Danny Garcia has been the unified junior welterweight world champion and also won a welterweight world title, but he lost for the first time in his last fight and is now trying to move forward.
In March, Garcia came close to unifying two welterweight world titles but dropped a split decision to Keith Thurman in their much-hyped showdown. Garcia has not fought since but will end his 11-month layoff against Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios when they meet on Feb. 17 (Showtime) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
On Tuesday, at the Conga Room at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles, Garcia and Rios met face-to-face to kick off the promotion for the bout that was announced a few weeks ago. Naturally, there was discussion of Garcia’s previous fight in addition to his upcoming assignment.
“I’m healthy and strong and ready to fight. I’m putting the loss to Keith Thurman behind me and moving forward,” Garcia said. “I have to focus on being Danny Garcia on Feb. 17. I can’t press and try to do too much. I just have to get the win.
“I felt like I fought a good fight against Thurman. He didn’t really engage. I thought after the fourth round he was basically shadowboxing. I don’t blame him, because you have to be dumb to stand in front of me. We’ll make some adjustments and add to what I already do well.”
Now Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs), 29, of Philadelphia, is aiming for a fresh start against Rios, a former lightweight world titleholder who went on to become a top junior welterweight and welterweight contender before seeing his career fade.
“I feel really good mentally and physically right now,” Garcia said. “My body is rested and ready to have a great 2018 starting Feb. 17. You have to be focused to succeed in a fight like this, and I think Brandon Rios knows that. I’m training hard, so I hope he is, too. I’m never going to take a fight off.
“This is a classic fight of a boxer-puncher versus a brawler. I’m going to be prepared for everything and start 2018 off right. I have to be the fighter I’ve always been. I never back down, and I know that Brandon Rios sees that in me. I always come to fight. It’s going to be a great matchup with our styles and our determination.”
Garcia said he has been studying tapes of Rios’ recent fights, like he usually does of his opponents.
“I like watching the last three fights of my opponent,” he said. “I think it gives me a good indication of what he’s going to look like on fight night. I’ve been watching tape of my last fight, too, so we can get a great game plan together.”
Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs), 31, of Oxnard, California, who has suffered losses to Manny Pacquiao, Mike Alvarado (in the first of their three fights) and Timothy Bradley Jr., announced his retirement after Bradley stopped him in the ninth round in November 2015. Rios is 3-3 in his past six bouts.
In June, Rios ended his 19-month retirement and returned to knock out journeyman Aaron Herrera in the seventh round and set up the long-discussed fight with Garcia.
“Being back in the ring was a little bit nerve-racking, but I was happy to get the ring rust off,” Rios said. “I did what I had to do and was happy to get through that experience. I’m really thankful to be in this position to fight Danny Garcia.”
Rios said that the time off was good for him and he expects an action fight.
“Everybody knows my style. I’m not here to dance, I’m coming to fight,” Rios said. “I’m going in there with my heart out to show the world that I’m still one of the best out there. I feel strong and I feel rejuvenated. My body needed some rest because all of my fights are wars. It took a toll on my body and now I feel as good as ever. I’m ready to show the world a different Brandon Rios.
“You have to fight the best to try to be the best. Danny Garcia has been up at the top of this sport for a long time. I’m always ready for a test.”
Rios said during his time away he realized that he sometimes didn’t give his best effort in training camp so he was not always in the best shape for his fights. He insisted that he has learned his lesson and that he will prepare diligently for Garcia.
“I used to not always take training and my weight as seriously as I should have,” Rios said. “I was young and dumb and I made mistakes. Those mistakes are in my past, and I’m in great shape right now. I’ve been training really hard to have a full gas tank on fight night. I could have stayed retired, but I still have it in me and there is still more I can get out of this sport. I truly love boxing, and I’m excited to be back in a big fight like this.
“I’ve been ready to fight any of the top fighters. I waited and took my time because I knew I would fight whoever would step up. I got what I wanted and now it’s time to take advantage.”