Danny Garcia is only 34 years old. 

It’s hard to believe, that even after a nearly two-year layoff, the former two-division world champion could be in his physical prime as he approaches his return to the ring against Jose Benavidez Jr. in a Showtime televised main event on July 30.

Of course, boxing years and “real” years are two different things, but the Philadelphian said during a Tuesday teleconference that the break did him good.

“I’ve been fighting at the highest level for the last 10 years,” said Garcia. “It’s only right as a human that you would get a little mentally tired. I needed a break so that I could miss boxing. I knew that once I came back in the gym motivated and missing the sport, that nobody could beat Danny Garcia.”

For a while, nobody could beat Danny Garcia, motivated or not. He made it to 33-0, won titles at 140 and 147 pounds, and defeated the likes of Nate Campbell, Kendall Holt, Erik Morales, Amir Khan, Zab Judah, Lucas Matthysse, Lamont Peterson, Paul Malignaggi and Robert Guerrero before losing for the first time to Keith Thurman in 2017. Even then, many felt that the split decision verdict should have gone in his direction, but the point is, it took a long time for the welterweight division to get to “Swift.” 

That’s not to say he was perfect. He won some of his own questionable decisions, caught some high-profile opponents at the right time, and was flawed enough to be exciting, but he stepped up, dared to fight the big fights, and looked to be the only one who could derail his progress up the pound-for-pound list.

Then came the loss to Thurman, a loss to Shawn Porter two fights later, and a pair of wins over Adrian Granados and Ivan Redkach before losing a clear-cut decision to Errol Spence in December 2020.

“Every fight you learn from,” said Garcia. “Even when you win. You just have to take what you can, learn from it and use it in the next fight. The fight with Errol Spence Jr. was a competitive and fun fight and we’re ready to move on to the next step.”

Garcia needed to walk away before he took that next step, though. And while there was no talk of retirement, for a young man who had been embedded in the sport for most of his life, it was the perfect time to take the foot off the gas.

“I took a lot of Danny’s childhood away,” father and trainer Angel Garcia told me after the Matthysse fight in 2013. “He went from school to the gym to the inside of that house. There was none of that, ‘Go outside and play with your friends.’ I took all that away, but that was the only way I could do it, by being strict. I didn’t beat him or nothing like that, but I took a lot of stuff away, and when he did good, I rewarded him with good things.”

He earned plenty of those good things himself, too, but at a certain point, the rewards of a life in the ring aren’t worth the cost to your life outside the ropes. And in addition to pulling back, Garcia also had to realize that at 147 pounds, the big names are Spence and Terence Crawford, Porter retired, Manny Pacquiao retired, Thurman is being Thurman, and the young guns – Jaron Ennis, Vergil Ortiz and Conor Benn - are waiting in the wings for their chance to shine. In other words, it was time for Danny Garcia to start getting his cheesesteak with wiz and not plain.

“I’ve been fighting at 140 and 147 since the amateurs, for 13 years,” said Garcia of his move to the junior middleweight division. “I always felt my natural weight was bigger and I was squeezing down. I feel like this weight fits me good. I feel young and fresh. I’m strong and with a lot more stamina.”

And with a lot more options. 

Before even stepping through the ropes to face the 27-1-1 (18 KOs) Benavidez in a Showtime-televised main event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Garcia is ranked fifth in the world at 154 pounds by the WBC. And while the ultimate target is obviously the man with all the belts, Jermell Charlo, there are plenty of intriguing matchups for Garcia, including Sebastian Fundora, Tim Tszyu, Brian Castano, Erickson Lubin, Charles Conwell and Israil Madrimov. It’s a fresh start for a fighter who looked to be getting stale in the welterweight division.

But oh, what a difference a year, or two, or maybe just 19 months, makes. Welcome home, Danny Garcia.

“I have a lot of young guys in this camp here with me and they keep me on my toes,” he said. “The hunger that they have, gives me that motivation. Boxing is a grueling sport, so you have to find time to have fun. I’m doing that again and I know that once I’m happy, no one can touch me.”