eventually it did, in the form of a showdown with faded legend Erik Morales.
Three defenses followed, including a title-unifying knockout win over Amir Khan. The win over Matthysse – in which Garcia scored a surprise knockdown amidst a second half rout to claim a well-earned decision – cast his career in a new light, one where it was believed he would call the shots.
Perhaps he does. Garcia has insisted he can still make 140 lb, and that the timing isn’t yet there to make the move to welterweight, no matter how many zeroes and commas come with the paycheck for such a jump. Just because the public is clamoring for a showdown with Mayweather in a matchup of two of the best in the sport, it doesn’t necessarily mean that now is the time to make that happen.
“Destiny is destiny. I'm okay with whatever happens. Like I said before, I don't question my manager's job, I never did, and I think that's why we're in the position today where people think I should be fighting him and people think I deserve to fight because my manager and my promoter did a great job so far.
“I think they're doing a great job and I'm doing my job. Hopefully the fight might happen one day.”
Until that day comes, every performance will be placed under a microscope and properly evaluated.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox