Still the champion, Garcia breathes a sigh of relief

Danny Garcia (right) deflects Mauricio Herrera's left jab during their light-welterweight title bout in Puerto Rico.
Danny Garcia (right) deflects Mauricio Herrera's left jab during their light-welterweight title bout in Puerto Rico. (ANA MARTINEZ / Reuters)
Posted: March 18, 2014

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico - The ring announcer said, "The winner by majority decision," and held his breath for what seemed to be an eternity. It may have been the longest second-and-a-half in the 26-year history of the Coliseo de Ruben Rodriguez. The 10,152 fans waited in silence along with their new hero, Danny Garcia.

"And still - " Jimmy Lennon Jr. shouted, sending the arena into a frenzy.

The fighter from Juniata Park strapped on his light-welterweight title belts. Garcia was still champion.

There was plenty of concern when Garcia's 12-round fight went to the scorecards Saturday night. He admitted it was not his best effort. But it was enough to earn a majority decision against Mexican American Mauricio Herrera. Two judges scored it 116-112 for Garcia and another saw it even, 114-114.

The champion's father and trainer, Angel Garcia, said he was not satisfied. He knew his son could perform "way better."

"It's just something you can't control," Danny Garcia said. "It's just like having a bad hair day."

It was likely Garcia's final light-welterweight fight. He said he has fought at 140 pounds since he was 17 or 18 years old and his body appears to be outgrowing that weight. Garcia said that losing so much weight tore up his body.

Garcia said his next opponent will be whomever his team decides upon. Amir Khan, knocked out by Garcia in 2012, said he would like a rematch with Garcia at 147 pounds. Luis Collazo said the same. Everyone seems to be calling him out, Garcia said. A date with Floyd Mayweather Jr. could still be on the table for May 2015.

"I've never ducked anybody," he said.

Herrera proved to be a tougher test than expected and he had a style that did not allow Garcia to be effective inside. Herrera broke Garcia's nose in Round 9 with a jab followed by a straight right. Blood spewed immediately and the champion said he was mad. He controlled the rest of the fight, working Herrera's body and mixing in his signature left hook.

"I just wanted to fight after that," Garcia said. "After that, there was nothing else I could do except fight, so I just came forward and threw punches. I wanted to give the fans a great fight."

Police officers wearing vests and bucket hats grouped together in the corners of the stadium where the fight was projected onto large screens. The crowd roared when the screens showed Garcia's arrival three hours before his fight.

He walked to the ring at 10:32 p.m., led by Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee. Members of his entourage held Puerto Rican flags and Garcia had one stitched into his pink-and-black trunks. The crowd hung on every blow, roaring when he exchanged open shots to end the 10th round and chanting "Danny, Danny" in the 12th and final round.

It was Garcia's idea, he said, to fight on the island where his parents were born. Puerto Rico does not have a current boxing champion and Garcia wanted that title.

"A win is a win," he said. "And I did it for my borciuas."

Garcia's San Juan oceanfront resort was eight miles from the arena and was mostly inhabited by vacationers, not boxing fans. He stayed in his room for most of the week and watched television. His older brother, Erik, forgot to pack their video game system, so Garcia surfed the hotel's 62 channels for something to watch.

His team spent Friday night on the beach after Garcia weighed in, but the champion relaxed alone. He flew his personal barber in from Philadelphia on Friday and had his hair cut in his hotel room a few hours before the fight.

"I came and did what I always do," Garcia said. "I worked out, I ran, and I just went to my room and relaxed."

It proved successful yet again, even if the result was not as satisfying as before. Garcia turns 26 on Thursday. He is planning to stay for his birthday. And he will celebrate as Puerto Rico's champion.


mbreen@phillynews.com

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