While there certainly may be more glamorous choices for 2012 Fighter of the Year, the award should go to Danny “Swift” Garcia. Andre Ward, Nonito Donaire and Juan Manuel Marquez may get more publicity, but it was Garcia who rose to the top, finishing off a legend and derailing a hype train that was attempting to get back on track.
The year began quietly enough for Garcia. He was coming off a split decision win in late 2011 over Kendall Holt and was scheduled to meet the legendary Erik Morales in March. Throughout the early part of their fight, Morales was getting the better of it, winning on many scorecards up until the 11th round which changed the fortunes of Garcia. With his patented left hook, he dropped Morales in that round and went on to capture a unanimous decision, capturing the WBC belt.
Many considered the victory as not being all that impressive considering Erik Morales was said to be in decline. However, if that fight didn’t capture the attention of fans, his next fight surely would.
Just three months later, Garcia was looked at as a stepping stone for Amir Khan, a fighter with a ton of hype who was coming off a disappointing loss to Lamont Peterson. The British star and former Olympic Silver Medalist lost his WBA title in that fight, although it was returned following Peterson’s failed drug test in the lead up to their rematch.
Amir Khan was the prohibitive favorite going into the fight, and for most of the first three rounds, that seemed like a wise choice. However, Garcia, a Philadelphia native, hung in there, weathering the storm that came with the lightning quick combinations from Khan.
Finally, Khan got a little careless, underestimating the ability to counter by Danny Garcia. A well placed left hook dropped Khan to the canvas hard. Fortunately for Khan, he was able to hang on until the bell saved him. Unfortunately for Amir Khan, he still had to go out there for the fourth. Khan was dropped twice more in that round before Kenny Bayless stepped in, saving Khan from a further beating.
It was a pretty big upset considering most so-called experts didn’t consider Danny Garcia to be an elite level fighter at the time. Instead, Garcia vaulted his name to the top of the list, and Khan was left trying to convince his ever growing list of detractors he was also an elite fighter. Most were no longer buying it.
While that would certainly have topped off a nice year for most fighters, Danny Garcia still had one more score to settle before closing the books on 2012. Erik Morales exercised his rematch clause from the first fight, hoping to avenge the loss suffered earlier in the year. However, this time, there would be much less drama when the two faced off. Again, with his vicious left hook, Garcia wrapped things up when he sent Morales careening into the ropes. With that single punch the book was closed on Morales, while another chapter was just beginning for Garcia, who now found himself reaching levels of success he had never achieved before.
There were many great performances throughout the year. And certainly a case can be made for many when you discuss the Fighter of the Year. However, for coming so far in his career in such a short time and sending his vanquished foes so far in the opposite direction, the award deserves to be with Garcia. 2013 promises to be no easier for him as he is scheduled to take on Zab Judah in early February. This time, you can be sure he won’t be sneaking up on anyone.