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Sports

Danny Garcia Becomes Philly’s Next Superstar

(Credit: JOHN GURZINSKI/GETTY IMAGES)

(Credit: JOHN GURZINSKI/GETTY IMAGES)

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By Joseph Santoliquito

Philadelphia (CBS) —Danny Garcia laughs at the thought. His most significant victory as a professional is still fresh in his mind. Yet the world junior welterweight champion from North Philadelphia scratches his head over what he really learned from smashing Amir Khan in four rounds at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on July 14.

“You know what, I don’t really know what I learned about myself, because you don’t really have enough time to learn anything when you knock somebody out that fast,” admitted Garcia, boxing’s newest sensation and currently the best fighter in Philadelphia today.

Garcia, 24, entered the 140-pound WBC/WBA and Ring world title fight as a 7-to-1 underdog. While most boxing experts viewed Khan, a highly touted former British Olympian, as “the next great thing,” Garcia was viewed as an afterthought, in the eyes of many—just there to dress up a Khan victory and reduce the sting of Khan’s previous fight, a controversial loss to Lamont Peterson in December 2011.

What was lost is that “Swift” Garcia carried an undefeated record, bumped up to 24-0, with 15 KO’s, after Garcia vanquished Khan. What was lost is how steadily Garcia has been improving, showing more poise and control. This, somehow, was lost on Khan, who thought he would steamroll Garcia.

After Khan took the opening two rounds using a quick jab, Garcia burst out of his defensive cocoon and nailed the Brit with a crushing left hook counter. It caught Khan square in the neck and sent him down rigid—a punch that could change Garcia’s career path.

“We knew Khan would come out fast, and I’m a slow starter, I knew he was going to jump on me early,” Garcia said. “The game plan was to take some of his shots, and the first clean shot I hit him with, boom, he was going to go down. It’s natural for me to stay calm and I adapt to a fight fast, and once that happens, it’s going to go my way. I knew the left hook was going to be the shot; I was going to counter him. I stood in the pocket and as soon as he hit me with the left hook, I sat down, bit down on my mouthpiece and hit him. It was a set up and I was waiting for the perfect time. As soon as I adapted to his speed, it was a matter of time.”

The present appears to be Garcia’s time. He has a neat little backstory, almost dying at birth, raised and trained by his father, Angel, an old-school, flamboyant man who garnered more attention prior to the Khan fight than Swift did himself.

Angel said some questionable things before the fight, comparing Khan to the Disney character Aladdin, which really agitated the Khan camp.

“It was all part of the plan,” Angel says laughing. “We knew we had 12 rounds and we knew Khan would come out fast. The game plan was to beat Khan to the punch. We wanted to feel Khan out the first two rounds. The first round in boxing is a very dangerous round, because both fighters are fresh, and you can get clipped. Danny likes to be smart in that first round, and he likes to take his time.

“Danny destroyed Khan—I saw that coming. I told everybody Danny was going to knock him out. Khan has had it easy—we wanted to make him work. Danny has worked hard all of his life and now he’s the best 140-pound fighter in the world. People are still finding excuses to not give Danny all of the credit he deserves.”

Garcia caught a lot of Khan’s punches in the first round. He played right into Garcia’s hands. Once Khan found out he couldn’t hurt Garcia, he had no alternative plan. He was supposed to stay focused. He didn’t. He got into exchanges he paid a serious price for. Garcia kept chopping down Khan’s high guard by going to the body exceptionally well.

“When Danny started hitting him in the third round, and when he started hitting Khan to the body, you could tell that was taking something out of Khan,” Angel Garcia said. “That was it. We had him.”

What’s next for Garcia is anyone’s guess. He’s managed by one of the strongest figures in boxing, Al Haymon, and Garcia admits he didn’t take his last two fights, beating aging legend Erik Morales and wiping out Khan, for the money. But big figures should be coming Garcia’s way, as should more local love from Philly fight fans.

“Philly is my home and my heart, and it’s all I know,” Danny said. “I’d like to get in again in October, hopefully in Philly, or someplace close, like Atlantic City. Against Morales and Khan, I was in it to prove I was the best fighter. Now I have to start looking out for my pocket. I feel like I play a big part in the sports in Philly, but as far as the city being mine, in all due respect to Bernard Hopkins, he’s a future Hall of Famer, Philly is still his city. For now, I’m building up my own legacy.”

He’ll return back to training in a few weeks at Harrowgate Gym on Venango Street. He’s kept his equilibrium—not getting too high off the Khan victory. He knows he still has work to do. So for someone who says he hasn’t learned much from his last victory, maybe Garcia needs to rethink that. It appears he has.

SPORTS PHOTO GALLERIES

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