Sports

Danny Garcia plans to prove himself in WBC bout against Robert Guerrero

Welterweight Danny Garcia has heard the analysis that he's a well-schooled, fundamental fighter who lacks charisma.

He understands the critics who ask why the unbeaten fighter from Philadelphia has been assigned uninspired matches against aging and outclassed opponents.

Saturday night on Fox from Staples Center, Garcia (31-0, 18 knockouts) fights former two-division champion Robert Guerrero (33-3-1, 18 KOs) for the World Boxing Council welterweight belt. Garcia predicts this will launch a lengthy campaign to establish himself as a dominant figure in this sport.

The WBC welterweight belt was left vacant by the retirement of Floyd Mayweather Jr.

"I want to be the best fighter in the sport," said Garcia, 27, who started boxing at 10 under the direction of his father-trainer, Angel Garcia. "To fight now for the fans on free TV, the way it used to be, that's the way Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran made it so big. Duran didn't talk a lot, [Marvin] Hagler didn't talk a lot, and they were mega-stars."

Garcia won a 140-pound world title, and retained it through underdog wins in 2012 against England's Amir Khan (by fourth-round knockout) and a year later against hard-hitting Lucas Matthysse (unanimous decision) of Argentina.

"A lot of people say Danny Garcia is basic, but as you can see, the basics beat a fighter who's just fast [Khan] and the basics beat a fighter who's strong [Matthysse] because all you've got to do is block and move your head," Garcia said. "No fighter has more fundamentals and overall skill than Danny Garcia.

"I feel like I'm the Tim Duncan of boxing."

But Garcia's reputation has been diminished by his four fights since beating Matthysse.

One judge scored Garcia's March 2014 bout against Riverside's Mauricio Herrera a draw.

Then came a highly criticized mismatch against Rod Salka, an early knockout victim. Garcia could no longer make 140 pounds when he edged former junior-welterweight champion Lamont Peterson by majority decision. And then Garcia did the expected in his August welterweight debut, defeating veteran Paulie Malignaggi by technical knockout.

"I could've been more dominant in some of those fights," Garcia said. "It's hard to carry the same momentum after beating Matthysse, then fighting a mediocre fighter. But even with no momentum on my side, Danny Garcia still finds a way to win."

Khan has been selected by the WBC as the mandatory challenger to the Garcia-Guerrero winner, and another test could emerge from the high-profile bout to be announced Saturday between unbeaten Keith Thurman and former champion Shawn Porter on March 12 in Connecticut.

"I'm way ahead of all these guys, everybody in my division," Garcia said.

Thurman? "I'm ahead of him."

Porter? "I'm ahead of him. They've never faced anyone like I have, never been an underdog in a fight, never faced Amir Khan. Never faced Lucas Matthysse when he was killing everybody."

Angel Garcia defended his son for staying busy the past two years when Khan was sidelined hoping for fights against Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao that never came.

"Khan's trying to be a promoter, manager and trainer. Danny's a fighter," Angel Garcia said. "Danny's not throwing a hook, he's perfecting the hook. It's about taking that basic skill and perfecting it to become untouchable. He's no longer fighting [making] the weight, so you'll see him better, faster and stronger Saturday."

Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Guerrero seeks to return to the form of 2012, when he landed a title shot at Mayweather by beating Andre Berto in a toe-to-toe scrap.

Last year, Guerrero was beaten by Thurman and escaped with a decision over Saturday co-main event fighter Aron Martinez of Los Angeles.

Guerrero blamed a poor training camp void of quality sparring for the Thurman loss, and then the intense family man was struck by the deaths of his grandmother and a close cousin before the Martinez bout.

Fighting off suggestions he might be washed up, Guerrero countered, "I'm not slowing down. Age doesn't bother you if you're a well-preserved fighter. I've only been in a couple wars. Usually, I box on my toes. … I feel spiritually and mentally strong and that's a big part of boxing."

Guerrero, who is from Gilroy, added: "I come to fight every time. There's never a dull moment in that ring with me. So I'm ready to go."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimespugmire

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 23, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Garcia ready to polish reputation - Undefeated boxer has had lackluster fights leading into title bout against Guerrero." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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