Better Angels, Or Where Danny Garcia Goes From Here

Danny Garcia has been a fighter without a personality. His father and manager, Angel Garcia, has always done the talking. Where do they go from here?
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Fans love to listen to a big mouth, and love even more when he’s shut up. The Loud Annoying Bastard of the moment is Angel Garcia, and when his son Danny was matadored for 12 rounds by Keith Thurman in a welterweight title fight a week ago Saturday, some people got their wish.

Danny doesn’t talk much, which hasn’t mattered because Angel has played Danny’s mouthpiece for a while now, and has leaned happily into the role, and become a hype man whose mouth hole was calibrated for the correct amount of spewage. Recently, though, something went awry with the calculations, and Angel’s yammering turned racist at the pre fight press conference for the Keith Thurman fight. People would have hated him anyway—that was always at least partially the point—but also Angel gave everyone a good reason, dropping the n-word on Thurman with fire-hose control. There is no context in which this is a good, or even okay, choice. This wasn’t even close.

But, presuming that Angel knows what he’s doing: does it work? Do the theatrics do anything? Looking at the position his son is in now, after his first loss and reeling from his first real appearance of vulnerability, it’s a fair question to ask. Muhammad Ali famously called Joe Frazier a gorilla and an Uncle Tom, which was cruel and appalling enough on its own, but it only stoked Smokin Joe’s legendary ruthlessness and resolve.

This feels like that, but Angel isn’t going to stay quiet for very long. That’s not who he is. But it’s fair to ask if all the bullshit, strategic or not, got in the way of substance. Danny once looked dangerous, and his style of power counterpunching worked scarily well against lighter guys who threw a lot more. Thurman didn’t attack all that much, picking his spots and minimizing opportunities for Danny, who in turn wasn’t prepared to make a meaningful adjustment. He was beaten, fair and square.

It’s too bad, and not just because Garcia’s has made in fight adjustments before. When he did, his dad helped get him there.

Matthysse vs Garcia

You could see it as it happened. Lucas Matthysse’s supreme confidence built on 32 KO’s in 34 tries, had vanished. Danny Garcia had taken it from him. Before this, the guy used to walk through people. For God’s sake, he tattooed himself when he wasn’t in the ring destroying Lamont Peterson over three rounds in front of a gape-jawed crowd that included, yes, Danny Garcia.

This was supposed to be Matthysse’s stepping stone to a big money fight. All he had to do was beat Danny, a fighter who had good power, but hadn’t shown more than a good boxing IQ. Ahead of the fight, Danny had mumbled something about doing his thing and not letting the other guy do his. The interesting stuff always came from Angel, who insisted his boy would box Matthysse into oblivion. The ridiculous thing is that Danny almost did.

It looked like a bad matchup because Garcia had always been willing to trade. He did that with Amir Khan, and because his chin was better it worked. No one thought he could do that against Matthysse, and apparently he didn’t either. So Garcia moved. He spun off his front foot each time he used the left hook, a punch he timed so well it surprised, then befuddled, and ultimately discouraged the Argentine. More than that, though, he was disciplined. When it came to close quarters, where Garcia wouldn’t have an advantage in power or chin, he got nasty with low blows when good counters weren’t available. All of which is to say that he outboxed his opponent the whole fight, then knocked him down in the 11th round, which no one had ever done. This was when Matthysse looked like the Terminator and everyone else looked like Sarah Connor with a crowbar.

And all along Angel was right there, screaming at his progeny to make him proud. The hype man was doing his thing. He even slapped Danny at one critical point, a seemingly stupid thing that’s hard to disparage when fighter and trainer are related. More than that, it looked like it sent a surge of the bloodlust through Danny and made him believe he was the better fighter. Angel had gotten in his boy’s head, and what he created was a fighter with elite mental toughness.

Actually it's not weird.

What Happened After

Danny remained tough, physically and mentally. He showed it against Mauricio Herrera in an entertaining slobberknocker of a fight that was, on balance, a letdown. He won a majority decision that many observers thought he lost. He didn’t use a lot more than a ton of confidence, his chin and power. But everyone has off nights, so maybe Danny didn’t box because he wasn’t quite in shape; that or he overlooked the dangerous Herrera.

Nope. He blew out Rod Salka in wo rounds in a horrendous mismatch, and then looked lousy again against Lamont Peterson. In that fight Garcia went back to boxing, but there were none of the same cerebral exchanges he had against Matthysse. Garcia tried to reuse the strategy that worked against the Argentine and didn’t reset his approach for someone who was less aggressive. Danny certainly had the skill set to fully and completely beat Peterson. Instead, he fought on guts and mental toughness, and then tried to stick and move to preserve what he and his corner thought was a lead.

It worked, and clearly balls and mental toughness were enough. For a while, anyway.

Thurman

Keith Thurman beat Danny with a better game plan, intimidating enough power, and a mind for low risk exchanges. In unifying the WBA and WBC welterweight titles he set himself up for some real money, while Danny has to go back to the drawing board and prove he’s a real 147-pound contender.

Already Angel’s murmuring about a rematch. It wasn’t an exciting enough fight to make that an obvious next step, but SHOWTIME did report it hit 5.1 million views, the most for a primetime fight on free TV since 1998. There’s something to build on here, and Danny’s talent is undeniable beyond those figures.

But either way, Danny has to go back to the drawing board. He’s a good puncher, but he doesn’t quite hit hard enough to be a one-punch threat anymore. He also doesn’t throw with enough volume to wear people down. He’s plenty talented, and easily talented enough to win these championships back; his dad isn’t bad in the corner, either. The problem is that Danny Garcia is still not improving like he could, and the fight against Thurman exposed that. If Angel sees it, this could be a pivotal moment for the rest of Garcia’s career. If he doesn’t, we’ll hear about it.


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