By Jake Donovan
Danny Garcia was nine years old when Erik Morales won his first world title.
The achievement came by Morales being forced to bump off a faded Mexican star in Daniel Zaragoza, who would retire that night and eventually gain acceptance into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
It’s hardly the lone example in boxing history of a young fighter being forced to go through a star they’ve idolized in order to realize their own dreams. The man whom currently promotes both fighters – Oscar de la Hoya- had to cross that bridge in 1996, taking on perhaps the most popular Mexican star of all time in Julio Cesar Chavez. De la Hoya did his job without a shred of remorse.
Garcia (22-0, 14KO) has arrived at that intersection as he takes on Morales in his first title bid this weekend at the Reliant Arena in Houston, Texas. The bout marks the HBO-televised debut for the unbeaten contender, who turned 24 on Tuesday and plans to treat the fight as a delayed birthday celebration, regardless of who’s standing in the other corner.
“I watched him growing up as a young kid. Now, the time is here. No matter who it was against, I’m ready for the opportunity,” Garcia insists as he prepares for the biggest fight of a career now entering its fifth year.
Morales (52-7, 36KO) has won four out of five since returning to the ring in 2010 following a break of more than two years. The lone loss came against Marcos Maidana less than a year ago, a fight in which Morales’ stock managed to soar even in defeat.
The legend of Morales reached new heights in rallying back to stop then-unbeaten Pablo Cesar Cano last September, becoming the first Mexican fighter in boxing history to capture major titles in four weight classes.
The win came about a month before Garcia soundly outpointed Kendall Holt to enter the title picture himself. The fight itself was an eliminator to challenge the winner of the then-pending title bout between Lamont Peterson and Amir Khan, in which Peterson won but with enough lingering controversy to have the two once again square off this May.
Rather than wait until later in the year for their rivalry to gain closure, Garcia simply sought out another worthwhile opportunity. That it happens to come against Morales is less significant to the Philly-bred fighter as is the chance to be called world champion.
“I knew I would be #2 in the WBC, so I know there was a chance that I would be facing him. When the opportunity came, I just took it.”
Come Saturday night, he plans to take more than that. When all is said and done, Garcia will be more than happy to reflect back on the career of a fighter he once idolized – and still does, to a degree. However, it’s all business every second until then, especially once the opening bell sounds.
“Erik Morales is a great fighter,” Garcia acknowledges. “He did a lot for the sport. He had the great fights with Barrera and Pacquiao. He made his mark in the sport. He had his time to shine; now it’s my time. Everyone gets their time to shine. Come Saturday night, there will be a new champion.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]