In truth, plenty of fans and commentators have been quick to praise Danny Garcia for his gritty unanimous-decision win over Robert Guerrero last Saturday night. But the undefeated WBC welterweight champion remains the man that many boxing fans love to hate. It’s still way too early to even talk about Garcia as the heir to Floyd Mayweather’s pound-for-pound laurels. But he does seem poised to inherit Money’s role as the sport’s most polarizing fighter.
It’s a complete turn around from where he was less than three years ago, when he emerged as one of the sport’s hottest young stars. In March 2012, he beat future Hall of Famer Erik Morales to capture the WBC light welterweight belt. He unified his title with the WBA version later in the year when he stunned Amir Khan via Round 4 TKO.
In 2013, he beat two-division champion Zab Judah and followed that with a convincing defeat of Lucas Matthysse in one of the year’s most anticipated bouts.
Things started to go south for him a bit in 2014. In March, he barely escaped Puerto Rico with his belts when he edged Mauricio Herrera via majority decision. He received a ton of very justified criticism when he faced unranked lightweight Rod Salka in August 2014, a fight he won by Round 2 KO.
Garcia fought in April 2015 against IBF champion Lamont Peterson. In a move that can only be described as timid, the bout was contracted for a 143-pound catchweight, so that instead of a bout to unify three of the four major titles, neither champion’s titles were at risk. Garcia again won a controversial majority decision.
After that fight Danny Garcia moved to full welterweight and looked sharp in stopping former champion Paulie Malignaggi. His win over Guerrero on Saturday night earned him the WBC version of the title at 147 pounds.
I’ve never been anything close to a Garcia fanboy. I thought he should have lost both the Herrera and Peterson fights. I thought his bout with Salka was a slap in the face to every boxing fan who subscribes to Showtime out of loyalty to the sport.
But the criticism of Garcia reaches ridiculous levels, too. Salka aside, he hasn’t really been a “cherry picker.” While I disagree with the decisions that gave him victories over Herrera and Peterson, those were very competitive fights and fans who scream “robbery” are going too far. Garcia is a very talented boxer-puncher. Against Guerrero, he showed guts and an intelligent ability to adjust in the middle of a fire fight, qualities that were clearly on display in his battles against Khan and Matthysse, as well.
Still, to gain true respect in boxing, a fighter has to be willing to take risks. Danny Garcia’s WBC belt won’t mean squat to the fans if he doesn’t put it on the line against the winner who emerges from the bout between WBA champion Keith Thurman and former IBF champ Shawn Porter.