By: Hans Themistode
Nobody expects him to win.
For former two-division world champion Danny Garcia, that has been a consistent theme throughout his career.
On December 5th, Garcia faces that same narrative once again as he takes on unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. Oddsmakers have tabbed the Philadelphia native as a 3-1 underdog. A familiar position once a big fight comes knocking at his door.
In July of 2012, the first Garcia underdog train came strolling by. The Philadelphia product was fresh off a unanimous decision victory against hall of famer Erik Morales and was defending his WBC super lightweight title for the first time. His opponent in Amir Khan was a megastar. He was an Olympic silver medalist, a former unified champion and despite coming off the heels of a loss, Khan was viewed as a 7-1 favorite.
Things played out just as expected as Garcia was being thoroughly out-boxed. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Garcia planted his feet and fire his left hook and down went Khan in the third round, and once again in the fourth, this time for good.
It was rinse and repeat for Garcia three fights and one year later as he took on Lucas Matthysse. Just as he did in the past, Garcia made someone a rich man as he dropped the hard hitting Argentine before winning a close unanimous decision and making oddsmakers look silly for listing him as a 3-1 dog.
Fast forward seven years later, and those who are dubious of his success continue to follow him. But as he continues to train for his showdown with Spence Jr., those who continue to shout to him that he has no chance, fail to realize that it doesn’t unnerve him, it places him in a more comfortable position.
“I been the underdog my whole career,” said Garcia to Ray Flores during a recent interview. “When I’m not the underdog I don’t feel right. I’m right where I want to be right now. I’m in my comfort zone.”
Garcia may have gotten his fair share of credit for the wins he’s accumulated in big fights, but he’s also received a perpetual amount of flak for the names that he’s fought before reaching that point. Although names such as Erik Morales and a 2013 win over former undisputed welterweight champion Zak Judah buffer his resume, those once great fighters were seemingly past their primes by the time Garcia got his hands on them.
Still, even with his wins somewhat diminished over two former champions who were identical in age at 36, the in-ring experience was far more valuable than any criticism he received for facing them.
“I been in there with some wizards,” explained Garcia. “Erik Morales was a wizard, Zab Judah too. They were in their late 30s but their experience was something you could learn off. You’re going to school that night. I definitely been in there with some legends and I learned a lot from those guys. Everything that I learned has been leading me to this fight.”
“This fight,” that Garcia alludes to is the crescendo in his 13 year boxing career. In Spence Jr., Garcia faces who many believe is not only the top dog in his division, but one of the very best in all of boxing. Big fights and intimidating opponents is nothing new to him though. Garcia has shown up in big spots several times over in his career and left the squared circle with his hand raised. He’s also come up short. Memories that still haunt him to this day.
In August of 2015, after unifying titles at 140 pounds and winning every meaningful bout placed in front of him, Garcia (36-2, 21 KOs) made the more comfortable trek north to 147 pounds. With a fresh face in the welterweight waters, Garcia was called out by seemingly everyone and it didn’t take long before he answered the call.
Roughly one year after winning another world title in his second weight class, Garcia came face to face with fellow champion Keith Thurman. An average of 3.74 million viewers and a peak number of 5.1 million, tuned in to witness Garcia’s first defeat, something he would later admit hung over his head for an incredibly long time.
With a Brandon Rios knockout win serving as the precursor for what would be yet another loss, this time at the hands of Shawn Porter in 2018, Garcia is currently riding the high associated with a two fight win streak, albeit against lesser opponents.
For the now 32-year-old, he’s always taken the “every fight is a big fight,” approach. All of the wins that he’s accumulated throughout his career have led to what he believes will be a hall of fame ending. Whether or not he does in fact end his career with a hall of fame enshrinement is both yet to be determined and inconsequential at this time. Garcia knows his contest with Spence Jr. isn’t simply another fight. This is the one. This his moment. A time where he won’t forget and one that will be looked upon for years to come.
For the former champion, everything is riding on this contest and he refuses to let history remember him as a fighter who fell short.
“This is it. This is the fight you got to win. This is for your legacy. This is a fight that I have to win. I’ve been working hard for one goal and that’s to win.”