By Thomas Gerbasi
Danny Garcia was saying all the right things, but when the WBA / WBC junior welterweight champion was asked if there was a part of him, deep in his Philadelphia soul, that wouldn’t mind getting into a bit of a firefight with Argentinean knockout artist Lucas Matthysse this Saturday in Las Vegas, he couldn’t help but laugh.
It was as if he got caught, that we could see right through him, and that when it comes down to it, he’s just a fighter at heart, even if that may hurt him against an opponent with legitimate fight-ending power.
“I’m preparing in the gym for whatever,” he said after the laughs died down. “Everybody’s always got a game plan, and me, I’m gonna feel him out, see what it feels like, and whatever happens happens.”
That’s not bravado, not recklessness; it’s who the 25-year-old is, and it has everything to do with his zip code.
“It’s just the Philly toughness,” he said. “It’s how they breed the people. It’s a tough town, we’ve got tough fans, so if you’re a Philly fan they expect you to be tough and be gritty, and that’s what I bring to the table.”
He’s proved it thus far, even if it took him a while to get here, just a day away from the biggest fight of his career on the biggest card of 2013. Seemingly for years, Garcia was seen as a top east coast prospect, but despite doing everything required of such a prospect, it appeared that he was taking longer than most to get his big shot. After a close split decision win over Kendall Holt in October of 2011 though, he got the fight he wanted, a March 2012 WBC title fight against Erik Morales. He won that one, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.
“I always knew I was built for this level,” said Garcia, who has since defeated Morales in a rematch, surrounded by wins over Amir Khan and Zab Judah. “I was just waiting for my opportunity, and when I got it, I took advantage of it. And I’ve just been doing the same thing I’ve always been doing, training hard and getting ready for the fight. Nothing changed, it’s just the same thing. Work hard.”
It doesn’t have the flair of Floyd Mayweather’s “Hard work / dedication” mantra, but Garcia isn’t about the flash. He doesn’t do one thing particularly well, but he is a true ring general, able to box when he has to, brawl when necessary, and get someone out of there if he has them hurt. The way he sees it, that’s the key not just to him winning, but to becoming and remaining champion.
“I think the most important part is being in condition to go 12 rounds and to be hit, and then just suck it up and come back stronger,” he said. “On a high level, you’ve got to have more than just one thing to be a champion. You can’t just be fast or hit hard, you’ve got to bring a lot of different things to the table because what happens when that one thing you do doesn’t work? You’ve got to be able to adapt. I think that’s something I bring to the table that a lot of fighters don’t. I can adapt and find a way to win.”
Those who are picking Garcia to beat Matthysse cite the Philadelphian’s versatility as his key to such a victory, but that comes with a qualifier: Garcia must stay disciplined and not let his fighting instincts get the better of him. In other words, if he loses focus and gets cracked by one of Matthysse’s hammers, it’s game over. It’s this possibility that had some fans thinking that Garcia would do anything in his power to avoid fighting “The Machine.” Not so, says the champion. He isn’t even insulted by those who insinuated that he was ducking Matthysse.
“I wasn’t insulted because I don’t feed into that,” he said. “People really don’t know what goes on behind the doors, and they just want what they want. So I can’t feed into that because that was just how it was with Mayweather and (Manny) Pacquiao. They wanted it so bad and they didn’t know what was going on. But I always accepted the fight and I don’t duck anybody. I’m the champion; I don’t have a reason to duck anyone. So I go into every fight with the same mindset: it’s just another fight for me to defend my title.”
As for the increasing sentiment that Matthysse isn’t just a fighter, but an unbeatable Superman, Garcia says “I don’t even pay attention to none of that. To me, he’s just another fighter in my way, and I’ve got to knock him off.”
So what does he see in the Argentinean?
“He (Matthysse) is a good, strong fighter,” said Garcia. “I know he’s hungry, and I know he’s gonna bring everything he’s got, but I’m prepared to defend my title. I feel great, everything’s going good in the gym, and September 14th it’s gonna be another great performance by me.”
That’s not just the talk of a champion, but of a Philadelphia champion, and when you’ve got that tag, no mountain is too high, and no man in front of you is anything more than a man in front of you. When the bell rings, you fight, and may the best man win.
“It’s the same thing to me,” said Garcia. “Nothing more, nothing less. It’s just another championship fight. I’m smart, I’m gonna get the job done and I’m gonna get it done in impressive fashion.”