By Jake Donovan
The long-growing rivalry between Danny Garcia and Zab Judah reached a resolution Saturday evening at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Months of trash talk, postponements and desperate efforts for promotion came to close as Garcia scored a mid-round knockdown and fended off a late rally to top Judah via unanimous decision.
Scores were 116-111, 115-112 and 114-112 in the 12-round Showtime-televised main event.
The action was slow in the early going. The most significant punch in the opening round was landed by Garcia, connecting with a right hand that momentarily forced Judah to change direction. The defending unified titlist picked up the pace in round two, tightening up the distance in his right hands and also scoring with body shots underneath Judah’s guard.
Judah was expected to offer his usual all-in attack in the first four rounds of the fight. Instead, fans saw a faded veteran now 17 years into his career and no longer able to rely on his once blazing hand and foot speed. The occasional power shot would land for the Brooklynite, but nothing that caught Garcia’s attention early on.
The same could not at all be said in reverse.
Garcia fought in cruise control through the first few rounds, but kicked it into high gear in round five. A counter right hand sent Judah reeling, though the southpaw managed to avoid a trip to the canvas.
There existed a much greater threat of a knockdown and possible stoppage in round six, when Garcia repeatedly rocked the faded former champ. Judah nearly hit the deck, barely keeping his knee off of the canvas as he ducked a left hand after getting nailed with a right hand.
A brief Judah rally came as the bout crept into the second half. The efforts were quickly thwarted, however, when Garcia connected with a straight right hand for the bout’s lone knockdown.
“I knew he throws a lot of power with the left, so I was trying to stand my ground and fire,” Garcia revealed afterward. “He threw a left and I just countered right back.”
It hardly meant the end of Judah, however.
Garcia’s mid-rounds surge peaked a bit too early, allowing Judah to gain his second wind and make things far more interesting down the stretch. Even after being floored and with his eye looking like fresh ground beef, there was no quit in the hometown fighter despite a deliberate start to round nine as he was slow to get off of his stool.
It was the last effective round of the fight for Garcia. The 10th round was telling in that Judah came out revitalized while Garcia appeared to dramatically slow down.
Power punches landed with alarming regularity for the challenger, as Garcia was slow to reach to the incoming. Return fire from the defending champ saw heavy arm punches with little sting on them, as Judah easily darted out of harm’s way before immediately returning fire.
The rally revitalized Judah, who came with a bounce in his step for the championship rounds. Garcia fought cautiously, working his jab as he attempted to avoid any more punishment.
The strategy miserably backfired, even with the aid of an unintentional timeout caused by Judah’s shoelace coming untied. Garcia gained a breather, but it was Judah who controlled the action in the final moments of the round, scoring with a left hand followed by a combination upstairs that rocked Garcia. Adding insult to injury was a cut atop Garcia’s scalp, caused by an accidental headbutt.
Another clash of heads came early in the final round, leaving Garcia with a cut along his forehead. The sight of his own blood wasn’t particularly troublesome, as he appeared comfortable in his role as boxer. Judah scored with left hands, but was momentarily frozen by a right hand from the defending champion. Garcia, seemingly ahead, sought a knockout finish, connecting with overhand rights and left hooks in the closing seconds of the bout to seal victory.
The two fighters embraced immediately following the final bell, a refreshing sign after months of senseless trash talk and nonsensical antics from both camps.
“It's over. To me, there was a lot of bad blood but it's over,” said Garcia, who improves to 26-0 (16KO). The win was his second straight in the Barclays Center, scoring a fourth round knockout in his rematch with Erik Morales last October in the building’s first ever boxing card.
Saturday’s battle proved a far more daunting task.
“Zab no doubt is the craftiest and best guy I’ve fought so far.”
Judah wasn’t as quick to pay his opponent the same level of compliments, but still took the loss with grace and class.
“It’s boxing; you win some, you lose some,” said Judah, who falls to 42-8 (29KO) with the setback. The fight marked his first bit of ring action since last March, when he stopped previously unbeaten Vernon Paris in the 9th round of his first ever fight in his home borough of Brooklyn.
The loss to Garcia wasn’t as damaging as past defeats. Heart and courage were on full display in the county of Kings, though Judah’s surge came too late in the fight.
“Danny Garcia is a young, tough fighter. We had a great training camp and gave it our big shot,” Judah admitted, refusing to make any excuses for his brave yet losing effort.
Judah has won titles at 140 and 147, including the lineal welterweight championship in a revenge-fueled 9th round knockout of Cory Spinks on the road in St. Louis in 2005. His history at home isn’t quite as storied, dropping title fights to Carlos Baldomir and Miguel Cotto prior to Saturday’s outcome.
New York has proven to be a home away from home for Garcia, though his focus now heads towards the Jersey Shore. Saturday’s bout was hailed as the first leg of an unofficial 140 lb. tournament held by Golden Boy Promotions. The next entry comes next month in Atlantic City, when Lamont Peterson faces Lucas Matthysse. The winner is being groomed to face Garcia, with the last man standing to be sold as a potential December opponent for resurgent Amir Khan.
Garcia already owns a win over Khan, knocking out the Brit in four rounds last summer as part of a breakout 2012 campaign. As for his next opponent… all Garcia cares about his having one lined up. Who it is, matters far less as there being someone to fight.
“It doesn’t matter to me who I fight,” Garcia said when pressed for a preference between Peterson and Matthysse. “It’s up to Al Haymon. My job is to train and fight. My father trains me, Al makes those decisions. My job is to fight.”
For the 26th time in as many tries, Danny Garcia performed his job well enough to remain unbeaten and on top of the world.
Peter Quillin has a way to go before proving himself to be the best middleweight in the world. Saturday night was a nice next step, dominating Fernando Guerrero in Brooklyn at the exact same time lineal champ Sergio Martinez delivered an uneven performance in Argentina.
The Showtime-televised co-feature saw Quillin drop Guerrero four times en route to a seventh-round knockout at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Quillin jumped out to a quick start, never giving Guerrero a chance to get into the fight, save for a brief exchange midway through the opening round. A short right hand put Guerrero flat on his back early in round two, producing the bout’s first knockdown. Guerrero took the eight count, but struggled to collect his faculties as Quillin floored him moments later with a straight right along the ropes.
A third knockdown nearly occurred, only for Guerrero to barely keep his knee off of the canvas. Quillin continued to pursue the knockout, but never to the point of abandoning his boxing skills.
Guerrero was all heart in going toe-to-toe with the unbeaten titlist, including an aesthetically pleasing give-and-take sixth round. Quillin appeared to tire towards the end of the frame, while Guerrero was suddenly full of swagger.
The Dominican southpaw began feeling himself a little much, as Quillin scored the third knockdown of the fight early in round seven. A right hand sent Guerrero reeling across the ring, but nowhere nearly as damaging as the follow up shot that put him down and out.
The official time was 1:30 of round seven.
Quillin improves to 29-0 (21KO) with the win, which marked the first defense of the title he won in this very building six months ago.
Guerrero falls to 25-2 (19KO), falling way short in his first major title bid.
OFF-CAMERA (AS REPORTED BY BILL EMES)
Middleweight contender Daniel Jacobs (25-1, 22KOs) knocked out Kennan Collins (15-8-3) in four rounds.
Former welterweight champion Luis Collazo (33-5, 17KOs) stopped Miguel Callist (27-9-1) in the fifth round.
Junior middleweight prospect Eddie Gomez (15-0, 10KOs) won an eight round unanimous decision over Luis Hernandez (22-5). The scores were 80-70, 80-70 and 80-71.
Junior middleweight Boyd Melson (11-1-1, 4KOs) won a six round unanimous decision over Edgar Perez (5-4). The scores were 60-53, 60-53 and 59-54.
Heavyweight prospect Marcus Browne (4-0, 4KOs) continued his KO streak with a second round bombing of Tanieal Goyco (4-6).
Junior welterweight prospect Zachary Ochoa (4-0, 3KOs) won a four round unanimous decision over Calvin Smith (2-3). All three of the official judges scored it 40-36.
Bantamweight up and comer Miguel Cartagena (6-0, 3KOs) took an easy four round unanimous nod over Angel Carvajal (2-1). The scorecards were in agreement with a tally of 40-36.
Super middleweight prospect D'Mitrius Ballard (2-0, 2KOs) stopped Marcus Clay (2-6) in two rounds. The fight was scheduled for four.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox