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Why Danny Garcia isn't worried about a letdown

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports
Boxing: Danny Garcia vs Lucas Matthysse
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Danny Garcia never saw himself as an underdog against Lucas Matthysse or Amir Khan. (USA Today)

Danny Garcia has twice been on the B-side of a major fight on national television, in bouts he was expected to lose.

And each time, Garcia came out on top, stopping Amir Khan and clearly scoring a decision over Lucas Matthysse.

On Saturday, Garcia will not only be the A-side in the main event of a Showtime-televised card at the Barclays Center in New York, but he's a massive favorite to defeat Rod Salka in their non-title fight.

That could spell trouble.

Garcia is the best super lightweight in the world, and he got to the position honestly. He beat the best guys and earned his spot.

He had a lackluster effort in a bout in Puerto Rico in March, one many thought he deserved to lose to Mauricio Herrera.

Somehow, though, Garcia found a way to win in a bout.

And now he has to find the motivation to be up for Salka, who has been pilloried by fans and media alike, in a bout in which there is little upside for him.

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Rod Salka is motivated to fight Danny Garcia, title or no title.

Rod Salka is motivated to fight Danny Garcia, title or no title.

At the Bovada online sports book, Garcia is a minus-5000 favorite. That means a bettor who wants to make a profit of $100 would need to wager $5,000. By way of comparison, Floyd Mayweather Jr., the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, is just a minus-750 over Marcos Maidana in their Sept. 13 rematch in Las Vegas.

So pretty much everyone expects Garcia will beat Salka and then go on to bigger and better things.

Promoter Oscar De La Hoya did his best to spin things despite the massive odds against the B-side in all three televised fights. In the co-feature, Lamont Peterson is a minus-2500 favorite over Edgar Santana at Bovada. And in the Showtime opener, Daniel Jacobs is a mere minus-600 over Jarrod Fletcher.

Asked if Garcia would be an option for Mayweather's next fight, De La Hoya took the opportunity to sell Saturday's matches.

"Look, we're focusing on the job at hand," De La Hoya said. "Floyd Mayweather has Maidana in front of him in September. Danny Garcia has Salka in front of him [Saturday]. So it's really difficult now in these days to look ahead and plan for the future on all these fights, these mythical fights that everybody wants to watch, because we're experiencing something that hasn't been experienced in a long time in boxing.

"There are a lot of upsets in boxing today. There are a lot of these fights where people don't expect an opponent to win because of the champion, because of the stature of the champion. But we must pay attention to the fights at hand because you never know what's going to happen in boxing. … One punch can turn everything around and so it's hard to look ahead and make plans."

Though he was trying to sell tickets, De La Hoya is right.

Fights aren't won on paper; they're won in the ring. Garcia is living proof of that, because he's an undefeated world champion despite many questions on the way up.

He wasn't this or he wasn't that, the critics said. He would never be elite.

Garcia, though, didn't buy that line of thinking and went out and imposed his will and made himself a star.

He stands on the precipice of a massive payday if, indeed, he becomes Mayweather's next opponent. And so Garcia surely knows he can't afford to lollygag his way past Salka.

Boxing is very much a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and Garcia, despite a series of outstanding wins, is coming off a victory many think was a gift because of his stronger political ties to the promoter.

Garcia is a wise man despite his youth and he said something that was telling.

"When I was the underdog against Khan and against Matthysse, I couldn't understand it," he said. "How was I the underdog? But the media and people always want to choose the fighter with more fame and more publicity. That's what makes the underdog when you're fighting somebody who had probably a bigger name than you in the sport.

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Danny Garcia reacts after defeating Lucas Matthysse in September. (AP)

Danny Garcia reacts after defeating Lucas Matthysse in September. (AP)

"But I never had in my mind that I was the underdog. I just trained hard, rose to the occasion and won in spectacular form."

Salka is the underdog in this fight because Garcia is the far bigger name. A $100 bet on Salka will net a $1,400 profit.

The bout is a non-title match at a catch weight of 142, and many have interpreted that as a sign of disrespect toward Salka. In his last fight, Salka came in at just 132 ½ in a lightweight bout against Alexei Collado.

Salka's record, 19-3 with three knockouts, would suggest the odds are right. But Salka scoffs at the naysayers and those who question him. He would rather have fought Garcia for the belt, but a win over Garcia will make a loud statement, and he knows it.

"I'm fighting the best fighter at 140 pounds in the world," Salka said. "Titles are what they are, but would I rather fight some guy nobody ever heard of for a title or would I rather fight some guy everybody knows who he is for no title? Why wouldn't I want to fight Danny Garcia. He's the best we've got out there.

"It's the biggest fight you could possibly get at 140 pounds. I really don't care if I can put a belt on at the end of it or not. I can take my purse and go out and have a thousand of them made if I wanted, but what is that?"

It would be a shock if Salka wilted in the limelight. It's happened a number of times in the past, but more often, a challenger like Salka steps up his game and delivers a strong performance.

Now, the truth may be that he's simply not good enough on his best day to win if Garcia shows up anywhere near his best.

But not every fighter shows up at or near his best every time they go to the post.

If Garcia is going to win this, he's got to remember that he will be facing a guy who had the same kind of fuel and motivation as an underdog as he once did. Salka will most likely step up his game, and Garcia must be prepared for it.

Garcia has the experience as the B-side that should make him very wary of Salka. He needs to remember what fueled him when he was an underdog so that he doesn't win up a fat cat champion who ends up getting knocked off by someone he should have handled without much trouble.

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