BAYAMON, Puerto Rico (AP) - Danny “Swift” Garcia will place his undefeated record and two belts on the line Saturday night when he faces Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera in a light welterweight championship fight in Puerto Rico.
Organizers tout the fight as a homecoming of sorts for Garcia (27-0, 16 KOs), a Philadelphia born-and-raised son of Puerto Rican parents who is defending his WBC crown for a fifth time at the Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum in his mother’s hometown of Bayamon.
Garcia also has defended his WBA belt four times after emerging as a durable champion during a run of impressive victories in the past two years.
The bout is considered a stepping stone to bigger paydays that have the 25-year-old champ on his way to a potential showdown with aging pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather.
First, he’ll have to get past Herrera (20-3, 7 KOs). The 33-year-old Mexican-American of Riverside, Calif., can’t match Garcia’s power, but his toughness and size could prove to be a test for the shorter champion.
Both made weight at just over 139 pounds (63 kilograms).
Garcia brings top-notch boxing skills to the ring and showed power and mettle in his last defense of his 140-pound (64-kilogram) title, a gritty comeback win in a unanimous decision over the favored Argentine Lucas Matthysse in Las Vegas last September.
Garcia dismissed the idea that Saturday’s fight is a tuneup for bigger things.
“I know I’m ready, 110 percent ready,” he said. “Look at his body and look at mine.”
He arrived to Friday’s weigh-in amid boisterous cheers from a hometown crowd that chanted, “Danny, Danny, Danny. He is Puerto Rican, just to let you know,” as ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. introduced him as the “sensational son of Puerto Rico.”
“Fighting in Puerto Rico is a dream come true,” Garcia said. “I always go for the knockout…You will see fireworks.”
Herrera has dropped two of his last four fights, but his 20 wins include a unanimous decision against Ruslan Provodnikov, who now owns the WBO 140-pound (64-kilogram) title.
Herrera said Garcia would be wise not to look past their showdown.
“I’m going to take it to him,” Herrera said.
After the weigh-in, fans mobbed Garcia’s SUV outside the venue, prompting the champ to step out to pose for pictures with ubiquitous Puerto Rico flags and sign autographs for about 30 minutes.
“Mayweather next, baby,” a fan yelled as Garcia climbed back into the car.
The televised undercard (Showtime, 9 p.m.) includes an anticipated slugfest between American heavyweights Deontay Wilder (30-0) and Malik Scott (31-1, 13 KOs).
The undefeated Wilder, who won the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has built a reputation as a stoppage artist in the pro ranks, finishing all of his bouts by knockout. A win for Wilder, a Tuscaloosa, Ala., native who is the last American boxer to medal in an Olympics, would put him in line for a WBC heavyweight title shot against the winner of the Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola fight later this year.
The 28-year-old also aims to stretch his perfect knockout record to 31 against Scott, a 33-year-old Philadelphia native who lives in southern California.
Wilder weighed in at 227 pounds (103 kilograms), giving up 10 pounds (five kilograms) to Scott, who took the stage with a brown paper bag over his head scrawled with the message, “Get ya popcorn ready.”
“I’m fighting for my family and my city, not necessarily the fame,” Scott said.
He lauded Wilder as the best heavyweight right now and the biggest puncher.
“I do know his power,” Scott said.
Wilder and Scott know each other well and have been frequent sparring partners.
“That’s my brother and I love him,” Wilder said. “But sometimes love hurts.”
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