PHILADELPHIA (AP) — He’s the lone champion in a market loaded with sports stars. Just don’t look for Danny Garcia anywhere near the complex that the four city pro teams call home. Forget even finding him training in a state-of-the-art gym with cameras trailing him before every workout.
Each day, Garcia grinds out a championship career on the second floor of a dusty, cramped North Philadelphia gym, with only a sign that says “Swift Boxing Club,” and an arrow pointing toward rickety, wooden steps off to the side of the building that provide the only evidence Philly’s next top fighter is inside.
Yes, it’s easy to stride past the gritty gym. It’s getting tougher to overlook Garcia.
The 24-year-old Garcia’s rise to stardom peaks — for now — on Saturday night when he headlines the first major championship boxing card in Brooklyn, N.Y., in more than 80 years. Garcia (24-0, 15 KOs) is scheduled to defend his super lightweight belt against Erik Morales (52-8, 36 KOs) at the Barclays Center.
The bout hit a bit of a snag Thursday when reports surfaced that Morales failed a random drug test. With Morales’ backup “B” sample yet to be tested, Garcia was still set to headline the Showtime card where a win could propel him toward bigger bouts and paydays.
And with Bernard Hopkins’ career on hiatus, Garcia could assume the throne as Philadelphia’s top fighter with a convincing victory.
“I’m letting the fans decide that,” Garcia said. “I just go in the ring, give my best performance, and let you guys be the judge of that.”
Garcia is staking his claim one punishing win at a time.
He defeated Morales by unanimous decision in March to win the WBC 140-pound world title. In July, Garcia stopped heavy favorite Amir Khan in the fourth round to stay undefeated and add another super lightweight belt to his collection, defeating the popular fighter in spectacular fashion.
Garcia claims he showed Morales too much respect in their first bout, gave the veteran time to think, and didn’t finish him off in the early rounds like he believes will happen Saturday.
“Now people know I’m the real deal,” Garcia said.
His father has known it for years. In a sport where some father-son working relationships often turn sour, the Garcias are trying to buck that trend and prove that championships can be won and defended with blood, sweat and tough love. Garcia’s outspoken father, Angel, has been with him every blow of his career and adds an oversized personality in the corner that can overshadow his son.
Angel Garcia’s temper was on full display Thursday when he unleashed a Spanish tirade aimed at Morales and his trainer in the final news conference for the fight.
But only a week earlier, Garcia, who served two years in prison when Danny was a boy, sat in that Philadelphia gym and vowed he’d only guide his son, not become a focal point for the fight.
“A lot of trainers and fathers, lot of times, they want to be the star,” Angel said. “They forget, they’re not the stars. The star is the athlete. You’re just here to do your job.”
Billed as “Swift,” Danny Garcia said there was no one else he wanted in his corner. They are father-son, trainer-fighter, and best friends.
“I don’t even know where I would be right now if my dad wasn’t here,” Garcia said. “I’m happy he’s here and I’m happy we’re here together.”
Angel Garcia chokes up describing his relationship with Danny. Garcia was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2006, fighting for his life, just a year before Danny turned pro.
“They gave me six months to live, but I said, ‘I’m not dying,'” he said. “I’m not dying for my children.”
He beat cancer, a tougher fight than Danny will ever face in the ring, and molded his son into a champion. With a win over Morales, Garcia would go 3-0 this year in title matches, and prove only brighter days are ahead for Philadelphia’s next star attraction.
“I always knew I wanted to be a world champion,” he said. “This has been my dream since I started boxing at 10.”
He headlines a card stacked with some of New York’s top fighters on a night when four world titles will be on the line. Brooklyn’s Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi defends his WBA welterweight world championship against Pablo Cesar “El Demoledor” Cano. Undefeated No. 1-rated WBO middleweight contender Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin, of Manhattan, takes on France’s unbeaten Hassan N’Dam for N’Dam’s WBO middleweight world championship.
They are the first world title bouts held in the borough since 1931.
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