When Danny Garcia returns to the ring Saturday night against Samuel Vargas, fellow unbeaten 147-pound champion Keith Thurman will be sitting ringside as a TV analyst, so you can be sure that some of the conversation will revolve around next year's long-awaited Garcia-Thurman showdown.
Danny Garcia, however, insists his focus remains squarely on the task at hand. Because while many believe Samuel Vargas (25-2-1, 13 KOs) will make for light work in the 10-round, non-title fight at Philadelphia's Liacouras Center (Spike, 9 p.m. ET/PT), Garcia says he’s not about to let his guard down.
After all, he knows from his own personal history never to assume victory.
“Fights I’m supposed to win easily have been my toughest,” says Garcia (32-0, 18 KOs). “The ones that are supposed to be tougher end up being my easiest.
“I’ve watched tape on Samuel Vargas. He’s a gritty fighter who won’t give up. I can’t look past him. I will never underestimate anyone. … I know he’s coming to win, but I am ready mentally and physically to get the job done.”
Garcia, 28, will be returning to the ring for the first time since January 23, when he earned a unanimous decision over former two-division champion Robert Guerrero to claim the 147-pound title vacated by Floyd Mayweather Jr. It’s the second piece of hardware the Philadelphia native has held, having been a 140-pound titleholder from March 2012 until vacating the crown in June 2015.
After non-title bouts against Rod Salka (second-round KO) and former 140-pound champ Lamont Peterson (majority decision), Garcia officially debuted at 147 on August 1, 2015, scoring a ninth-round TKO of ex-titleholder Paulie Malignaggi.
Garcia remained at 147 to face Guerrero, and as he heads into this bout with Vargas, he says he feels more comfortable than ever fighting at the higher weight.
“I had to grow into 140 pounds before I started knocking people out,” says Garcia, who weighed in Friday at 146.6 pounds, while Vargas tipped the scales at 145.7. “This will be my third fight at welterweight. I’m going to feel as good as I have in my career.”
Standing a half-inch taller than Garcia at 5-foot-9, the 27-year-old Vargas has competed between 146 and 154 pounds throughout his career, most recently weighing 147¾ pounds for a 10-round unanimous decision over Juan Armando Garcia on May 14 in New Brunswick, Canada.
That gave Vargas his fifth straight victory since being stopped in the fourth round by 147-pound title contender Errol Spence Jr. in April 2015.
Spence is far and away the most accomplished boxer on Vargas’ résumé, which is why many give the Colombia-born, Toronto-based fighter no chance against Garcia. Then again, playing the role of big underdog is nothing new for Vargas, who will be fighting in the U.S. for just the third time.
“I’ve been an underdog my whole life. There are very few options for a Latin immigrant in Canada, and I beat the odds to … have a life and a family,” says Vargas, whose last two fights have gone the distance after his previous five victories were by TKO.
“Me and my trainer [Billy Briscoe] work on a lot of different styles. Sometimes we pressure, and sometimes we stay outside. We like to switch it up and keep opponents guessing. Danny Garcia’s my chance. This is everything for me.”
Garcia acknowledges that he’s familiar with the Philly-based Briscoe, and expects the trainer to “have some tricks,” which is another reason the champ is not about to look past Vargas. At the same time, though, Garcia is supremely confident that he’ll have an answer for whatever Vargas throws at him and is eager to put on an impressive performance in front of his hometown fans.
“It feels great to be fighting at home,” says Garcia, who last fought in Philadelphia in October 2010, a span of 13 bouts. “I’ve been training really hard, and I’m going to give 100 percent for my city.
“I’m just going to go in the ring and be myself. Seek and destroy. I’m taking this one round at a time.”
And when it’s over, Garcia will then finally allow himself to focus on the March 4 title unification against Thurman. Does he have a message for the ringside analyst?
“He will get an up-close-and-personal look at what will happen to him in March,” Garcia says. “I hope he’s paying attention.”
For complete coverage of Garcia vs Vargas, hit up our fight page. And to support Garcia’s Philadelphia-area food drive that’s taking place in conjunction with the fight, visit the Philabundance website.
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