By Lyle Fitzsimmons
First, let’s dispense with a few formalities.
No, I’m neither on the payrolls of Golden Boy Promotions nor Showtime. No, I have zero bloodlines that connect me to Puerto Rico. And no, though I lived on the outskirts of Philadelphia for 10 (mostly) wonderful years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I don’t have blind loyalty to its cadre of pro boxers.
(NOTE: For some context on that last one, just Google my name alongside Joe Frazier’s.)
So with all that said, here are a few items that can be stated with some certainty.
Yes, I think that Danny Garcia won Saturday night’s fight with Mauricio Herrera. Yes, my 116=112 scorecard matched the judges who put the “majority” in majority decision. And yes, I think his prospects for a move to welterweight are the same today as they were at any point in the pre-fight run-up, even though what he delivered was not what the folks in Bayamon were expecting.
Consider all that a “don’t bother” to anyone who’d been tempted to tell me I’m corrupt or complicit.
As for the “you don’t know sh*t about boxing” crowd… you’re already beyond reason.
At any rate, whether you viewed the fight’s end result as clear-cut, close or criminal, the effect that it’s likely to have on the grand Garcia game plan going forward pales in comparison to the sky-is-falling cries of “robbery” and “fix” that littered social media in its Saturday night wake.
Though estranged bedfellows at Golden Boy Promotions would certainly have preferred a result that the incumbent’s dual-belt status seemed to forecast going in, the predictable contrarian post-spew does little to change the legitimate momentum “Swift” will carry with him to 147 pounds.
Like it or not, all the plusses he had going for him as the weekend began, he still had when it ended; regardless of how good or bad he might have looked in the return to the old man’s stomping grounds.
He’s still unbeaten as a pro. He’s convincingly cleaned out a deep division’s top shelf. And he’s got both the backstory and back-room connections that add up to attractive cred-boosting opportunities in his new weight surroundings. And when those fights arrive, bad scorecard tastes will quickly fade.
Need evidence? Simply think back to some so-called high-profile robberies of recent vintage.
One fight removed from a light-fingered lift of Manny Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title in 2012, few seemed aghast that new champ Timothy Bradley was already sharing another pay-per-view stage with Juan Manuel Marquez. Also from 2012, lightweight Brandon Rios went straight from grand theft scorecard against Richar Abril to a lucrative HBO twinbill with Mike Alvarado and a share of new weight class supremacy. And based on the afterglow from those concuss-fests, no one seemed to mind.
So when Garcia signs up for a new-division debut in three or four months, all will be forgiven as the emphasis shifts from crimes of the past to possibilities of the future. In fact, if anything did change around the unpopular winner thanks to Saturday, it’s perhaps the level of confidence that his potential adversaries down the road will carry into the ring against he and his big-talking paternal sidepiece.
Because Herrera’s clever mix of aggression, retreat and self-assurance was so befuddling, the fight recording ought to be required viewing for any number of GBP clients at 147—a cast that includes names like Jesus Soto Karass, Adrien Broner, Marcos Maidana, Malignaggi and fellow Puerto Rican roots claimant Luis Collazo, who was scheduled to attend the fight and would make a suitable adversary for the return to the homeland redux that the promotional brass alluded to amid post-fight spin doctoring.
If they weren’t confident before, they should be now. And if they were thinking he was an opponent to avoid prior to Saturday, the next few days should resemble a race to fill Richard Schaefer’s voicemail.
“The way Puerto Rico has embraced him, my plan is to have Danny Garcia back in Puerto Rico,” said Schaefer, who conceded that while he thought Garcia won, he also thought his man probably took the fight lightly after conquests of Matthysse, Khan and Morales, and might have felt some performance anxiety to boot. "The Puerto Rican fans deserve it and I know Danny wants to go back."
Unless I’ve missed my guess, Sunday’s cynics will be right there with him when he does.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant IBO super featherweight title – Ponce, Puerto Rico
Jose Pedraza (No. 34 contender) vs. Alberto Garza (No. 54 contender)
Pedraza (15-0, 10 KO): First title fight; Four KOs in seven fights in Puerto Rico
Garza (26-6-1, 21 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Fourth fight outside Mexico (1-2)
Fitzbitz says: “Puerto Rican youngster isn’t exactly the most accomplished wannabe champion on the block, but should suffice against foe who’s been stopped four times in six losses.” Pedraza by decision
WBA bantamweight title – Panama City, Panama
Anselmo Moreno (champion) vs. Javier Chacon (No. 11 contender)
Moreno (34-2-1, 12 KO): Twelfth title defense; Twenty straight wins in Panama
Chacon (19-1, 4 KO): First title fight; First fight outside of Argentina
Fitzbitz says: “Moreno has proven superior to every challenger on his not-quite-the-best-in-the-business tier, which doesn’t spell good things for Argentine vet with dissimilar pedigree.” Moreno by decision
WBO mini-flyweight title – Monterrey, Mexico
Merlito Sabillo (champion) vs. Francisco Rodriguez Jr. (No. 9 contender)
Sabillo (23-0-1, 12 KO): Third title defense; Second fight outside the Philippines (1-0)
Rodriguez (13-2, 9 KO): First title fight; Second career fight scheduled for 12 rounds (1-0)
Fitzbitz says: “Twenty-year-old Mexican is an intriguing possibility on his home turf, and packs enough pop to make things difficult for a good, but not transcendent champion. Call it a hunch.” Rodriguez in 8
Last week's picks: 2-0
2014 picks record: 13-4 (76.5 percent)
Overall picks record: 560-198 (73.9 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder - no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.