Danny Garcia and the art of ‘getting by’
Some fighters look to impress while others look to protect. Danny Garcia seems to have fallen into the category of the latter. Once a hungry young lion who sought to impress with each outing, Garcia has downshifted a bit since his breakout victory against Lucas Matthysse and appears to be more concerned with not losing rather than winning impressively.
Garcia kept his unbeaten record intact with a unanimous, albeit narrow, decision against Robert Guerrero as the main event of Premier Boxing Champion’s Fox debut on Saturday night. When the scores were read, the Staples Center filled up with boos from fans who weren’t terribly impressed with Swift’s performance. And that was for good reason.
You see, Garcia was facing a Robert Guerrero that many people expected him to beat. A Robert Guerrero who was nearly knocked senseless by the relatively light-hitting Aron Martinez – who was retired on the stool by Sammy Vasquez earlier in the night. A Robert Guerrero who was beaten up by Keith Thurman, who happened to be calling the fight ringside. There were a lot of elements surrounding Garcia and he was expected to impress. He was expected to prove that he belongs in the same ring with Thurman and Shawn Porter, who had their March showdown announced. Amir Khan, whom Garcia stopped back when he looked to impress, was also ringside, probably licking his chops at the prospect of facing Garcia again. And Floyd Mayweather, if there was any chance of dragging him out of retirement, was likely unimpressed with what he saw. As a matter of fact, the man whose WBC welterweight title Garcia claimed went so far as to state that he thought Guerrero was winning the fight when he was interviewed in the late rounds.
It wasn’t that Garcia fought a bad fight. Rather, he allowed Guerrero to dictate the action early and win over the crowd. Garcia seemed reluctant to take chances as Guerrero pressed forward and forced the young, unbeaten fighter to dig himself out of a hole. By the mid to late rounds, Guerrero appeared weathered and plodded forward in a straight line, thus becoming a relatively stationary target for Garcia to beat on. However, Garcia played it safe and effectively countered. There were moments when Swift looked like he could put a hurting on Guerrero as his heavy hooks were easily finding a home. But he never took a risk, even though the scale of risk vs. reward was heavily tipping in his favor.
Nevertheless, he escaped with 116-112 scores from all three judges and improved to 32-0. While you can argue that Guerrero proved to be more formidable than expected, a closer inspection reveals a disturbing trend that is plaguing Garcia. He simply isn’t impressive anymore. He’s mastered the art of getting by. And getting by isn’t winning him any new fans.
Sure, that undefeated record looks pretty. But he’s become this strange protector of a goose egg rather than a fighter who is aware that the opening for boxing’s next superstar is ripe for the taking, if he so chooses to go after it. Since beating Matthysse, Garcia has either squeezed by his opponents or just beat up on guys who didn’t deserve to be in the same ring with him. Maybe this is the best we’ve seen of Danny Garcia and it’s more important to get by than to take a risk and lose. Or, maybe he’s suffering from a case of performing to the level of his competition. It’s like once he shed the perennial underdog label that followed him to the Matthysse fight, he’s become no longer interested in wowing anybody. It’s more of a “whew” than a “wow” these days.
That’s unfortunate because we know that Danny Garcia can fight. He has the style to make for an exciting fight if he chooses to do so. His counterpunching is effective enough to sucker a brawler into a war and find him seeing stars by the end of the exchange. He can be flat-footed at times, but that also makes for excitement where two guys are just ripping punches into each other. No, taking punishment isn’t necessarily what we want Garcia to do. But a little more excitement and risk taking may take him a long way.
Here’s the problem: Garcia isn’t going to have the luxury of winning close fights for much longer. If he ends up taking on the winner of Thurman-Porter, he’s either going to face a fighter who will look to knock his face off or an opponent who brings unrelenting pressure to the ring and could bury him on the scorecards. Amir Khan, who we’d like to think has formed a stronger chin at 147, has faster hands and was actually outboxing Garcia before the Philly fighter caught him asleep at the wheel and dropped him several years ago.
Sooner or later, Garcia is going to have to let that ‘0’ go and increase his value by putting on exciting fights. Being concerned with remaining undefeated will not win him any new fans. It’ll be quite the contrary, as his victory against Guerrero proved.
Danny Garcia is winning, but at what cost?