When Will Danny Garcia Start Climbing the Weight-Class Ladder?

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When Will Danny Garcia Start Climbing the Weight-Class Ladder?
Matt Rourke/Associated Press
When will Garcia move up in weight?

Seeing Danny Garcia meander around the junior welterweight division like a lost puppy makes me think he should be hopping up to the welterweight division as soon as possible.

Is it just me, or has Garcia’s once promising campaign at 140 pounds devolved into tedious boredom, something not befitting a fighter who is supposed to be the true champion of the division?

Don’t get me wrong. Garcia is one of the best fighters in the sport. His inclusion in any pound-for-pound top-10 list is well warranted and perhaps even necessary at this point.

If you are sleeping on Garcia as one of boxing’s true talents, you can wake up now. This kid’s legit.

Ricardo Arduengo/Associated Press
Garcia should be matched tougher than Salka.

But shouldn’t someone with such a credible recent history and promising future begin the climb up the weight-class ladder soon? Shouldn’t Garcia be doing everything in his power to present himself as a viable option to Floyd Mayweather before the latter retires?

Hasn’t Garcia done just about everything he can do at junior welterweight?

Garcia is the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s junior welterweight champion, an honor he earned by defeating Lucas Matthysse in September 2013 because the two men were ranked the top two 140-pounders in the world in a division with a vacant championship.

If that rankings organization doesn’t move the needle for you, Garcia is also the 140-pound champion per Ring Magazine as well as two alphabet organizations, the World Boxing Association (WBA) and the World Boxing Council (WBC).

Perhaps more important than all of that, Garcia is far and wide the best junior welterweight in the world at this point by virtue of him proving it against the very best.

The 26-year-old from Philadelphia came up the hard way. He faced a murderers’ row of junior welterweight competition and soundly beat them all.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Garcia beat Matthysse last year to become tops at 140.

After climbing the ladder by defeating staunch gatekeepers Nate Campbell and Kendall Holt in 2011 to put himself into position for big fights against named competition, Garcia proved his worth over the next two years by twice defeating Erik Morales, knocking out Amir Khan, edging past Zab Judah and outworking Matthysse.

Garcia is now a headliner in a sport where the value of a promotion is driven by names that get top billing.

But 2014 has been a sore disappointment for those who hoped to see Garcia ascend to the top of the sport. Instead, it seems the flatfooted counterpuncher has taken two steps back.

First, Garcia was gifted a majority decision over Mauricio Herrera in a March promotion that seemed forced instead of fluid. Fighting in Puerto Rico, Garcia was out-boxed by Herrera but still able to leave the island with his title intact and no inclination to rush toward a rematch.

According to CompuBox, Herrera out-threw and out-landed Garcia over the 12 rounds of the fight but lost anyway.

Ricardo Arduengo/Associated Press
Garcia was happy to get nod over Herrera.

Regardless, giving Garcia the benefit of the doubt might have been due at that point. Garcia, the top man in the division, seemed headed towards bigger and better things.

The fight was close and probably not a robbery. While Herrera controlled Garcia at times with slick boxing, Garcia landed the more telling blows. It could have gone either way, and as is usually the case in boxing, the star fighter got the nod.

But Garcia’s bigger and better thing to look forward to after the Herrera debacle turned out to be the exact opposite. His opponent on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, is no world-beater at all.

In fact, Rod Salka is not even a junior welterweight beater. The majority of Salka’s recent career, including his last fight, has been spent in the lightweight division. So Garcia’s bigger and better opponent turned into someone smaller and worse.

Look, Salka is a professional prizefighter. He’s worthy of respect. His 2013 loss to Ricardo Alvarez, brother of Canelo Alvarez, was probably due more to Alvarez’s name than what actually happened in the ring that night.

ESPN's Teddy Atlas is not a fan of Garcia-Salka.

But nothing Salka did in that fight against the limited Alvarez, nor before or even in his lone win after, would make anyone believe he’s a threat to defeat the best junior welterweight in the world.

So Garcia-Salka seems nothing but a showcase bout for Garcia instead of actual competition. This, of course, after Garcia slipped by Herrera in a bout most observers would rather forget happened in the first place.

Garcia should move up in weight or at least face the best fighters in the junior welterweight division. While he’s done enough to show he’s the top dog at 140, a bout against fellow titleholder Lamont Peterson, who fights on the same card this weekend, would make enough sense to warrant consideration.

A rematch with Matthysse might be in order, too.

But Garcia’s biggest and best foes lie north of 140. The welterweight division is brimming with talent as well as lucrative opportunities for Garcia. Mayweather gets top billing there, with fighters like Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman and Devon Alexander falling in after.

Garcia’s best move for the future is to stop taking showcase bouts against opponents like Salka and move up to 147 pounds. 

The money is there. The opponents are there. Where is Garcia?

Oh, that’ s right. He’s facing a three-loss lightweight on Showtime.

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