Is Danny Garcia a Hall-of-Famer, probably, but it is still a bit underwhelming?
Garcia, who fights this Saturday, July 30th, against Jose Benavidez Jr., will be fighting in the third weight class of his career, 154 lbs., and hasn't fought for nearly two years, an alarming trend amongst many of his peers. The bout will see two formidable 140 lbers at their prime facing each later in their career at a new weight class.
The direction of the bout always Garcia to secure a bit more of his legacy, with fighters like Erickson Lubin lurking in the shadows, or Benavidez Jr., to get the chance to live up to his full potential. That being said, let's talk about Garcia's career.
Garcia, a fighter blessed with a lot of power, especially in his right hand and left hook, was an early fan favorite, fighting his way on major cards to be a massive draw. He was armed with a vocal father, Angel Garcia, who resembled MMA fighter Nick Diaz and had anecdotes that the world wanted to recite. Angel Garcia would say funny things at press conferences, and Danny served as a quiet assassin in the ring.
A brief scare against Ashley Theophane on a Friday Night Fights card foreshadowed doom and gloom. It honestly quite possibly could have, as Garcia never loved to face a fighter that moved a lot but also didn't foresee his future greatness. If you saw this bout, Garcia looked vulnerable, but his career was actually that of a star, not a vulnerable fighter.
Garcia's career is confusing as he was one of the three best 140 lbs of the past decade, up there with Terence Crawford and Josh Taylor. Yet, his bad performances and lackluster, at times, opponents seemingly outweighed his greatness as he got into the prime of his career. This was best summed up at a media scrum during the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Andre Berto fight week in which Garcia explained his political vote for the President of the United States simply came down to whoever would require the lowest tax plan.
Not unlike famed golfer Phil Mickelson, who said taxes were essentially all he cared about when it came to politics. Boxing was a job for Garcia at first, and I am not sure how much the accolades of the hall-of-fame meant to him as opposed to generational wealth, and honestly, who could blame him. It is tough to become a world champion.
There is nothing wrong with that view shoot; I can relate, but the issue I have is as pro athletes, we expect a level of greatness, and at a certain point in Garcia's career, we saw a tad bit too much comfort, as Garcia became one of the richest boxers of the past decade and a true star in the sport. At times it felt like Garcia was taking bouts with vulnerable opponents, as opposed to fighting the generational opponent, until he had to fight that opponent. Not saying that was true, but it felt that way as it took one-to-two years to get him into exciting fighting after he had a memorable one.
Why is Danny Garcia a legend?
His ascension to the top of the sport saw him defeat former world champion Kendall Holt, followed by winning the world title over Erik Morales in a fight that at the time was viewed as Garcia serving as a transitionary champion for HBO's “next star” Amir Khan to win the belt from him that summer. Garcia's first of many legendary moments came when he brutally knocked out Amir Khan. It is an understatement to call Garcia an underdog in this fight. At the advent of Twitter, sportswriters asked if any fans would pick Garcia to win, and it was crickets. Garcia was a world champion on a heck of a run, but Khan's blinding hand speed and training with uber-famous coach Freddie Roach had him looking to be the guy who carried the sport at the lower weights.
Despite Khan losing to Lamont Peterson prior, it was Danny Garcia's left hook that KO'ed not just Khan but Khan's career. It essentially saw Danny Garcia replace Amir Khan's seemingly path for glory in the sport as he took his position; Garcia would KO Erik Morales later that year in the first fight the Barclays Center housed and ended up being the runner-up for fighter of the year to Nonito Donaire, that year. In hindsight, Danny Garcia should've won fighter of the year that year.
Not unlike the Bradley Cooper movie, a star was born, and it was the unlikely Danny Garcia. A guy who wasn't fully separating against elite competition, who put a halt to the Amir Khan hype train.
Garcia's notoriety grew as he defeated Zab Judah at the Barclays Center and looked to be the man carrying the east coast market. Yet, the boogeyman existed – Lucas Matthysse. Richard Schaffer proclaimed Matthysse “the new Manny Pacquiao,” and the fans saw Danny Garcia's reaction to Matthysse's KO of Lamont Peterson as a weakness. An awkward TV moment in which the camera cuts to Danny Garcia after the KO.
The fans wanted to see the two fight, and the defeatist nature of boxing fans believed it never would happen. Yet, it did on one of the best boxing PPV cards ever, Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez, Danny Garcia vs. Lucas Matthysse served as the co-feature in a great night of boxing.
The result saw Garcia conduct a masterpiece as a 3-1 underdog; Garcia once again defied the odds and became a legend. He was clearly cementing himself as the best 140 lbs in his era. Garcia was the modern greatest of all time for the gauntlet of odds he defied, but then the boxing gods spoke. Garcia also proved to have one of the best chins in the sport in this bout, as well as he held up to a generational puncher in Matthysse, even putting him down in the fight.
Garcia would fight for the first time in Puerto Rico against Mauricio Herrera that saw the ad having Garcia say “Puerto Rico” loudly at an airport to the best of my memory, as this was supposed to be Garcia's Kendrick Lamar victory lap – a moment in which Garcia was celebrated. Instead, it was a jarring depiction of harsh truth. Garcia was supposed to be anointed that night but instead got a close decision that most fans were not happy with.
Mauricio Herrera had far too much success, and despite Garcia getting the decision, the view from the fans was that Garcia had lost the bout. All the goodwill earned from the Matthysse fight was gone, as Garcia looked confused and perplexed. Herrera spoiled Garcia's introduction to the Puerto Rican market, which Garcia never attempted again.
The optics after this fight were awful, as Garcia returned against a 135 lbs fighter, Rod Salka, moving up in weight to fight Garcia. This was when you began to see the cherry emoji live underneath Garcia's photos. The perception was simple, despite some massive wins after a tough fight against Herrera, an unexpectedly hard fight – Garcia wanted a much easier soft touch, but being the man at the division meant every time he didn't fight one of the top-rated fighters, the division was on hold. Garcia would stop Salka, which was a shock to no one, and then have a very close fight against Lamont Peterson, which yet again, many thought he had lost.
Garcia was becoming the poster child for getting the benefit of the doubt against Ashley Theophane, Mauricio Herrera, and now Lamont Peterson. Garcia did very little compared to his opponent, yet he won all three, as the fans expected one of those bouts to go the other way. The Peterson fight also was a transition for Garcia as he moved up to 143 lbs fighting Peterson at a catchweight for that bout, as he would leave the division never becoming undisputed by facing Viktor Postol, the man who would go on to stop Lucas Matthysse, then face Terence Crawford on PPV.
Garcia's run at welterweight was nothing like it was at super lightweight. Garcia was still just as strong, but his attributes didn't seem to adjust the same way against the best of the era. The patterns of following fighters around in the Herrera and Peterson fights began to follow even in wins against Robert Guerrero and Paulie Malignaggi. Again, Garcia would face another opponent we as fans were not too excited to see his face. Samuel Vargas served as a tune-up for his next big fight against Keith Thurman.
The issue was the time between Garcia's big fights. Garcia at welterweight had a habit of prolonging his tune-up bouts, making his big fights a bit muted to a purist.
Thurman is the most frustrating figure as he should be a massive star currently, but seemingly injuries and comfort stalled him out as he is in the ring as often as Dr. Dre produced a song in the past decade. Garcia and Thurman fought on CBS, a massive stage, as Thurman had beaten Shawn Porter and was looking to be the man of the era.
The fight was decent but saw a trend that we often see with Thurman. Thurman started very fast, and then at the end began to coast, even though Danny Garcia lost the fight. It was a split decision, mainly because Thurman didn't fight much in the bout's second half. Despite being Danny Garcia's first loss, it felt like he had already suffered a few losses and just never got it officially announced.
Now the feeling of the world towards Garcia's record matched his record, but like most of his big fights, even in a loss, he came out earning more respect.
Garcia would face Brandon Rios and brutally stop him before losing a close fight against Shawn Porter that could've gone either way. This version of Garcia didn't look like the same guy from 140, though it was still highly effective. Questions began to pop up about him adjusting to this weight class.
Two more stay-busy fights occurred with wins over Adrian Granados and Ivan Redkach before Garcia fought Errol Spence Jr two years ago. Spence dominated Garcia and left no doubt – and that is where we are at.
Garcia is now out of the welterweight division and now fighting at his third weight class, 154 lbs., this Saturday, facing Jose Benavidez Jr.
So what is his case for the Hall-of-Fame?
— Kate Abdo (@kate_abdo) July 12, 2022
1) One of the best 140 lbers of his era.
2) An overachiever who won multiple fights on the b-side to garner his respect.
3) A viable draw who carried the sport at a time when Floyd Mayweather had left.
Why should he not be in the Hall-of-Fame
1) A slew of unsatisfactory performances from Herrera to Lamont Peterson; at times, Garcia looked too vulnerable.
2) Matchmaking: Garcia sometimes fought for money and not legacy, which has to hurt him in a historical context. Fights like Herrera, Rod Salka, and even Samuel Vargas stood out far too much during his prime.
3) Activity: Unlike most modern greats, as Garcia began to carry the sport, he also began to fight less often.
For me, Garcia is right on the borderline of the Hall-of-Fame, as what he accomplished should merit it, but also, he hasn't sustained for a long enough period against his true equals for me to feel confident without a doubt. It simply comes down to your emotional attachment to Garcia, as if he became rich in the sport because you either had to love him or hate him.
Garcia represents a lot of fighters in the last decade, extremely talented who put wealth over legacy, and now we have to see how the world views their decision over the next 20 years.