‘Underdog’ Garcia eager to prove doubters wrong once again

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Angel Garcia holds up a poster promoting his son Danny’s 147-pound title unification bout with Keith Thurman and points to Thurman being on the left—or “A”—side of the poster.

Danny Garcia and Angel Garcia

Danny Garcia hits mitts with father and trainer Angel Garcia. Despite his perfect record, the two-division world champion is embracing the underdog role heading into his title unification against Keith Thurman. (Ryan Greene/Premier Boxing Champions)

This is the moment when you would bet the house that the usually vociferous Garcia would launch into a tirade about how his son is being slighted in the promotion of the biggest fight of his career. Instead, the opposite happens: Angel Garcia boasts about it as a point of pride.

See, the underdog—or “B side”—role is one that Angel and Danny Garcia have come to not just expect but embrace on their path to winning multiple world championships and compiling a 33-0 professional record.

It’s not often that a guy with Danny Garcia’s résumé would end up on the right side of a fight-promotion poster 10 years into his career. In fact, many fighters would view it as downright insulting. But his father insists that’s exactly how he wanted it.

Consider it an added source of motivation for Danny Garcia (33-0, 19 KOs) heading into Saturday’s long-awaited showdown with Keith Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (CBS, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).

Of course, just because Garcia accepts being viewed as “the underdog” doesn’t mean he actually believes it to be true. Quite the contrary.

“My honest assessment is he’s a built-up champion,” Garcia says of Thurman. “I came up the hard way. I’ve had to take the title off the champion [when he defeated veteran Erik Morales to win a 140-pound title in March 2012]. From the size of the gloves to the size of the ring to the promotion—everything was against me. [Thurman’s] never had that before.”

While he hasn’t been through waves of adversity in the ring in his brief time at 147 pounds, few can question Garcia’s accomplishments at 140. Not only did he clean out the entire division in an impressive run of two-plus years, but he didn’t get many soft touches.

After dethroning Morales, he immediately faced Amir Khan in a title unification fight and won by fourth-round TKO. That was followed by successive victories over Morales in a rematch, former champion Zab Judah and hard-hitting Lucas Matthysse.

In all, the 28-year-old Philadelphia native fought five times at 140 pounds as either a unified champion or in an effort to unify belts.

I’m just fighting someone with a lot of momentum who thinks he can knock everyone out, that’s it. Once I break his momentum, then what? Danny Garcia, on fellow 147-pound champ Keith Thurman

“I’m pretty seasoned for my age,” says Garcia, who entered the ring against Khan and Matthysse as the underdog. “I feel like I was made for this big stage. That’s what separates me from a lot of these other fighters.

“A lot of other fighters get to that big stage and freeze up. Me, you know what I do. I come and deliver.”

Following wins over Rod Salka and former champion Lamont Peterson in non-title bouts, Garcia officially vacated his 140-pound titles and pounded ex-champ Paulie Malignaggi in his 147-pound debut in August 2015.

In his next fight, he won a vacant 147-pound world title—the one previously held by Floyd Mayweather Jr.—by edging yet another former titleholder in Robert Guerrero in January 2016.

Garcia then was out of the ring for 10 months before tuning up for the Thurman bout with a one-sided, seventh-round stoppage of Samuel Vargas in November.

Thurman was ringside in Philly that night, working as an analyst on the Spike broadcast. After the fight, Thurman was brought into the ring to formally announce their unification showdown. Garcia knew what to do from there. He grabbed the microphone and stoked his hometown fans into a blaze with one line: “If y’all wanna see me whip this guy’s ass, make some noise!”

“I knew [Thurman] was going to be there, so I had to let the people know,” he says. “It’s kind of like wrestling. I really meant [what I said], but sometimes you also have to give the fans what they want, and that’s entertainment.”

The entertainment continued when Garcia and Thurman went nose-to-nose while engaging in a red-faced screaming match. No punches were thrown, much to Garcia’s dismay.

“I was ready to fight right there,” Garcia says. “I would have fought him right there if they put the gloves on [him].”

Those theatrics play into another thing that’s made Garcia so successful in big-time title fights: No matter the opponent, he finds a way to build up the mental edge. This fight is no different, as Garcia is convinced Thurman is far down the list of toughest challenges he’s faced.

“He’s probably like fourth or fifth,” Garcia says. “You’re talking about Amir Khan, an Olympic silver medalist, [former] two-division champion. Lamont Peterson. Those guys have skills.

“I’m just fighting someone with a lot of momentum who thinks he can knock everyone out, that’s it. Once I break his momentum, then what?”

Should he pull off the “upset” against Thurman, one would think Garcia’s long list of detractors would automatically shrink. But Garcia isn’t so sure.

One of boxing’s more polarizing stars, he has his theories as to why so many love to hate him. Not that it bothers him. After all, without that legion of naysayers, it would be difficult for Garcia to be billed as an underdog—his favorite role of them all.

“I beat their favorite fighters, and they’re still mad about it,” Garcia says. “[My detractors] don’t understand why I’m still here. They don’t.

“I came up the hard way and earned my way by beating people. I wasn’t sitting next to anyone on a jet promoting me. I created my brand, I created Danny Garcia off the strength of me beating good fighters and nothing else.”

For complete coverage of Thurman vs Garcia, visit our fight page.

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