John Smallwood: Angel in his corner: Danny Garcia's dad

Angel Garcia sports pads for his son Danny to hit as they prepare for Saturday's title defense against Erik Morales.
Angel Garcia sports pads for his son Danny to hit as they prepare for Saturday's title defense against Erik Morales. (CLEM MURRAY / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: October 19, 2012

THE DIAGNOSIS was death.

Maybe if Angel Garcia had thought a little less like a man and listened to his family when the pain in his throat started, the doctors could have caught things earlier.

But by the time Garcia finally sought medical attention, the cancer in his throat had advanced to stage four.

Without successful chemotherapy treatment, Garcia said he was told, he had 6 months to live.

He thought about how he and his wife, Maritza, had both moved from Puerto Rico as children and found each other in Philadelphia.

They had overcome the darkest days of Angel's past. He had become a new man and was using his second chance to build a better life for their family.

He thought of his eldest, Erik, who was then 20, on the verge of manhood but still needing a father's guidance.

He thought about then 18-year-old Danny, a boxing prodigy who had taken up his father's passion for the sport and was on the path for fulfilling the dreams Angel could not.

Angel already knew what it was like to not be there for his sons. Eight years earlier in 1998, he went to prison for 2 years for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

He had vowed to his boys from behind prison walls that when he got out, he was going to make it up to them and be the dedicated father they needed him to be.

But most of all, Angel Garcia thought of his then-5-year-old twin daughters, Sianney and Angelise. He imagined how they might have to live the rest of their lives with only fragment memories of their father.

That was in 2006. Angel was 43 years old.

Last Thursday, Angel, now 49, sat on the corner of the boxing ring at Harrowgate Boxing Club, Inc.

Danny, now 24, was training for his unified light welterweight title defense against Erik Morales on Saturday in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Tears welled in Angel's proud eyes and the voice that normally runs 100 mph cracked as he discussed the difficult times his family went through.

"I decided I was going to live," he says. "I had to be there for my family. I wasn't dying on my children. My daughters were 5 years old. I couldn't see no other man raising my babies."

There was still too much work for a father to do.

The tumor growing in his throat was painful. The treatment to force the cancer into remission would be more painful.

But Angel Garcia fought, fought to stay with his family, fought hard the way he was teaching Danny to fight in the ring for the destiny they both dream of in boxing.

Danny has arrived. He beat Morales in March to take the World Boxing Council title at 140 pounds and added the vacant World Boxing Association belt in July by knocking out Amir Kahn in four rounds.

The son thinks for a moment and says he can't imagine the journey had he lost his father.

"To be honest, I don't even know where I would be right now it my dad wasn't here," Danny Garcia says. "I never really thought about it in that way.

"I'm just happy he's here and I'm happy we're together. We're living our dream together."

Historically in boxing, a thin line is walked when a father decides he's going to be his son's primary trainer.

But the Garcias make it work.

The results, a 24-0 record with the WBC, WBA and The Ring championship belts at 140 pounds, speak for themselves.

"My dad is my best friend, not just my dad," Danny says. "We hardly ever bump heads, but when we do, we just work it out. We grew together in this."

Angel Garcia said it's about understanding who is the the world-champion boxer and who is not.

"Why does it work?" says Angel, who trained as a boxer but never had a career as a fighter. "Because this is about Danny. It's not about me.

"A lot of trainers or fathers or whoever; a lot of times they want to be also be a star and they forget they are not the star. The star is the athlete. My only job is to worry about Danny and make sure things are right so that he can be the best he can be in the ring.

"A lot of trainers, when their fighters start to reach the top, want to start to dominate and take credit and get publicity. That's when heads start crashing and hell breaks loose. I give Danny his respect. This is my son. I love him. I don't love the money. I don't love the fame. I love my son. I just want good for Danny because I love him with all of my heart."

Maritza Garcia said that's the way Angel has always been with Danny in the ring.

It's why she never worried when her husband introduced her 10-year-old son to a sport that can be beautiful and brutal at the same time.

"They understand each other," she says. "As for boxing, I know my husband knows what he is doing with Danny. Everything he does is to better Danny.

"Their second home was the gym. I ask Danny now if he feels like there was anything he missed out on that other kids did. He said, 'No, this is what I wanted.' "

Through all of their years together in the ring, however, there is one thing about the sport at which Danny could never surpass his father: talking trash.

Like it or not, prefight trash talk has become a staple of promoting fights.

To the annoyance of many opposing camps, Angel Garcia is one of the more outrageous trash talkers in the industry.

Simply put, he likes to talk.

When he was fighting cancer, he told his family the only thing that could make him give up the battle was if the therapy did not work and it came down to having his vocal cords removed.

"I pulled my family to the side and said, 'If my vocals have to be removed, I'm not doing it,' " he says. "God doesn't want me to be here without my vocal cords.

"If it would have come to that, the choice I made was to die."

It's a voice that roars.

"I guessed God saved [my vocal cords] so I could be Danny's voice," he says. "From 2006, cancer couldn't even shut me up. I can be Danny's mascot if you want to call it that."

His outbursts at prefight and postfight news conferences have gotten him called a lot worse.

Amir Kahn, a British fighter of Pakistan decent, was livid after Angel, among a myriad of insults, said, "I never met a Pakistani that can fight. I'm not trying to sound racist. I'm just being honest."

With Angel making gestures and calling him a "fraud" and a "protected fighter" during the prefight news conference before his unification title fight with Danny in July, Kahn said, "I promise you, and I've never said this at a press conference, I will knock Danny Garcia out."

Kahn had the ending to the fight correct. He just had it wrong about who would end up kissing the canvas.

Garcia's devastating fourth-round knockout of Kahn was just the latest of the numerous checks his boxing skills has had to cash because of his father's verbal, um, talent.

Angel Garcia has already said the 36-year-old Morales (52-8) should retire after Danny beats him a second time on Saturday.

"My dad is the way he is," Danny says without a hint of disapproval. "He likes to talk. It's really a perfect team, because I'm not really a trash-talk kind of person. I can if I want, but I feel like I don't have to because I know I can fight.

"A lot of boxers try to make it entertaining by fighting with their mouth. When you watch my fight, I'm going to give you an entertaining fight.

"Like I said, my dad is my dad. I love him, and I'm just happy he is here so we can do this together."


Contact John Smallwood at smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/JohnSmallwood.

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