Former unified super lightweight and WBC welterweight champion Danny Garcia returns to the ring this weekend against Jose Benavidez Jr. The 34-year-old has not fought since December 2020 and if his intention is to shed ring rust, he’s doing so against a live opponent.
'Swift’ has mixed at the elite level for over a decade. His three losses have come against the very best fighters the welterweight division has had to offer. Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter and Errol Spence Jr would make anyone’s list of the best 147lb fighters of the last decade. Garcia would not be far off that list. The Philadelphia fighter has wins over champions like Erik Morales, Amir Khan, Lamont Peterson, Paulie Malignaggi, Lucas Matthyse and Zab Judah.
What Garcia doesn’t have is a recent victory that measures up to these past triumphs. Before his lay-off, Garcia’s last bout was a loss to unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. His two bouts before that were victories over lightly-regarded pair Ivan Redkach and Adrian Granados. The last true championship class fighter Garcia defeated was Brandon Rios, who he stopped in 2018. Even then, ‘Bam Bam’ had lost three of his last six bouts.
Beating Benavidez won’t quite give him the world class victory he needs to re-establish himself at the apex of one of the most stacked divisions in the game. But it will be a solid step on the path to securing bigger fights. A former interim champion down at super lightweight, Benavidez has only lost once in 29 nights. That defeat came at the educated fists of Terence Crawford for the WBO welterweight championship.
Benavidez’s main problem in recent years has been inactivity. He has fought just once since losing to ‘Bud’ Crawford in 2018, a disappointing draw against unheralded Francisco Emanuel Torres. The fact Torres was poleaxed in five rounds by Hamzah Sheeraz in London exposes that draw as an extremely poor result. While the pandemic can account for part of this inactivity, in truth boxing has been back for nearly two years now. The fact Benavidez has only boxed once in that time cannot be dismissed purely as a COVID-19 issue.
A win over Garcia would be a perfect way to arrest the slide, as Benavidez looks to register his first victory since June 2018. One senses that even at 34, Garcia has enough left to prevent the upset. ‘Swift’ has never been stopped, even when mixing with pound-for-pound candidates. Meanwhile, Benavidez is not renowned for power, with only 62.07% of his fights ending by knockout. This one looks likely to go the distance and, over the course of twelve rounds, Garcia’s experience and still-formidable skills should be enough.
If Garcia is successful though, what comes next? Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr hold all four welterweight titles between them and look to finally be on a collision course. If talks do stall then ‘Bud’ could perhaps fight Garcia instead. The bout was mooted in 2019, when Top Rank were hoping to stage it as a pay-per-view. But Garcia’s recent history teaches us he would have almost no chance against the WBO welterweight boss.
WBA ‘regular’ champion Eimantas Stanionis would provide a softer landing for Garcia, even if the former Olympian’s belt is worthless. Stanionis would be no walkover, but the fact he has been matched carefully potentially hides weaknesses Garcia can exploit. The gulf in experience and quality of opposition would see Garcia favoured going in. Other options include a bout with Conor Benn, should ‘The Destroyer’ get past Chris Eubank Jr, or a bout with Josh Taylor if the Scotsman fulfils his promise to move up a division.
But for now, Garcia cannot afford to look too far forward. Benavidez is far from the best fighter he’s ever faced, but now is no time to get complacent. Garcia’s future could depend on it.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change