When I Was Puerto Rican: Danny Garcia Squeaks By Mauricio Herrera

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Puerto Rico is, technically, part of the Bermuda Triangle, and Danny “Swift” Garcia nearly found himself trapped in an electric fog when he struggled to a majority 12-round decision over Mauricio Herrera at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, on Saturday night.

Entering the bout with Garcia, the 33-year-old Herrera was considered a longshot to score an upset. A light-hitting journeyman with only 23 professional starts, Herrera was last seen toiling in an 8-round prelim bout six months ago. To make matters worse, Herrera had no ties to Golden Boy Promotions or to Showtime, the network that aired the bout. In boxing, the haves and the have-nots are clearly defined by their affiliations, and judges are well aware of these connections, as well as the marketing storylines going into a fight. In this case, Garcia was billed as the “Last Boricua Standing,” the only Puerto Rican—albeit one born in Philadelphia—world champion left in boxing. Garcia, who speaks Spanish worse than ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg does, may not have impressed the locals with his skills either.

Befuddled by Herrera from the opening bell, Garcia spent several rounds trying to solve the puzzle in front of him. It was a style designed to frustrate Garcia, and for long stretches of time, it did. Herrera, whose record dropped to 20-4, with seven knockouts, was harder to figure out than an Extreme Soduku. He jabbed to the body repeatedly, alternated between leading and countering, and, most important, nullified Garcia’s potent hook by moving almost exclusively to the left. His biggest flaw against Garcia, however, was his inability to score with combinations consistently. Herrera, from Riverside, California, did not double-up his left hook, and he lacked the coordination to snap off a series of shots. He landed dozens of isolated blows, but, in contrast, when Garcia opened fire, it was in multi-punch sequences. This likely swayed the judges at ringside, who may have been looking to give Garcia the benefit of the doubt as often as possible.

In the late rounds, Garcia, now 28-0, with 16 knockouts, became more aggressive and threw quick flurries that drew cheers from the crowd despite the negligible effect they seemed to have on Herrera. An arcing right in the ninth, on the other hand, drove “Swift” to the ropes and bloodied his nose. But Garcia, showing fighting spirit, returned fire immediately and initiated many of the exchanges for the remainder of the fight. At the end of twelve herky-jerky rounds, Garcia was rewarded with the decision by scores of 116-112, 114-114, and 116-112.

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The afición in Puerto Rico usually roar feverishly for native-born warriors with crippling power—think of Wilfredo Gomez and Felix Trinidad—and Garcia seems to lack the kind of edge that will make him an idol from Fajardo to Mayaguez. Fighters like Gomez and Trinidad made sure to punch exclamation points in fights against second-tier opposition. Judging by his performance on Saturday night, Garcia, who was lucky to leave Bayamon with his titles, has more than just being a mainland PhilaRican going against him.

Carlos Acevedo is the editor of The Cruelest Sport and a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Maxboxing, Boxing World Magazine, and Esquina Boxeo.