Back from a sanity hiatus, Danny Garcia returns to his ‘old self’ and hungers for another world title

More than a third of Danny Garcia’s 39 professional fights have been against men who at some point in their careers have won a world championship (in one case, an interim world title). He went 12-3 in those fights with four knockouts, proof that he was a guy who was underappreciated in his prime.

Garcia never had the truly huge fight against Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, but his resume is a track record of the best 140- and 147-pounders of the past decade.

He was one of the “Big Four” welterweights of boxing’s first champion along with Errol Spence Jr., Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman. He lost those three fights, the only losses in an otherwise stellar career, although the fights with Thurman and Porter were both awfully close and very entertaining.

Garcia hasn’t fought since the only one-sided loss of his career when he dropped a unanimous decision to Spence in Arlington, Texas on Dec. 5, 2020.

“I just needed a little time off,” Garcia told Yahoo Sports. “Mentally, I was a bit exhausted. I was quite exhausted mentally and it didn’t make sense to fight in that state of mind. But I got my hunger back. It was a tough year for me with the pandemic and everything, so I needed a break, but I feel like I’m back to myself now.

He moved up to 154 pounds and will face Jose Benavidez Jr. Saturday at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Showtime.

It’s a curious move on paper, as he admittedly walked in at 154 pounds and the division’s fighters are significantly bigger. Undisputed champion Jermell Charlo is 6 feet, four inches taller and has a five inch reach advantage. He is going to give up height and reach most opponents at 154 and on fight night he will probably weigh less in the ring than the majority of them.

It’s the kind of mountain he has to climb to get where he wants to be, to get back to championship level.

But he insists he’s not back just for a payday or two, but to win a world title. The first step is to get past Benavidez, and he said he felt much stronger heading into Saturday’s fight than he did at similar times before his last three fights.

“I’m eating the right things, I’m doing more with the weights, and I feel like I have more stamina and can handle the weight better,” he said. “I think it’s a more natural weight for me and I have the strength to compete here.”

Two-division world champion Danny Garcia has said he is ready for the challenge the super-welterweight division will bring. (Photos by Amanda Westcott/Showtime)

Garcia was probably at his best as a pro in 2012 and 2013 when he fought primarily at super lightweight. In those two years he was 5-0 with two knockouts and twice beat Erik Morales, Amir Khan, Zab Judah and Lucas Matthysse.

Garcia was a good fighter for most of the next decade, but wasn’t the dominant fighter with the sharp punches he was in those five fights. So it’s a huge challenge a decade later to regain that greatness in the biggest weight class of his life.

One of the things that throughout his career has separated him from the pack is his willingness to fight against the best. It takes a special attitude to step into the ring with the elite of the elite, and Garcia always had it. That’s what he plans to bring to fights now that he’s a super welterweight.

“You have to know in your heart that you have the skills and you put in the work,” Garcia said. “If you’re going to fight these guys, you can’t have any doubts and you eliminate the doubts by the work you do in the gym.

“I pushed very hard in this camp. The free time helped me because I missed the gym, I missed everything. Now I’m back where I call home and I’m motivated to show everyone what I’ve done.

Benavidez is 27-1-1 and will only be making his second fight above welterweight when he meets Garcia on Saturday. He doesn’t quite have Garcia’s resume, but Garcia won’t be fooled.

Benavidez gave Terence Crawford problems early in their fight before Crawford stopped him and Garcia expects an elite, hungry opponent.

“He’s a very skilled guy and he comes to fight,” Garcia said. “I feel like I have more experience and I’ve fought at a higher level and longer but I respect him and I trained so hard for that reason. He’s going to push me but I’m confident in the work that I’ve done that I’m going to put on a good show.

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