For months, boxing fans were desperate to see Danny Garcia fight Lucas Matthysse in what projected to be a violent slugfest.
But when Garcia and Matthysse finally signed their contracts last week, agreeing to meet on Sept. 14 in Las Vegas on the Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez undercard, there was a shocking shift in public sentiment.
Boxing fans took to social media to upbraid Garcia, to label him a coward, and accuse him of trying to duck Matthysse.
This came, of course, despite zero evidence to support it. As Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer worked over the last few weeks to make the fight, there was radio silence from both camps, and some seemed to interpret the silence as fear from Garcia.
Nobody was talking, not Garcia nor Matthysse, and Schaefer only gave periodic updates that contained precious few hints of what was going on behind the scenes.
None of it made sense. And when you think of it, why would you so desperately want to see a guy in a fight if you believed he was a coward?
It's distasteful, but it's the way the world works today.
Garcia insists he ignores it, and says that it was he, not Matthysse, who agreed to the fight first.
"As soon as my last fight was over, they asked me if I wanted to fight this guy, this guy or that guy," Garcia said. "I told them right away, I wanted to fight [Matthysse]. That's what I said, and I agreed to it before he agreed to it. It took a couple of weeks for the fight to get made. A fight that big, it's not made overnight. They told me not to say anything until it was done, so I couldn't talk."
Garcia took a deep breath and exhaled. He insisted he doesn't care what people say, but he's a far more accomplished fighter than Matthysse and yet he's the one taking dings to his reputation.
"You know, people are going to say what they want to say, whether they know what they're talking about or not," Garcia said. "I can't do nothing about that, so I don't worry about it. It's just stupid talk that I ignore."
Schaefer, who is traveling on business in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, said via email he couldn't remember which of the two agreed first.
But Schaefer insisted there was never a hang-up from the fighters and that both fighters were on board with the bout from the time it was first presented.
"I really don't know who accepted first, [but] the fact is that both fighters NEVER had ANY issue with fighting each other," Schaefer said via email. "As I had stated during the conference call both guys wanted each other! The only reason why it did take a while to get the fight announced was to find ways to come up with the money to put this great matchup on Sept. 14. We had asked both fighters to stay quiet during that time, which I think was difficult for them because both were (and still are) SUPER EXCITED to fight each other!"
Even Mayweather, whose Mayweather Promotions is co-promoting the card, noted there were no hang-ups.
"They're both Al [Haymon-managed] fighters and they're both with Golden Boy, and we work closely with Golden Boy," Mayweather said. "It wasn't hard to put that together."
Garcia is 26-0 with 16 knockouts, but is perhaps best known because of his father, Angel. Angel Garcia trains his son, and is one of the wildest trash talkers in all of sports.
Angel Garcia is the polar opposite of his son, who is quiet, accommodating and polite. Angel Garcia is loud, crass and obnoxious and some of the venom that should be directed toward him appears to have been unfairly misdirected at his son.
Garcia is coming off an impressive unanimous decision over Zab Judah on April 27 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a fight in which Garcia had Judah on the deck in the eighth.
Matthysse also knocked Judah down, but Judah got up and held on to win a split decision in their 2010 fight. It is one of only two losses for Matthysse, who lost a split decision to Devon Alexander in 2011.
Matthysse has a massive edge in power, but Garcia is by no means a powder-puff puncher. And his edge, Garcia believes, is his ability to adjust and fight more than one way.
"People are hyping him up like crazy, but he's never won a world title," Garcia said of Matthysse, whose only world title belts are of the interim variety. "When he actually fought someone who would hit him back, he lost those fights. Everybody he beat, he was supposed to beat, but as soon as they put him in there with someone who hits back, he loses.
"I just feel like, hey, he's a strong fighter and he hits hard, but I think he has to be more than just that to be a world champion. I know what he's going to do. He's going to come aggressively and try to swing hard punches and try to get me out of there, but it's not going to work. I can adjust. I'm adaptable. I can bang when I want to and box when I want to. He does hit hard, but I'm a lot smarter in there and more balanced."
All that will be proven in the ring at the MGM Grand Garden on Sept. 14, which is the way it's supposed to work.
The reaction to the making of the fight, though, has been bizarre and significantly unfair to Garcia. There is no evidence of Garcia ever having ducked a fighter before, and he's quickly developed into one of boxing's bright young fighters.
Anonymity makes everyone a tough guy, and the blowhards who have attacked Garcia impugned his character even though he is putting his title up against the man everyone wanted him to face.
It takes tremendous courage and determination for anyone to slip through those ropes and compete in a prize fight. Those who fight at the highest level are a rare breed.
The last thing they are is a coward.
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