Danny Garcia details goals for junior middleweight ahead of first fight in nearly two years in new division

Danny Garcia details goals for junior middleweight ahead of first fight in nearly two years in new division

If it seems like former two-division champion Danny Garcia has been a bit outside of the limelight which typically follows one of boxing’s biggest stars in recent years, it has been by design.

Garcia, 34, hasn’t fought in the 20 months since his competitive decision loss to unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. in 2020. And the “lost weekend” of sorts that followed after Spence joined Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter as the only fighters to defeat Garcia (36-3, 21 KOs) throughout a 15-year pro career might be exactly what the product of Philadelphia needed in order to rekindle his flame.

“I was just spending time with my family and taking care of the regular things in life,” Garcia told “Morning Kombat” in recent weeks. “[I was] being a family man, traveling, having fun and giving myself time to miss the sport. Like I have said before, the boxing game is all mental and if you don’t feel mentally good, you are not going to perform well. I feel good again and that’s why I am back.”

In this case, Garcia isn’t just back to collect another paycheck. On Saturday, in the main event of a Showtime tripleheader (9 pm ET) from his “home away from home” of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Garcia will make his debut at 154 pounds when he faces former welterweight title challenger Jose Benavidez Jr. (27-1-1, 18 KOs).

The turning point for Garcia in triggering a need to get back to work and continue his already successful and financially rewarding career ultimately came from the time he put in watching and training with some of the fighters who make up the future of the Premier Boxing Champions banner , which Garcia helped launch in 2015 when he fought a pair of high-profile bouts against Lamont Peterson and Paulie Malignaggi in the sport’s return to primetime national television.

“I was watching it, missing it and training with young fighters like ‘Cool Boy’ Steph [Fulton Jr.]working out in my gym and seeing how passionate he was,” Garcia said.”[And] seeing ‘Primetime’ Christopher Colbert and training with him in Miami. The young guys definitely motivated me and made me miss it. Seeing how hungry they are made me hungry.”

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Although the 30-year-old Benavidez, the older brother of super middleweight star David Benavidez, enters with a much larger amount of unanswered questions in his own right after moving up from 147 pounds, where he once lost a WBO title shot via 12th- round TKO to Terence Crawford in 2018, a win for Garcia would send him right back to a position he has long been since first making a name for himself as a pro: chasing the biggest names available.

“We stepped into this game to fight the best,” Garcia said. “That’s what all the boxing Hall of Famers did. I have to get past Benavidez first and then we can speak on future opponents. My main focus is on winning and going on to bigger and better things.”

Those “future opponents” could be anyone from undisputed 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo, who is likely to face unbeaten challenger Tim Tszyu in January, to top contenders like Sebastian Fundora and former titleholders Brian Castano, Tony Harrison and Jarrett Hurd, just to name a few.

Even though Garcia was unwilling to identify which current top dog at junior middleweight he might covet most, he did show interest in rematching another huge name in Thurman, who edged Garcia by split decision in their 2017 thriller in Garcia’s sixth of eight total headlining bouts at the Barclays Center since he helped open the building in 2012 by knocking out Mexican legend Erik Morales in their rematch.

“The only fight that makes sense for [Thurman] is me,” Garcia said. “If you think about it, we have a big history and it was a close fight. A lot of people thought I won and a lot of people thought he won. There was a big controversy. In my opinion, him and me would be a big fight.”

A Garcia-Thurman rematch would come at 154 pounds, where Thurman has threatened a move up to a few times in recent years. The 33-year-old Thurman capped a nearly three-year layoff of his own in February when he outpointed Mario Barrios in their pay-per-view fight at welterweight.

Garcia may not have won the disputed Thurman fight five years ago, but he did rally late with big power shots to force Thurman to constantly circle away. Thurman’s critics have looked at the bout as a bit of a turning point his career. After years of being known as a power-punching finisher, armed with the nickname “One Time,” Thurman has become much more of a boxer in recent years, which Garcia agrees.

“I hear a lot of people say, ‘Yo Danny, no fighters are ever the same after they fight you, including Keith Thurman,'” Garcia said. “It does take a lot of physical and mental damage when you fight me because you have to kind of mentally psyche yourself out because I’m so mentally strong.”

Any talk of Garcia fighting Thurman, Charlo or anyone else with a big name at junior middleweight won’t happen unless he first takes care of Benavidez, who has fought just once since the Crawford fight in 2018 and looked rusty in a majority draw against Francisco Torres last fall that saw most experts believe Benavidez received unnecessarily favorable scorecards from the judges.

Garcia has moved up in weight successfully before, leaping to welterweight in 2015. HIs punching power appeared to increase after not being forced to make such a tough weight cut. Garcia believes the same thing can happen again although he believes it’s his technique and boxing ability that will ultimately carry him at the new weight.

“I definitely want to use my jab more. I feel like I have a great jab and I put it away,” Garcai said. “I’m going up in weight so I want to build more muscle and be physically stronger. I want to put everything I have learned in my career and put on the table that night, using all of my tricks.

“I feel like I will be a lot stronger and that I will have more stamina. I’m able to work on things and push myself without feeling that I’m burning myself out. I feel good already and we are just putting in the working and getting better everyday.”

Above all else, Garcia is hoping to at least show against Benavidez on Saturday that his passion for the game is still there. He has heard the critiques of those who question his fighting heart after making so much money and investing it smartly through a series of business ventures.

“[I’m back because] of the passion, it’s the passion,” Garcia said. “I realized that I’m a fighter. Just like Warren Buffet, at 90 years old, still doing stocks and he loves it. I’m a fighter. And as a fighter, you are supposed to invest [your money]. I don’t think that takes my hunger away.

“I’m going to go in there and do what I do best, which is get off first and have fun. Once I let my hands go, no one can beat me.”

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