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Bypassed by Floyd Mayweather, Danny Garcia finds match vs. Mauricio Herrera

Danny Garcia will defend his junior welterweight titles Saturday in Puerto Rico vs. Mauricio Herrera. (Matt Rourke/AP) Danny Garcia will defend his junior welterweight titles Saturday in Puerto Rico vs. Mauricio Herrera. (Matt Rourke/AP)

The fight was set. Or at least most thought it would be. In the aftermath of Danny Garcia’s surprising win over Lucas Matthysse last September -- a fight that was strategically placed on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather’s revenue record-breaking fight with Saul Alvarez -- speculation was rampant that Garcia would challenge Mayweather next. Garcia had beaten most of the top talent at 140 pounds, and Mayweather did not have an obvious opponent for his next fight.

It didn’t happen, of course. After a lengthy -- and mind-numbing -- process of choosing between Marcos Maidana and Amir Khan, Mayweather settled on Maidana. And Garcia? On Saturday Garcia will defend his junior welterweight titles against unheralded Mauricio Herrera in Bayamon, Puerto Rico (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET).

Garcia said that despite the public interest in a Mayweather fight, he never pushed for it.

“We weren't really pressing for the fight,” Garcia said. “We just let Golden Boy do their job and I let [advisor] Al [Haymon] do his job. I never question what Al does, I never question what my team does, so whoever they tell me to fight, I'll fight and I'll train and I'll get ready for it.”

Ultimately, not pursuing a Mayweather fight may have been the right move. Garcia (27-0) is 25 and the unquestioned kingpin of the 140-pound division. He has beaten Matthysse, Amir Khan and Erik Morales, twice. But he has never fought a fighter with Mayweather’s talent, and taking on the best fighter in the world in his first fight moving up in weight would have been hasty.

“I'm still young and I'm growing,” Garcia said. “I'm building my own legacy. And 140 [pounds], it's a little hard to make. It's a sacrifice, but I'm pretty sure once I go up to 147 it's going to be hard, too. So I don't think the weight was an issue, but I feel like I grew into the 140-pound weight class and I feel really strong. I feel real good making the weight and I feel so good in the gym, so I didn't feel like it was possible for me to move up yet.”

Fighting Herrera (20-3) -- a fringe contender with wins over Ruslan Provodnikov and Mike Dallas Jr. and losses to Mike Alvarado and Karim Mayfield -- yielded another opportunity: Fighting in Puerto Rico. Both Garcia’s parents were born on the island and Garcia has expressed interest in fighting there the last two years. During a recent interview with SI.com, Garcia’s father, Angel, said he hoped one day Puerto Rican fans embraced Garcia the same way they embraced Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto.

“This is very special to me because this is one of my dreams that I always dreamed of,” Garcia said. “To go over there and fight in front of all the Puerto Rican fans that are going to be there is amazing. I've never fought in an arena where every single fan was mine. It's going to be very special to me and I'm going to deliver.”

And Mayweather? Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said a showdown between Garcia and Mayweather could be in the not too distant future.

“Assuming Floyd handles the challenges ahead of him, do I believe that maybe sometime next year, maybe a year from now, Cinco de Mayo 2015, we might see [a Mayweather] and Danny Garcia fight? Absolutely,” Schaefer said. “And I can just imagine how much of an anticipated showdown that will be. Yes [Garcia] is young and he's going to be ready, and if the opportunity would be today he [would] fight [Mayweather] today. But everything at its time.”

– By Chris Mannix

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