Garcia bides time while returning to roots

Danny Garcia has memorized the mantra.

No matter how many times he’s asked to forecast his ring career beyond the next several days, he instantly reverts to the tried-and-true “I take one fight at a time” line that’s held up for generations.

But after round upon round of verbal sparring, even his championship-level defense crumbles, and he concedes -- while stopping short of using the word frustration – that he thought he might be beyond the realm in which he finds himself this weekend in Puerto Rico.

“I thought my last fight was the last one (at 140 pounds), but apparently it wasn’t,” Garcia said, referring to his 12-round decision over Lucas Matthysse on the Mayweather-Alvarez undercard last September in Las Vegas. “In the meantime, I’ve got to keep winning and I’ve got belts I want to keep.”

He’ll defend those dual shares (WBA and WBC) of the world’s 140-pound fiefdom against unheralded California export Mauricio Herrera, in a 12-rounder that will headline a two-bout Showtime broadcast from fight-frenzied Bayamon, Puerto Rico set to begin at 9 p.m. ET.

American heavyweight Deontay Wilder, he of the 30 consecutive KO wins since turning pro after the 2008 Summer Olympics, faces Malik Scott in another 12-rounder to open the program.

And while the show has been marketed as Garcia’s long-desired return to the nation of his parents’ birth, it’s been dismissed as a Caribbean walkover by odds-makers who’ve installed the champion as a solid 8-to-1 favorite, and one who’d been expected by many to land a far bigger fish.

A match between Garcia and Mayweather was the talk of the post-fight press conference last summer in Nevada, but the unbeaten 25-year-old (he’ll turn 26 on March 20) has instead seen another former 140-pounder, Marcos Maidana, get called for the next dance on May 3; while yet another former inhabitant of the weight class, Amir Khan, is in the mix for his own “Money” shot later this year.

Garcia KO’d Khan in four rounds in 2012. Khan defeated Maidana by unanimous decision in 2010.

Still, the rugged Philadelphian with overseas roots isn’t one to cry “Why not me?”

“No, it really doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It is what it is. Boxing is a business and fighters have different destinies. I’m still building toward mine. A lot of the guys who’ve moved up are around my age, 25 to 30, so if I don’t fight you at 140, then I’ll definitely get you at 147.”

Garcia spent 10 weeks preparing for Herrera at his home gym in Philadelphia, not far from the North Philly neighborhood where he first learned of the city’s storied in-ring history. Those tales fueled his desire to become one of the fighters people mentioned when that history gets updated.

“It’s a crazy place to be a boxer,” he said. “The gym wars will forever be a Philly thing, and a lot of good fighters probably quit the sport because it’s so heated in the gym.”

He became the WBC’s champion at 140 pounds by outpointing Erik Morales in his 23rd professional fight in 2012, picked up the WBA belt with the stoppage of Khan four months later and has since defended the pair with scorecard victories over Zab Judah and the aforementioned Matthysse, who’d entered having scored his last 11 wins by stoppage.

Herrera is 20-3 in six-plus years as a pro and handed the WBO’s champion, Ruslan Provodnikov, his first career loss back in 2011. He’s just 4-2 in six fights since, however, and he hasn’t had an inside-the-distance victory since stopping 38-year-old Efren Hinojosa four years ago.

“He’s a tough fighter and he comes to fight,” said Garcia, who’s an inch-and-a-half shorter and eight years younger. “He wants to be world champion and I think he’ll come to fight like that. But I’m 100 percent ready, and when I’m that ready for a fight, no one can beat me.”

Weekend Watch List 3/14-17

Telemundo -- Friday, 11:35 p.m.

Jonathan Oquendo vs. Guillermo Avila – 12 rounds, junior featherweights

Showtime Extreme -- Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Daniel Ponce De Leon – 10 rounds, featherweights
Daniel Jacobs vs. Milton Nunez - 10 rounds, middleweights

NBC Sports Network -- Saturday, 9 p.m. ET

Tomasz Adamek vs. Vyacheslav Glazkov – 12 rounds, heavyweights
Isaac Chilemba vs. Denis Grachev – 10 rounds, light heavyweights
Ronald Cruz vs. Kermit Cintron – 10 rounds, welterweights

Showtime -- Saturday, 9 p.m. ET
Danny Garcia vs. Mauricio Herrera – WBA/WBA super lightweight titles
Deontay Wilder vs. Malik Scott – 12 rounds, heavyweights

UniMas -- Saturday, 11 p.m. ET
Fernando Montiel vs. Cristobal Cruz – 10 rounds, featherweights
Miguel Berchelt vs. Luis Eduardo Flores – 10 rounds, junior lightweights

Fox Sports 1 -- Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Julian Williams vs. Freddy Hernandez -- 10 rounds, junior middleweights

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