Brooklyn, NY- Moments after Danny Garcia got his hands raised Saturday night in the ring at Barclays Center, a successful debut at 154 with a decisive 12-round win over Jose Benavidez Jr. it was more than a victory statement.
It was 19- months since his majority 12-round decision loss to Errol Spence Jr. in Arlington Texas. Spence would win two more of the welterweight belts, the WBC title Garcia held.
Garcia passed his first test at a new weight. He also passed another hurdle in the ring after his win. Jim Gray of Showtime Championship Boxing began the post fight interview. Garcia got emotional and broke down.
“I did take a break going through mental things, things went dark,” Garca said. “I went through anxiety, deep depression, just trying to be strong. It was the pressure of life, being a good dad, just letting it out right now, because it was all stuck inside. It rained on me for a year and a half and the only way to do better was to fight again. I’m a fighter. If you battle anxiety and depression, you can get out of it, that’s what I did today. I fought.”
That was a fight for Garcia, perhaps more than the challenge of becoming a two-division champion at 140 and 147. There were title fights, close decisions, punches to the body and head, jabs and punches to opponents.
There have been championship belts around the shoulder, and then there was Saturday night, a dimension inside a boxing ring that Garcia loves at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a second home for him , a proud son of Philadelphia with Puerto Rican heritage.
It was a bold statement from another athlete, and coming after a question about his comeback fight. A question that suddenly brought more awareness to an issue of mental illness that is troublesome to millions of others around the globe, an increasing issue to so many in the United States. It was a courageous Danny Garcia and opened more doors for athletes like himself to say, you are not alone.
And he is not alone. I have and continue at times to deal with anxiety and depression. Mauro Ranallo, the Showtime Championship Boxing commentator at ringside, continues to fight the battle and a few years ago his life was documented on Showtime that increased awareness.
But Danny Garcia is an athlete, a championship fighter that was supposed to discuss a comeback and commanding win, seeking to become a three-time champion. Instead, the complexion changed.
It was boxing, but more importantly a public figure known for battles in the ring providing a first hand perspective, one that did not have to be done.
He mentioned his father, Angel, a controversial trainer but a Dad that never left his side. And that support system is so crucial when dealing with mental illness, whether be depression or anxiety that prevents you from continuing to move on.
“Angel was there with me the whole way,” said Garcia. “I’m nothing without this man. I thank him every day. People ask me all the time, why do I fight? I make a lot of money. Why does Warren Buffett still make money? I’m a fighter. This is what I do, what I love to do.”
And Garcia has always done it well, in the boxing ring he knows the craft. It was no different Saturday night, very little evidence of a long layoff or that ring rust which at times disrupts a fighter.
Garcia ran up a 233 to 117 edge in punches landed and owned a 31% connect rate compared to Benavidez’s 20%. After 12 rounds, Garcia had done enough to earn the decision by scores of 117-11, 116-112 and a surprising 114-114, that last score can’t be justified. Garica lost three rounds on my unofficial scorecard.
Benavidez and Garcia have had respect for each other over the years. Benavidez, also has had a share of troubles out of the ring, a former champion from Phoenix, Arizona, doctors said he would never walk again after being a victim of gun shots to his legs when taking a walk in his neighborhood.
The 147-pound division, very well known as dominant, has been Garcia’s home for a majority of fights with 14 world champions and he never backed away form Amir Khan, Lamont Peterson, Keith Thurman, or Shawn Porter.
He has been in the ring with Errol Spence Jr, who owns a majority of the alphabet and sanctioned title belts in the division, the WBO champion is Terence Crawford and to many the best pound-for-pound fighter at 147.
But now, and with this hurdle of anxiety and depression out of the closet, Danny Garcia is focused and ready to continue his quest, this time back at 147, 154, or another step at middleweight.
He called out Keith Thurman, even if it requires fighting at catch weight to avenge a controversial April 2017 split decision 12-round loss, then at the Barclays Center that cost Garcia his WBC and WBA wlterweight titles.
“I’d like the rematch with Keith Thurman, he took my ‘0,’” said Garcia. “I’ll also take [WBA Middleweight Champion] Erislandy Lara for the middleweight title at 154 pounds.”
But anxiety and depression was the biggest fight, and Saturday night Danny Garcia prevailed. Yes, seeing his hand raised again was good for his family, friends, and many of those fans who travel up the Jersey Turnpike all the time to see him fight in Brooklyn.
A win for a concern about mental illness was the storyline, more than another rivalry of Puerto Rico versus Mexico in a boxing ring. The life of an athlete, tears and emotion, that was a better story because Danny Garcia helped so many others in their quest to continue their fight out of a boxing ring.
For sure, more than a comeback story as much as the significance of continuing a Hall of Fame career and quest to be back on top.
Rich Mancuso is a senior writer @Latinosports.com Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 10pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.
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