CARSON, Calif. — Danny Garcia walked into his nationally televised fight against Adrian Granados on Saturday night with a gorilla-sized chip on his shoulder. The decorated boxer with an impressive 12-year career was being underestimated.

With two blemishes on his record over his last three bouts, the Philadelphia born-and-bred fighter was no longer considered a blue-chip pugilist. Mind you, he was a couple of swing rounds away from being undefeated, but no one seemed to remember.

All of a sudden he was on the outside listening in on debates of who the best welterweight was in the star-studded division. Names like Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Keith Thurman, and Shawn Porter — and a gantlet of matchups between them — were rattled off before Garcia even came to mind.

Such was the hand Garcia was dealt after dropping razor-thin decisions to Thurman and Porter.

Knowing very well that he had to make a big statement, Garcia fired on all cylinders and eviscerated the journeyman challenger Granados for seven straight rounds at the Dignity Health Sports Park, knocking him down three times en route to a technical knockout.

A rejuvenated Garcia climbed the ring ropes immediately after referee Thomas Taylor stopped further carnage, looked into the camera and proudly proclaimed, “I’m back!” because he reentered the running to reclaim his stake atop the supremely stacked 147-pound division.

“It just feels great to make a statement,” Garcia said in the dressing room after the fight. “We’re still here. … I felt really good. I wasn’t at my best the last couple of fights. This is the Danny Garcia that you’re going to see for the rest of my career.”

Danny Garcia works out prior to a 2017 fight.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Danny Garcia works out prior to a 2017 fight.

Garcia (35-2, 21 knockouts) was satisfied with his punishing performance against the game Granados (20-7-2, 14 knockouts), who was finished via knockout for the first time in his career. Garcia’s elite one-punch power — arguably one of the best in the division — was on full display as he blitzed his way back into the picture of a big-time prize fight. With the right dance partner, the former two-division champion could very well be coronated as kingpin, too.

When presented options between Pacquiao, Spence Jr. and avenging losses to Thurman and Porter, Garcia verbally courted the 40-year-old Filipino senator, boxing’s only eight-division world champion, as his prime candidate. Pacquiao said Saturday that if Garcia put on a strong showing, he’d consider him — and Thurman — as the opponent for his July return to the ring.

“I hope I didn’t scare Manny Pacquiao away,” Garcia, 31, said as blood was being drawn from his arm during postfight testing, his daughter standing by his side. “It would be a great fight. It would be a dream come true to end Manny’s career, just like I ended Erik Morales’ career. It would be that same type of feeling. Pacquiao is a global superstar, and once I beat him, I’ll be the new pay-per-view superstar.”

Except for Crawford, the world’s best welterweights are under Al Haymon’s promotional outfit Premier Boxing Champions.

Garcia made $1 million fighting Granados, earned $1.2 million against Porter and $2 million vs. Thurman. A date with Pacquiao should easily eclipse the combined total of his last three purses. For now, he appears to be leading the derby to land the fight.

“We don’t fight for free. Every fighter dreams of a big payday. That’s my dream,” said Garcia, who credited his win Saturday to changes in focus, nutrition, and conditioning. “I think Pacquiao would be a great fight — and definitely the biggest fight. Pacquiao needs a fighter like me to sell. Our styles match up better than anyone else’s styles in the welterweight division. It would be a great fight.”

“We want the biggest fights and the top guns out there,” said Angel Garcia, Danny’s father and trainer. “Everyone is calling Manny out. I feel bad for him. The numbers have to be fair. We don’t fear or run away from anybody. Danny is no slouch, He’s still here. He’s still top gun.”

Garcia’s television ratings and attendance numbers attest that he is a strong draw. Pacquiao would be the proverbial icing on the cake as he continues to build a case for his own Hall of Fame candidacy.

“My time is now,” said Garcia. “My time is coming.”