LAS VEGAS – Little buzz surrounds Danny Garcia. His so-called grand arrival at Mandalay Bay on Tuesday was largely met with indifference. A deejay urged fans to "give it up for world champion Danny Garcia" and the 50 or so folks milling around the hotel lobby gave a lukewarm effort.
One woman standing near the makeshift stage where Garcia would sign autographs turned to her companion and asked, "Who is he? Is he that UFC guy?"
Garcia smiled and waved and did all the right things as he fulfilled his obligations before defending his World Boxing Council and newly reinstated World Boxing Association super lightweight title against Amir Khan on Saturday on HBO at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Garcia is an unbeaten world champion and seemingly in the prime of his career. But despite what he's done in the last 15 months – beating veterans Erik Morales, Kendall Holt and Nate Campbell – he still has much to prove.
As he prepares to meet Khan, the former World Boxing Association champion, Garcia must confront the skeptics who wonder whether he's here by virtue of shrewd matchmaking and careful handling or whether he's the latest in a long line of boxing stars from Philadelphia.
Beating Morales in 2002 was a major accomplishment; doing it against the shopworn 35-year-old version in 2012 was something much less.
The same can be said of Garcia's wins over Campbell, who was 39 at the time, and Holt. As is sadly too common in modern boxing, Garcia holds what is regarded as a major title belt without a win over an elite boxer in his prime.
Garcia, though, is hardly concerned about the skepticism. No one will be able to say he hasn't fought an elite boxer in his prime after he meets the 25-year-old Khan, and Garcia said he believes his performance will open eyes.
He's Philadelphia to the core and insists his life experience of largely living on the wrong side of the tracks has prepared him for this moment.
"A Philadelphia fighter is a tough fighter who fights to the death," the affable Garcia said. "It all starts in the gym. If you've ever been to a Philadelphia gym, we don't have sparring sessions. We have gym wars."
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Garcia's performance against Khan should prove if he can fight at the world-class level. He won the title by beating Morales in Houston in March, though Morales was long past his prime.
There were many who believed Morales should have been long retired, but he also was able to hit Garcia with some big shots. Garcia won the bout with a strong finish.
"Morales is a great fighter," Garcia said. "They may say he's past his prime, but he just beat a young guy before he fought me that was 23-0. He stopped him. Everybody thought [Marcos] Maidana was going to crush him, but you saw what happened in that fight. It was a close fight that could have gone either way.
"The question for this fight is this: People say Morales was old, but can Khan take the punches I was hitting Morales with? That's the question for this fight and that's what we'll find out."
In Khan, Garcia is meeting a guy who has been on the periphery of the pound-for-pound rankings for several years and has the reputation as one of the sport's next big stars.
A win over Khan (26-2, 18 KOs) can cement Garcia's place as one of the elite super lightweights in the world.
"This fight is going to make me a star," Garcia said. "It's the next level and I'm up for the challenge."
Garcia's father, Angel, who also doubles as his trainer, certainly believes that. Angel Garcia has begun a war of words with Khan, repeatedly insulting him.
Some of his comments have outraged Khan's fans, prompting Angel Garcia to encourage them to come find him.
"I don't hide," he said. "I walk the streets by myself."
His son promises not to hide in the ring. He's eager to stand in front of Khan and see who wilts first.
Khan was knocked out in 54 seconds by Breidis Prescott in 2008 when he was caught with a punch he didn't see. Those are always the shots that hurt a fighter the most, but Khan hasn't been able to shake the reputation of being chinny since that night, despite subsequently fighting hard hitters such as Maidana, Zab Judah and Marco Antonio Barrera.
Garcia trusts in the explosiveness of his fists. Perhaps it's the naiveté of youth, but he's willing to get into a slugfest and take his chances.
"When you put two young guys in there, we're going to go at it," Garcia said. "You know big punches are going to land because we're young and we're explosive. I don't think I have to outwork him because me, I have one-punch power. A lot of fighters, they have to put pressure on him and outwork him the whole 12 rounds because they can't hurt him.
"With me, I can sit back, put the pressure on him, then, sometimes counter, hit him with a hard shot and stop him in his tracks and hurt him."
If he does that, he'll silence the skeptics for good and prove that this Philadelphia fighter, as least, is the real thing.
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