Unheralded Garcia ready for big time as he defends his crown
It's not a cul de sac — just a side road that comes to a dead end.
When you walk up to the house where Danny Garcia lives, there are no visible indications that this is now the home of the newly crowned World Boxing Council junior welterweight champion.
The beautiful muscle car parked in the driveway offers a hint, but only if you already know who Garcia is.
On this day, a couple of similar ones were being driven around Bensalem.
The truth is that while everything may have changed professionally since Garcia, the Philadelphia native from Juniata Park, dethroned future Hall of Fame Boxer Erik Morales in March, not a lot has changed outside the ring for the 24-year-old undefeated champion.
His family is still the center point of his life. His friends are the same ones he had when he was working his way up the boxing ranks.
Garcia is the only Philadelphian holding a world championship, but he probably could walk the streets of Center City and, except for his striking looks, not turn more than a few heads.
But Garcia understands. Despite being a world champion, he is still just establishing his legacy. Your first title doesn't put you with all-time Philly greats like "Smokin' " Joe Frazier or Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins.
"I guess people have treated me a little differently," he said. "You get that vibe from them, ‘Oh, that's Danny Garcia. He's the champion.' But most things are still the same.
“In boxing, people know me, but in general, there is so much competition in Philadelphia with other sports, it can overshadow boxing."
Garcia found that out firsthand when he triumphantly returned home from his unanimous-decision victory over Morales.
"Let's say the Sixers won the NBA title or the Eagles the Super Bowl," Garcia said. "It would be all over the city getting attention.
“When I won the world championship, it was just a couple of reporters. I wasn't on TV or nothing. I was, like, ‘Where's my shine? I'm the world champ.'
“But I understand how it is. There's just so much going on in sports in Philadelphia."
Perhaps, with the Phillies struggling and the other sports in summer hiatus, Garcia (23-0, 14 knockouts) will get his moment next Saturday in Las Vegas when he defends his title against former unified super lightweight champion Amir "King" Kahn (26-2, 18 KOs) at the Mandalay Bay Events Center and live on HBO.
As the city's only reigning world champion, he is the current standard-bearer for Philadelphia boxing.
Even with numerous weight classifications and sanctioning organizations, winning a world championship is an impressive feat. To diminish its insignificance would be to forget that Philadelphians Mike Jones and Teon Kennedy failed only last month in bids to become champions.
Garcia has been on the undercard of big fights in Las Vegas before, but this will be the first time he headlines a card in the Mecca of boxing.
"I'm excited," Garcia said. "So many fighters have gone to Vegas and acted like Philly was the slums. They get to Vegas and are, like, ‘Oh, my God. I'm about to fight here.' I'm not like that. I've been on undercards that were in Vegas, but there was nobody there when I fought. Now, I'm going to have my poster outside the Mandalay Bay. That's another dream come true."
Garcia said he loves the hype of the Vegas fight scene. He has embraced it, and has not been intimidated by it.
"You see the casinos' lights and all the people dressed nice," he said. "It's a whole different atmosphere. But that's me. I like to have fun. I like to dress nice. I like the lights."
This is a pivotal fight for Garcia and his status with Golden Boy Productions. He signed with Golden Boy, the company of former world champion Oscar De La Hoya, in 2008 and has steadily climbed the ladder.
But despite Garcia's being the titleholder, it is Kahn, the native of Bolton, England, who is first on the marquee.
As of Friday, the official website of Golden Boy Promotions – www.goldenboypromotions.com – had not updated Garcia's record or biography to indicate that he beat Morales to become the WBC champion.
The carousel of pictures on the fighters' page include Khan, Victor Ortiz, who has lost his last two fights, and Paulie Malignaggi. The latter features De La Hoya holding up the Brooklyn fighter's right arm and congratulating him for winning the WBA welterweight title a month after Garcia won his.
To be fair, a lot of that simply could be poor upkeep of the website.
Still, on Tuesday, while the champion was training in Philadelphia, Kahn opened his camp in Los Angeles with De La Hoya on hand for a media session.
In Los Angeles, the popular Kahn has received celebrity status. In his web diary on his official web page, he's told fans about being invited to a premiere of "The Amazing Spider-Man" and throwing out the first pitch at a Dodgers game last Sunday.
But again, Garcia, who goes out to Vegas on Monday, understands this part of the fight business and takes it in stride.
He is well aware of what beating a high-profile fighter like Kahn as a follow-up to taking out Morales will do for his career. A win puts Garcia in the "superstar status" and lines him up as a big-money headline attraction.
"I think now [Golden Boy Promotions] is starting to look at me a little different," Garcia said. "I don't know if they thought I would make it this far, because a lot of prospects do get knocked off along the way.
“My dad and I always knew I was a special fighter who could beat whoever they put in front of me.
“I think this is the perfect fight for me to become a star."
Given a choice, many newly crowned champions would not want an opponent like Kahn for a first title defense.
Kahn was originally scheduled for a rematch on May 19 with Lamont Peterson, who took his WBA super light welterweight and IBF light welterweight titles last December. But that fight was canceled when Peterson tested positive for banned synthetic testosterone.
When Golden Boy asked Garcia whether he would step in to fight Kahn, he never flinched in agreeing to put his title on the line.
"I told my manager when we first started that, ‘You don't have to pad my record. You don't have to match me up with [lesser fighters],'?" Garcia said. "I can beat any of those guys. I don't duck anybody. When they asked me if I wanted to fight Kahn, I didn't even think about it before saying yes."
Garcia's father and trainer, Angel, wasted no time stirring the hornet's nest when he got into a verbal sparring match with Kahn at the fight announcement on June 5.
"First thing, Kahn is an overrated fighter," Angel Garcia said. "There are a lot of overrated fighters out there, and we're coming to execute all of them."
Kahn did not take kindly to that assessment and asked: "When I beat your son, will I still be overrated?"
Earlier this week he vowed to Angel Garcia that "in the ring, I will hurt his son" because of continued trash talk.
For his part, Danny Garcia said he doesn't mind his father talking with bravado. He thinks he has the talent to cash any check his dad's word might write for him.
"I know what to look for in another fighter," he said. "To me, [Kahn] has a big fan base in the UK, and that's why they promote him so hard and want him to be a superstar. I think [Kahn] has had some setup fights to make him look good. Most of the people he's fought were built for his style. Kahn is popular. The crowd might be for him, but if they boo me, that's just going to motivate me to knock him out.
“The crowd [in Houston] was for Morales, but they just got me going to do my thing. I'm ready for this. It is my time."
Contact John Smallwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.