Danny Garcia left the ring on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn with a convincing victory and a lot of confidence.
A vintage version of the former two-division titleholder schooled Jose Benavidez to win a majority decision in his 154-pound debut and first fight since he was outpointed by welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. 19 months ago.
Judge Waleska Roldan turned in an absurd 114-114 card but the other two judges got it right, 117-111 and 116-112 for Garcia.
The Philadelphian, who spent his time off learning to cope with anxiety and depression, proved to himself that he’s still the Danny Garcia fans have known for a decade-plus.
“I felt good,” he said at the post-fight news conference. “A lot of people questioned me because I was off a year and half. They thought I wasn’t coming back. The loss with Spence, it was a dull performance. But I know it was because I wasn’t there mentally. And I know if I’m there mentally and physically, I know no one can beat me because I proved that before many times.
“… [The] Danny Garcia who believes in himself 100%, no one can beat him no matter who doubts him. I know I’m that the guy. I had to go through all that mental self to find myself and reenergize myself, and now I’m back”
Garcia (37-3, 21 KOs) admitted that he doubted himself even during the walk from his dressing room to the ring.
Then the opening bell rang and he quickly settled into a groove, dominating Benavidez (27-2-1, 18 KOs) with his elite skill set and activity. According to CompuBox, he outlanded his foe in every round and 233-117 overall.
“I was a little nervous, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I had days where I felt, ‘Yo, I’ve been out of the ring a little bit. Am I still going to be the same?” I know the way I was sparring, the way I was working out in the gym that I was physically ready. I just had to be mentally ready.
“It felt great just walking out of that tunnel, seeing my pics on the wall at Barclays center and all my fans cheering for me. So it was definitely motivating.”
Garcia reiterated at the post-fight news conference what he said immediately after the fight, that he would like to face Keith Thurman or Erislandy Lara.
Thurman handed Garcia his first loss, a split decision in 2017. He presumably would have to move up from 147 pounds for the fight now that Garcia has transitioned to 154. Still, Thurman’s message to Garcia was, “Be careful what you wish for.”
“Danny Garcia can never pass the Keith Thurman test,” he said. “I beat that boy with bone spurs. You see, I wasn’t even at my best. Look, man, my IQ is even higher, his feet are slow like a flat tire. Be careful what you wish for you silly Philly boy.
“This is not a game, it’s not Street Fighter, but I will still hit you with that yoga fire.”
Lara owns the WBA’s secondary middleweight title, which Boxing Junkie doesn’t recognize. However, it’s attractive to Garcia, who seemed to dismiss Tony Harrison even though Harrison called him out.
“Like I said I’ll fight anybody,” he said. “It just gotta make sense for me. I’m not saying [Harrison] is not a big name. He was a champion, he’s proven himself. Like I said, I want to fight Keith Thurman again. Even Lara, who has a WBA belt. We can fight at a catch weight.
“Those are the fights that interest me.”
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