Puerto Rico embraces Garcia before title fight

Philly boxing champ Danny Garcia tipped the scales at 139.75 pounds, just less than the 140-pound light-welterweight limit for Saturdays title defense at the Coliseo against Mauricio Herrera.
Philly boxing champ Danny Garcia tipped the scales at 139.75 pounds, just less than the 140-pound light-welterweight limit for Saturdays title defense at the Coliseo against Mauricio Herrera. (TOM GRALISH)
Posted: March 15, 2014

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - Danny Garcia's black SUV pulled to the side of the highway Thursday afternoon as police lights flashed behind it.

The car's driver was talking on his cellphone - illegal in Puerto Rico - and the officer was ready to nab him.

"But we have the world champ in the car," said Garcia's father and trainer, Angel.

The policeman asked to roll down the tinted window and there sat Danny Garcia in the backseat en route to an afternoon training session. The officer let the Garcias go with one instruction: Win Saturday's fight.

If Garcia needed any more validation of his acceptance here, that was it. The Philadelphia born-and-raised champion is being treated like a native Puerto Rican.

Garcia (27-0, 16 knockouts) will defend his WBA and WBC light-welterweight titles on Saturday against Mexican-American Mauricio Herrera at Bayamon's Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez. The telecast begins at 9 p.m. on Showtime.

"A lot of people say things because I wasn't born here," said Garcia, 25. "But in my heart, I know that I am a true Puerto Rican champion."

He began the day at Puerto Rico's House of Representatives, which passed a resolution proclaiming Garcia a 100-percent Puerto Rican.

The bill passed unanimously after being introduced by Gary Rodríguez, who represents the district where the 12-round title bout will be held. Rodriguez lived in Philadelphia for 10 years and obtained degrees from both Drexel and Penn.

Angel Garcia conceded that this week has been hectic and said he cannot wait for his son to be in the ring. While the Garcias make their rounds around the island, Herrera (20-3, 7 KOs) has kept a low profile.

The fight is being promoted more around Garcia's return to Puerto Rico than the opponent. And the challenger thinks that gives him a chance to catch Garcia off guard.

"He has all the pressure," said Herrera, 33. "I have nothing to lose. I wasn't even supposed to be in this spot and now I'm here. I want to take advantage of the opportunity."

Garcia shadowboxed and jumped rope during his training session as island music pumped through the speakers of the Felix Pagan Pintor boxing gym. Garcia plans to enter the ring Saturday accompanied by Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee.

Framed posters of past pay-per-view events covered the gym's walls, one featuring Bernard Hopkins. Fans held a huge Puerto Rican flag ring and pointed toward Garcia. The champ pointed back.

"Just like slowly but surely he became world champion, we're going to earn our fans in Puerto Rico, slowly but surely," Angel Garcia said.

Scott checks in

North Philadelphia heavyweight Malik Scott (36-1-1, 13 KOs) will face close friend Deontay Wilder (30-0, 30 knockouts) on the undercard. The winner of the 12-round bout will become the No. 1 contender for the vacant WBC title. The two are former sparring partners and joked with each other during Thursday's workout session. Scott, 33, resides in California to be closer to his promoter.

"I am Philly, so I can't miss it. Philly is in here," said Scott, pointing to his heart. "It's always with me and it's going to be with me Saturday night."


mbreen@phillynews.com

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