Perennial underdog Granados goes for glory once more against Garcia

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Adrian Granados is a tough out, and Danny Garcia can’t afford to take him lightly in Saturday’s FOX main event.

Adrian Granados has never won a world title, and apart from one occasion, he’s never gotten his hand raised in what anyone would call a big fight.

But the Chicago fighter has always been competitive, and has had no less than seven fights where he didn’t get the win, but he either narrowly lost or was given an always-debatable draw.

It’s happened to Granados pretty much his whole career. In his second pro fight in Piedras Negras, Mexico, back in 2008, Granados lost a four-round split decision to Jose Juan Fuentes. In 2011, he subbed in for an injured David Estrada and faced veteran Lanardo Tyner, who came in 24-4-1 compared to Granados low-level 7-1. They went to an eight-round draw. Later that year, he faced Frankie Gomez, a top lightweight prospect at the time, and got off the canvas in round two to push the fight to a majority decision in Gomez’s favor.

In 2013, he took on veteran and former titleholder Kermit Cintron, resulting in a split draw over 10 rounds. In 2014, it was a majority decision loss to Felix Diaz, a former Olympic gold medalist, with Granados going down twice late. In 2015, Brad Solomon beat him by split decision. In 2017, Adrien Broner beat him by split decision. Nine months later, Shawn Porter beat him, that one a totally clear decision.

Not all of them were robberies. The Diaz fight, for instance, I thought the late knockdowns legitimately won the fight for Felix Diaz. But as usual, Granados was there and made it a fight.

You could say he’s been unlucky, but there’s also a certain charmed factor to his career. Many fighters like Granados, who weren’t groomed to be stars but prove to be a pain in the ass against name fighters and those that promoters are trying to build up, stop getting calls. They become high-risk, low-reward. But Granados has gotten the chances.

The phone could easily have stopped ringing after the losses to Diaz and Solomon in 2014-15. But then he was signed up to face promoter Don King’s last honest attempt at boxing relevance, the 140-pound prospect Amir Imam, in Nov. 2015.

King, once infamous as one of boxing’s main power brokers, has faded into obscurity as the years have worn on, and he was all but out of the game by 2015. But with Imam, who was 18-0 at the time, he appeared to legitimately have something. The native of Albany, New York had skills and power, speed and style. He was already the mandatory challenger for WBC titleholder Viktor Postol.

Imam and Granados were matched up for a fight in Quebec City on Showtime, part of the DeGale-Bute undercard. It was meant to be a showcase for Imam. It wasn’t.

After a first round that went Imam’s way, Granados was able to bait his opponent into exactly the sort of scrap that the underdog needed it to be: a war of volume, where Granados out-punched Imam and drained his gas tank. By the time the referee stopped the fight in the eighth round, Granados was beating the crap out of Imam.

In a just world, Granados would have been right in line for a WBC title shot at 140 pounds. Boxing is anything but a just world, though, and Granados sat on the sidelines until July 2016, when he finally took a stay-busy fight with a 12-15-2 opponent in Phoenix. (Imam, on the other hand, would win three nothing fights before getting a WBC title shot in March 2018, where he lost to Jose Ramirez.)

644154530 - Perennial underdog Granados goes for glory once more against GarciaPhoto by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Granados’ next fight, though, was the biggest of his career, a bout in Cincinnati against Adrien Broner in a Showtime main event. Broner won on scores of 93-97, 96-94, and 97-93 in a genuinely close fight. His solid (at worst) showing against Broner got him a fight nine months later with Shawn Porter, who won on 117-111 scores across the board.

He moved back down to 140 for another tough assignment in 2018 against Javier Fortuna. That fight ended in a no-decision when Fortuna fell out of the ring and was injured. Granados felt Fortuna was just looking for a way out of the fight.

Granados returned in August and September of last year, both fights in Mexico, his first in the country since that loss back in 2008. They were easy matchups for him, and he won both.

This weekend, he’s back in the mix at 147, facing former two-division titleholder Danny Garcia in a PBC on FOX (Saturday, 8 pm ET) main event from Dignity Health Sports Park — the former Home Depot Center and StubHub Center — in Carson, California. It’s a venue known for rowdy fights and rowdy fans, and that might suit Granados (20-6-2, 14 KO) just fine.

He also believes that Garcia (34-2, 20 KO) will suit him just fine.

“Looking back, there were definitely moments against Broner and Porter where I took my foot off the gas,” Granados said this week. “Porter fought a smart fight. He outboxed me at times, and other times used roughhouse tactics. My lack of composure cost me, but I think Garcia’s style is made for me.”


31-year-old Danny “Swift” Garcia’s career has been nothing like Granados’. While Granados started his career with two fights on small shows in Mexico, Garcia’s 2007 pro debut came on a Golden Boy card in Atlantic City, headlined a Joan Guzman-Humberto Soto world title fight, and his second fight was in Las Vegas, opening the Mayweather-Hatton card.

A Puerto Rican fighter from Philadelphia, Garcia cruised along for a few years. In 2011, he faced former titleholder Nate Campbell, who had started coming down the other side of his career, and won a wide decision. His next fight was against another former titleholder, Kendall Holt, and Garcia again won comfortably, although it was scored a split decision because judge Wayne Hedgpeth went mad during the bout.

Garcia got his first world title shot in March 2012, in the 23rd fight of his career. He was matched with a blown-up version of Erik Morales, a prime super bantamweight now fighting at junior welterweight. The WBC had all but gifted Morales their 140-pound title in Sept. 2011 by matching him with an incredibly green Pablo Cesar Cano.

Morales missed weight for the Garcia fight, but the bout went ahead anyway. Garcia dropped him in the 11th round and won the decision to become a champion for the first time.

From there, Garcia went on a real run at 140. He knocked out Amir Khan in July 2012, then was ridiculously matched with Morales for a rematch in October. Boxing fans learned about clenbuterol when Morales failed his drug test, but the fight went ahead, and Garcia viciously knocked the old man out in the fourth round.

Garcia dropped and beat a faded Zab Judah next, and it became somewhat clear that Garcia was starting to make a name on guys who were good years before he fought them — Campbell, Holt, Morales, Judah. Of the fighters he’d faced since stepping up, only Khan was in his prime.

180591627.jpg - Perennial underdog Granados goes for glory once more against GarciaPhoto by Al Bello/Getty Images

At the moment, there was a perceived monster haunting the 140-pound ranks in Argentine slugger Lucas Matthysse. Matthysse had two controversial split decision losses (to Judah and Devon Alexander) on his record, but had been thrashing recent opponents, including Humberto Soto, the unbeaten Olusegun Ajose, Mike Dallas Jr for whatever that one was worth, and most impressively, Lamont Peterson.

It was believed by some, at least, that Garcia would avoid Matthysse, that Golden Boy wasn’t looking to match their unbeaten titleholder on the rise to a dangerous opponent.

The fight got made, though, and placed on the Mayweather-Canelo pay-per-view as an unusually strong co-feature.

Garcia proved the skeptics wrong, seemingly for good, with a decision win over Matthysse, in a fight where he busted Matthysse up, pounded his eye shut, and dropped him in the 11th round. It was a career-best win, one that legitimized Garcia and put some real respect on his name.

And then he went to Puerto Rico and won a controversial decision over Mauricio Herrera. A little shaken by that experience, Garcia inched his way up in weight for a catchweight bout with Rod Salka, a matchup so disreputable that it’s been made fun of for almost five years running. Garcia knocked Salka out in the second round.

Garcia had another close call at another catchweight against Lamont Peterson in April 2015, then moved up fully to welterweight. He beat Paulie Malignaggi down in his debut in the division, then won the vacant WBC title with a victory over Robert Guerrero. After a non-title win over Samuel Vargas in Nov. 2016, he faced Keith Thurman in a unification bout in March 2017, losing a split decision.

Most recently, Garcia knocked out faded Brandon Rios and lost another welterweight title fight against Shawn Porter last September.

Garcia is a good fighter, but the Matthysse win remains the most signature of his career. He’s 31 now, and while still a contender, he might be on the outside looking in with the top welterweights in the division.

PBC, at last rumor, were hoping to make Errol Spence Jr vs Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman vs Manny Pacquiao in the next cycle of fights, which hopefully will bring us more FOX studio photos of everyone standing next to Lennox Lewis, making me adjust the frame of every photo so that the actual fighters in the fights are shown from about chest-up, while Lewis towers over them in the background.

So we’ve got Garcia against Granados on Saturday, and then who knows what? In theory, he’d make for a perfectly credible challenger against WBO titleholder Terence Crawford, but we’ve been over the Top Rank/PBC issues a million times now. That’s not to say it can’t be made, but it’s very difficult.

This fight has flown under the radar, and that’s kind of understandable. On paper, this is another “tune-up” fight for Garcia, something he’s made part of his routine. Win over Matthysse, close call with Herrera, take a softie with Salka. Peterson, Malignaggi, Guerrero, softie with Samuel Vargas. Lose to Thurman, softie with the always-game but shot Rios. Lose to Porter, face Granados.

Granados, though, has the potential to be a tough out. He’s done it many times. He’s not a world class fighter, but he’s scrappy and doesn’t go away in fights. In some ways, it’s a similar matchup to Garcia-Rios, and Rios did have a little success in that fight before Garcia put him away. But Granados hasn’t taken nearly the punishment that Rios had by the time he fought Garcia, and what’s bigger is that Rios was known for getting badly out of shape between fights even during his best years, requiring huge weight cuts when it was time to train. That takes a major toll. To the best of my knowledge, Granados isn’t the same.

There’s a chance this is a really good fight; a strong chance that it’s a much better fight than the promised welterweight classic going against it on pay-per-view. Maybe Granados has slipped a bit, but maybe he hasn’t. If he has, Garcia should be too good. If he hasn’t, we’ve seen Garcia struggle with fights around this level before.

Undercard

  • The FOX broadcast will feature returning heavyweight Andy Ruiz Jr (31-1, 20 KO) against Russian veteran Alexander Dimitrenko (41-4, 26 KO), plus an interim WBA 122-pound title fight between Brandon Figueroa (18-0, 13 KO) and Yonfrez Parejo (22-3-1, 11 KO). The 22-year-old Figueroa is the younger brother of former lightweight titleholder Omar Figueroa Jr.
  • FS1 will air fights after the FOX card ends, scheduled to start at 10:30 pm ET. Middleweights Jeison Rosario (18-1-1, 13 KO) and Jorge Cota (28-2, 25 KO) will meet. Lightweight Karlos Balderas (7-0, 6 KO) returns against Luis May (21-13-1, 8 KO). Junior welterweight Omar Juarez (2-0, 1 KO) takes on Dwayne Bonds (3-1-1, 1 KO). And 36-year-old Alfredo Angulo (24-7, 20 KO), now a super middleweight, will go against Evert Bravo (24-9-1, 18 KO). Angulo hasn’t won a fight in almost four years, and his last really notable win came in, like, 2010.

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