It’s Showtime! Team Garcia puts on a show in Brooklyn!
by Marc Londo
In 2013, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, became the highest-grossing venue in the U.S. for concerts and family shows (not including sports tickets). As a result, “The House that Jay-Z built” leapfrogged Madison Square Garden as the second highest-grossing arena in the world, trailing only London’s 02 Arena. At the time, the reps at MSG downplayed the demotion, saying they dipped due to renovations to the building. However, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn has mounted an aggressive effort to appeal to a younger demographic by hosting events that have long been staples at MSG, like championship boxing.
Once known as the Mecca of Boxing, MSG surrendered that title long ago to the money and glamour of Las Vegas. In recent years, Brooklyn has staked a claim to the Northeast boxing fan by bringing in high-profile cards. For the educated Philadelphia boxing fans who understand the great stake in the sport Philly currently has - with heralded champions like Danny Garcia and Bernard Hopkins - we have been left with a long commute. Each fighter has attained such acclaim in the sport that the lure is just too great to fight on the road.
Since he last fought in Philly in 2010, a 4th round knockout victory over Mike Arnaoutis, Danny Garcia has defied the odds to become a multiple World Champion. An underdog in his biggest fights, he parallels the Rocky legend that is so ingrained in the fabric of this city. He is now recognized as one of the best pound-for-pound stars in the sport. Today, a Garcia fight in Philadelphia would be a spectacle that hasn’t been seen here in a long time. That thought was at the front of my mind as I drove to Brooklyn for the recent Garcia-Salka card.
It was Garcia’s third time fighting at the Barclays Center in his last five fights. Thanks to an old friend of mine in the Prichard Colon camp, I was granted a one-on-one interview with the champ on the night before the fight. Prichard Colon is a rising, undefeated, light middleweight, hailing from Orocovis, Puerto Rico; and he has fought on the last two Garcia undercards. Going into this fight, he was a perfect 10-0 with 10 knockouts. His father, Richard, was trained by the father of the legendary Felix Trinidad; and, like Angel Garcia (Danny’s father), started training his son from an early age.
There is a healthy nervous energy (almost giddy) that can be felt amongst the fighters on the day before the fight. As I saw Danny walking backstage before the weigh-in, I could see that his mind was already on the fight. Prichard seems naturally more relaxed. It was Prichard’s first bout as a professional outside of the familiar confines of Latin America, and Orlando (where he spent part of his childhood), and this was his New York moment. When he previously fought on a Danny Garcia undercard, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the two fighters struck up a friendship.
After weighing-in, I had the honor of being invited to eat out with the Colons’ at Queen Italian Ristorante in Brooklyn. While we sat around the table, joking about not understanding the menus (they were in Italian), I could appreciate the close-knit bonds of a boxer’s entourage. The mood and energy at the table was kept so light. After deciding on what to order (Prichard had the Chicken Alfredo), Prichard spoke to the significance of those bonds. “Who knows me better than my family?” he asked. “It makes me feel comfortable. At times it can get hard to separate family from business, but at the end of the day it all works out.”
Observing the Colons’ that night gave me insight into Danny’s world. In Puerto Rico, the family is such a great source of pride, and those bonds contain an unyielding trust that pushes a fighter. It’s an approach that Richard Colon is perfecting by observing other great Father-Son teams, like the Garcias and the Trinidads. As we left the restaurant that night, I felt a cool calm in the air. When we walked by the “A Crocodile eating a Capitalist” statue, Prichard crouched and posed as though he was trying to save the capitalist from being eaten. Meanwhile, Richard was smiling and in complete control; talking with Mohamad Elmahmoud, in Team Garcia’s camp, to ensure my interview with Danny was lined up, while making sure Prichard stayed well rested. As we waited, we caught some of Friday Night Fights on ESPN.
Unfortunately, as the night dragged on, the interview with Danny Garcia didn’t go off as planned. The focus required to headline such a big event is understandably great, and Danny had many other things pulling at him. Nevertheless, Mohamad explained that Team Garcia would take the time to do it later.
The card ended up being a showcase for the favorites. The blue corner won all the fights (9-0). Prichard Colon peppered Lenwood Dozier (9-6) all night with a thumping right hand and nasty left hook; cruising to a unanimous decision (60-54 on all three cards). It was his first time going the distance in his career. At the top of the card, Brooklyn phenom Daniel Jacobs swarmed a tough but outgunned Jerrod Fletcher to score a 5th round knockout, and the WBA middleweight title. Lamont Peterson followed that up with a relentless body attack and a 10th round stoppage of Edgar Santana, to defend his IBF welterweight belt.
In the main event, the rapper Jadakiss appeared from the tunnel, spitting his classic “The Champ is Here,” while a masked Danny Garcia strutted to the ring. The spectacle of such a ring walk, while audacious, was justified two rounds later by Garcia’s atomic right hook that laid out Salka in brutal fashion. For a split second, all I could hear was the clicking of cameras, before a surge of applause engulfed the Barclays Center. It was one of the most astounding knockouts in a main event of a major boxing card in recent memory.
After the fight, I finally had the opportunity to get a few words with Angel Garcia while Danny was submitting to the final tests for the athletic commission. We discussed Danny’s rise to headliner. It is the same road that Prichard Colon is currently navigating. I couldn’t help but note the parallels and similar backgrounds and approaches of the two families. All of a sudden, my story seemed to be about more than just a showcase for an emergent superstar.
“It’s a good thing Danny is motivating the future of boxing, especially among Latinos,” Angel explained. “It teaches that there is hope and that hard work pays off.” While the friends of Team Garcia continued making the rounds in the locker room, Angel continued talking about the importance of that close-knit community within a boxing team. “That’s the most important thing. It’s surrounding yourself with your friends,” he said. “All of that comes into play. Everybody has a job.”
As the crowd started to filter out, I finally asked Angel that question the Philly boxing fan in me has wanted to ask him since I started my drive to Brooklyn. “How about fighting in Philly?” After thinking about it, Angel reflected on how Danny’s star has gotten bigger since his last fight in South Philly. “We’ll fight anywhere,” he stated. “The Philly fans are tough. Philly is my home but they don’t act like they want it in Philly. We came to New York City, in this brand new arena, and the place was packed. We are looking at big cities with fans that show their support.”
Pictures by Mohamad Elmahmoud