Danny Garcia-Lamont Peterson: different weights, different fight
The debut of “Premier Boxing Champions” on NBC received mixed reviews for both the spectacular setting and quality of the bouts but few doubt the newly-minted boxing program has put the sport back in the spotlight with its national television distribution. On April 11, the new series will open a new chapter with one of the most potentially intriguing match-ups in boxing, when RING junior welterweight champion Danny “Swift” Garcia and IBF 140-pound titlist Lamont Peterson take center stage at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in a 143-pound catchweight, non-title fight.
“It’s a fight that fans wanted”, said Garcia (29-0, 17 knockouts), “and if you look in my career, I never turned an opponent down. The fans wanted it; the media wanted it and it’s a great fight. I don’t see it as redemption. I’ve faced a lot of great fighters in my career. Every fighter I fought in my career was for a reason. The media has been tough but this is boxing but on April 11th, they going to see Danny Garcia at his best.”
Garcia’s statement, however, has a distinctively defensive ring to it because it comes after participating in a made-to-order non-title affair against Rod Salka on the very same Barclays stage last August. The difference is, neither the media nor the fans (or no one other than his adviser Al Haymon and the reluctant Showtime brass) wanted the Salka fight. But now both fighters believe the story will be different.
“It’s no redemption for me either. What’s in the past is in the past,” says Peterson (33-2-1, 17 KOs), in regard to his near-career-derailing stoppage loss to Lucas Matthysse in 2013. “After a setback like the Matthysse fight, you learn from it. But I feel like right now, everything is put together, it’s the perfect time and I am more confident. Everything is right in line.”
Stylistically, they are getting ready to experience things that neither of them has faced in a ring before. Garcia’s mobility promises to give Peterson a few problems and the latter’s punch rate could put Garcia’s defense on the spot at any given moment. But both fighters seem confident about their ability to adapt to whatever the fight brings.
“I am cool with it,” said Peterson, in analyzing Garcia’s style. “At the end of the day, you have two top young fighters willing to fight each other. It’s a good match-up and we know what this fight means. I am happy to be in the ring fighting Danny Garcia.”
Garcia also feels he’ll be more prepared than his opponent if the situation asks for a quick change in style or rhythm.
“Every fight is a different fight,” said Garcia. “Sometimes I go out and chase guys out there; sometimes I have to make adjustments but I prepared myself in the gym for the worse. If I have to bang it out for 12 rounds, then we’ll bang it out. But if I got to chase [Peterson] down, I got to chase him down. I got to make adjustments like a true champion does. I know that when Danny Garcia is at 100 percent, nobody can beat him.”
Garcia feels the clash of styles will ultimately play out in his favor too.
“Stylistically, this is going to be a great fight and it’s going to be great for my legacy, so I have to go out there and handle my business,” said Garcia.
As much as they are concerned about what the other can bring in terms of style, neither appears to give much thought about the weight situation, something discussed extensively by fans and press during the making of this fight.
“Different weights, different fight,” said Peterson, when asked whether the higher weight would allow him to perform differently than what he did against Matthysse. “Different situations through boxing history show you that it makes no difference. As a boxer, you get hit good, you get hurt, and you get knocked out, it’s part of the game. I am just focused on Danny Garcia now.”
For Garcia, it was all a matter of timing, personal comfort and little else.
“In order for the fight to be done in this time period we had, that’s the weight we have to fight at,” said Garcia. “I’ve been [fighting] at 140 since I was an amateur in 2006 and I put a lot of strain on my body making this weight. It was best for me to fight at this weight. I am not saying that I can’t make 140 again but with the time off since August, I want to give my best to the fans and for the fight to be made, this is the weight it had to be at.”
Although neither man is ready to admit it (and even in their strict observance of the boxing mantra preventing fighters from discussing anything beyond the date of their next bout), it has been mentioned that the contracted weight of this bout may be a signal to both Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao that two of the best junior welters in the world are closing in on them and they’re ready to face the winner of the May 2 mega-bout. However, both fighters obviously deny this dream match-up is a concern for them at this time.
“I am not worried about fighting Floyd. I am not holding my breath about it, never think about it,” said Peterson, with Garcia agreeing although with a more hopeful outlook, “Maybe in the future, I’d like to fight Floyd Mayweather. It’s always a dream to fight Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. For right now, I am focused on April 11th.”
As it turns out, they’re not the only ones focused on that date. Thanks to the national TV exposure of the fight, many casual fans will also be tuning in to see whether they can take boxing back to the heights of its most popular era.
“Network TV is how boxing was exposed to the big audiences,” said Lou DiBella, president of DiBella Entertainment and local promoter for the event. “Network TV prime time is how I grew up in boxing. That’s how I got exposed to [Muhammad] Ali when I was a child, as well as [Marvelous Marvin] Hagler, [Sugar Ray] Leonard, [Roberto] Duran, [Mike] Tyson. These guys all had the benefit of the exposure on Network TV, and the ‘PBC on NBC’ will continue the momentum that boxing has going for it.”
Garcia and Peterson certainly hope to have some of that mojo working for them, indeed.
“The whole set-up, the whole production, the backdrop, the way both fighters walked out. It was just great for boxing,” said Garcia about the debut card of the series, headlined by Keith Thurman-Robert Guerrero earlier this month. “I get to showcase my skills on NBC to millions of fans who are going to be watching for the first time. I just got to go out there and make new fans. I’ve been on some cards where the intensity, the atmosphere, it can break your world. Everything I did in my career, every fighter I faced, it has been leading me up to this, getting me the experience and built me up for this moment.”
“I am happy for every fighter who fights here”, agreed Peterson. “Too many times people say boxing is dead and I truly believe it’s not dead. It was just put on the backburner. Right now, boxing is going to get much more attention and I am happy for anyone who has a chance to participate in this.”
Diego Morilla, a bilingual boxing writer since 1995, is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He served as boxing writer for ESPN Deportes.com and ESPN.com, and is now a regular contributor to RingTV.com and HBO.com, as well as the resident boxing writer for XNSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MorillaBoxing.