Few fighters had a bigger 2012 than unified junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia.
The undefeated fighter from Philadelphia, by way of Puerto Rico, began his year by winning the WBC 140-pound title against Erik Morales before adding the WBA belt with a spectacular knockout of heavily favored Amir Khan. Had he stopped there, his year would've been impressive, but he capped it off by impressively opening the Barclays Center for boxing with a near decapitation knockout of Morales in an October rematch.
As one Puerto Rican fighter's star began to ascend, the man who has for several years held the title as the island's biggest superstar saw his star begin to fade.
Miguel Cotto's 2012 campaign was the opposite of Garcia's in many ways.
A spirited but decisive defeat at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May was heralded a resurgence. But that was quickly erased when Cotto was decisively beaten for a second time in seven months, this time by Austin Trout.
What we have are two careers heading in opposite directions. But as Miguel Cotto begins to recede from the scene, can Danny Garcia take his spot as Puerto Rico's next superstar?
The answer to that question is a resounding yes.
Garcia possesses many of the qualities that made Miguel Cotto such an icon and big attraction from basically the day he turned pro.
A fierce competitor in the ring, Cotto was always known for being humble outside of it and refusing to engage in the trash talk that defined other Puerto Rican legends, such as the late Hector "Macho" Camacho.
Garcia too is personable, and despite his father Angel's occasional bouts with common sense and tact, he has a personality that is built for next-level stardom. And he's well on his way with wins over Morales and Khan and a looming showdown with Zab Judah next month at the Barclays Center.
Throughout his career, Cotto has always had deep roots in New York City, fighting there 10 times, including eight at the famed Madison Square Garden. The sizable Puerto Rican community in the city has always been very supportive and helped to propel his career. Garcia is already seemingly going out of his way to develop goodwill with that same community. He headlined the inaugural boxing card at the Barclays Center in October and will return there in February.
If he puts in a similar performance to his first showcase in Brooklyn, he'll win plenty of new fans. And the fans he wins will be rabid and highly supportive. New York City could become something of a second home, especially given Golden Boy Promotion's reported interest in holding regular events at Barclays.
It will also propel him into potentially big fights later on in 2013 and going forward. Garcia competes in a weight range that possesses no shortage of huge challenges.
If you know anything about Puerto Rican fighters, particularly those who become stars, they are warriors of the first degree. And they face down the toughest challenges. Luckily for Garcia, there are plenty of those with Adrien Broner, Lucas Matthysse and Khan. And if the Top Rank/Golden Boy Promotions feud ever gets settled, there's Brandon Rios and possibly even Manny Pacquiao.
The fights are there, and Garcia has the skill and personality to emerge in 2013 as the next great Puerto Rican star.
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