Danny Garcia needed a reset, both in terms of time off and weight.
The former two-division titleholder hasn’t fought since he lost a unanimous decision to 147-pound champ Errol Spence Jr. in December 2020, the most one-sided loss of his career. That’s a 19-month break from the sport, the longest of his career.
He’s scheduled to return against Jose Benavidez Jr. at 154 pounds on July 30 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, about a two-hour drive from his native Philadelphia.
“The time off was very important,” said Garcia, 34. “After you’ve been fighting for a long time – I’ve been fighting world champions for the last 10 years – I realized that my body felt great, but my mind felt foggy. It felt tired. It didn’t feel sharp. I knew that I needed my mind to rest, have some fun, and spend some time with my family.
“I needed time to enjoy everything that I worked so hard for, start to miss the game of boxing and then come back strong. I think that’s what I’ve done.”
Danny Garcia (left) had his worst night as a pro against Errol Spence Jr. in December 2020. Ronald Martinez / Getty Images
Garcia (36-3, 21 KOs) will be fighting at 154 pounds for the first time, two divisions higher than the weight at which he was most successful, 140.
“Swift” won a vacant title at 147 when he outpointed Robert Guerrero in January 2016 but he also suffered all three of his losses in that division, although setbacks against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter were close fights that could’ve gone either way.
Some wonder whether he’s naturally too small to beat a natural 154-pounder. Benavidez (27-1-1, 18 KOs) is the underdog against Garcia but he fought as a middleweight in his last fight, a draw with Francisco Torres.
Garcia says he’s comfortable as a junior middleweight.
“I always knew that 154 was my walkaround weight,” he said. “A lot of people think I’m naturally small because I used to fight at 140 and 147. But I was squeezing myself down to get to those weights. Now I’m a little bit older, a little bit wiser.
“I don’t think that’s the right thing for me to do to lose all that weight.”
Garcia expects a stiff challenge from Benavidez, who he called a “tough fighter,” but he’s confident things will go well.
A victory would be a step toward his immediate goal, to fight for a world title in a third division. And it would put a disappointing 2020 – capped by the Spence setback – farther behind him.
“2020 was a good and bad year for me,” said Garcia, who outpointed Ivan Redkach in January of that year. “I fought twice and made a lot of money, but at the same time, there was the pandemic. It was a tough year for me outside of the ring. It was stressful for everybody.
“I just needed a break. I was tired. I trained hard at the beginning of the year and then we went through the pandemic. I had to wake myself up to train hard again for one of the biggest fights of my career. It just took a mental toll on me. I was mentally tired.
“I banged it out with Spence. He got the decision, but I was still able to go in there and scrap for 12 rounds. I knew if I just took a break and came back, nobody could touch me.”