In Puerto Rico, Garcia shows pride in his heritage

Danny Garcia. (Tom Gralish/Staff Photographer)

His plane touched down at San Juan's airport just after 1 p.m. Tuesday, and Danny Garcia arrived in Puerto Rico with style.

The Juniata Park boxing champion paired his silver basketball sneakers with electric yellow socks. He wore sunglasses, a diamond necklace, and a pair of oversized gold headphones. His T-shirt said: "Flyer Than Most."

Fans, television cameras, and Puerto Rican boxers greeted Garcia at Luiz Muñoz Marín International Airport. The champion soaked up the attention geared to Saturday's light-welterweight title defense against Mexican American Mauricio Herrera.

"I love being in Puerto Rico," said the 25-year-old WBA and WBC champion. "I am so excited that they embrace me, and I feel that I am giving back to my fans."

On Wednesday, Garcia (27-0, 16 knockouts) spoke at Bayamón City Hall with a Puerto Rican flag draped behind him during the prefight news conference.

The champion said he did not go to Puerto Rico to lose his title, and he is "going to come and defend like always."

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Garcia is looking to be seen as the island's boxing champion. Both of his parents moved from Puerto Rico to the United States and met as teenagers in North Philadelphia.

He will work out Thursday afternoon in Guaynabo, a small town across the bay from San Juan, and will weigh in Friday at the Coliseo Rubén Rodríguez in Bayamón, the site of Saturday's fight. The live telecast begins on Showtime at 9 p.m.

North Philadelphia heavyweight Malik Scott (36-1, 13 KOs) will face the dangerous Deontay Wilder (30-0, 30 KOs) on the televised undercard. Scott now trains in California.

For Darcia, gaining the support of the Puerto Rican audience will help swell his popularity, which, in turn, should make him even more attractive to boxing's television executives. A fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. - the sport's biggest draw - becomes more likely with each win.

Along with skills, Garcia will need popularity to headline a pay-per-view bout against Mayweather.

"It's a great honor for me to bring my son - the world champion - in front of our own people where I was born and grew up," said Garcia's father and trainer, Angel. "I am back home with my son performing."

Herrera, speaking in Spanish, said Saturday will not be a boring fight. The 33-year-old won his last two fights, and his signature victory is a 2011 unanimous decision against WBO light-welterweight champ Ruslan Provodnikov. Herrera did not turn pro until he was 27, working as a plumber during his amateur career. He said the title shot is a dream.

"I don't think it takes a really tough guy and a big name to beat Danny," Herrera said. "It could just be a random guy like me who has some skills, some smartness."

He throws a strong jab and fights with an awkward style. But he usually presses for action without a real power punch, which could be dangerous for Herrera (20-3, 7 KOs) if Garcia connects with the left hook. Herrera said he can come out in different ways: to pressure, to box, or even both.

"Danny Garcia never faced a guy like Mauricio Herrera," said Herrera's trainer, Willy Silva. "And it's going to be a nightmare that night."