With substantial attention directed at unbeaten champions Errol Spence and Keith Thurman and new division entrant Terence Crawford, Danny Garcia wants to serve notice he is far from a welterweight afterthought.
Eleven months after losing his welterweight belt in a title unification bout against Thurman, Garcia will return to the ring on Feb. 17. Garcia, a two-division titleholder, will face former 140-pound champion Brandon Rios in Las Vegas.
“I feel really good mentally and physically right now,” Garcia said. “My body is rested and ready to have a great 2018 starting February 17.”
Garcia’s “2017” was limited to the bout with Thurman. When Garcia and Thurman met last March at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the fight was the first between unbeaten welterweight champions since the Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad match in 1999.
After establishing an early lead, Thurman withstood a strong finish from Garcia and scored a split-decision victory.
The byproduct of Thurman’s win now has him linked to another unification bout with Spence, gradually ascending as one of the sport’s top fighters. Meanwhile, Garcia (33-1) wants to remain in the division’s pecking order for lucrative fights.
“I’m putting the loss to Keith Thurman behind me and moving forward,” Garcia said. “I have to focus on being Danny Garcia on February 17. I can’t press and try to do too much. I just have to get the win.”
Garcia is a solid favorite to defeat Rios, one of the sport’s celebrated brawlers. However, the crowd-pleasing fights typical of Rios’ performances and the move to welterweight might have finally taken its toll. Rios is 3-2 since becoming a welterweight in 2013.
“This is a classic fight of a boxer-puncher versus a brawler,” Garcia said.
During their reigns at super-lightweight, Garcia and Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs) never crossed paths.
“We were both champions at the same time at 140-pounds, and we didn’t get a chance to fight then, but it’s all about timing in boxing,” Garcia said. “Things tend to work out, and now we’re ready to go head-to-head.
“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.”
AROUND THE RING
▪ Spanish-language network Telemundo begins its 30th season of live boxing telecasts and fourth under a seasonal format on Feb. 23. The telecast from Kissimmee will feature a regional junior-bantamweight bout between Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Gonzalez and Mexico’s Ricardo Rodriguez.
Telemundo will broadcast fights, promoted by Miami-based All-Star Boxing, on four successive Fridays during the spring, summer and fall.
▪ Russia’s Murat Gassiev scored a 12th-round technical knockout victory over Miami resident Yunier Dorticos in their cruiserweight title unification bout Saturday in Sochi, Russia.
Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs) floored a fading Dorticos (22-1) three times in the 12th. The third knockdown ended the fight at 2:52 of the round.
The victory advanced Gassiev to the final of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament against Oleksandr Usyk on May 11.