“I did take a break going through mental things, things went dark, I went through anxiety, deep depression, just trying to be strong,” said a visibly emotional Garcia. “It was the pressure of life, being a good dad, just letting it out right now, because it was all stuck inside. It rained on me for a year and a half and the only way to do better was to fight again. I’m a fighter. If you battle anxiety and depression, you can get out of it, that’s what I did today. I fought.”
Philadelphia’s Garcia (37-3, 21 KOs) has become a staple at Barclays Center ever since headlining the arena’s first boxing event in 2012, and his return on Saturday night against Benavidez (27-2-1, 18 KOs), saw him pick up his seventh victory in Brooklyn. (Watch seventh-round highlight HERE)
After runs as a world champion at 147 and 140 pounds, Garcia debuted at 154 pounds after a nearly 20-month layoff. Known as a counterpunching expert, Garcia went on the attack early and often, targeting Benavidez’s body on his way to landing a career-high of 153 body shots according to CompuBox. Garcia’s superior hand and foot speed left Benavidez trailing him for much of the night, looking to land right hands over Garcia’s vaunted left hook.
Benavidez best moment came in round nine when he connected on one of those right hands and popped Garcia’s head back, but he was unable to capitalize on the attack enough to change the trajectory of the fight.
“I’m happy with my performance,” said Benavidez. “I feel like I did good. I’m fighting in his backyard, one of the best, I took his punches like they were nothing. I thought I won the fight. But it is what it is, a loss makes you stronger.
“It’s tough, things don’t always go your way, there are ups and downs. I try to be positive, like when the doctor said I would never walk again. I didn’t let that get to me. I kept on going.”
Overall Garcia ran up a 233 to 117 edge in punches landed and owned a 31% connect rate compared to Benavidez’s 20%. After 12 rounds, Garcia had done enough to earn the decision by scores of 117-11, 116-112 and a surprising 114-114. After the fight, Garcia credited his father and trainer Angel Garcia with staying by his side throughout his battle with anxiety and depression.
“Angel was there with me the whole way,” said Garcia. “I’m nothing without this man. I thank him every day. People ask me all the time, why do I fight? I make a lot of money. Why does Warren Buffett still make money? I’m a fighter. This is what I do, what I love to do.”
Garcia also added two intriguing potential future opponents he would like to face.
“I’d like the rematch with Keith Thurman, he took my ‘0,’” said Garcia. “I’ll also take [WBA Middleweight Champion] Erislandy Lara for the middleweight title at 154 pounds.”
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