by David P. Greisman
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK — It was Lamont Peterson who was landing the harder shots with increasingly regularity down the stretch. But it was Danny Garcia who escaped with the majority decision victory.
No matter who appears to be winning in the last rounds when a fight goes the distance, boxing is of course still judged on a round-by-round basis. In this case, the judges saw a close contest, one in which Garcia gave chase early while Peterson seemed intent on doing little beyond making Garcia miss. Peterson changed up his approach later — instead of clowning Garcia with defense, he clobbered him with offense.
It wouldn’t be enough. One judge, Don Ackerman, had it a draw at 114-114, or six rounds apiece. The other two judges, Kevin Morgan and Steve Weisfeld overruled it, rendering the verdict for Garcia at 115-113, or seven rounds to five.
This was a bout between two of the top three 140-pound fighters, though it was taking place at a contractually agreed-upon limit of 143 pounds. Garcia is the lineal junior-welterweight champion, a status he earned after scoring a majority decision over Lucas Matthysse in September 2013. Peterson, meanwhile, had been stopped by Matthysse in three rounds in May 2013.
While arithmetic would say that Garcia being better than Matthysse and Matthysse being better than Peterson should mean that Garcia is better than Peterson, that’s not the way that boxing works. Styles make fights, and opponents can match up differently. The most famous example of boxing’s “triangle theory” recalls how George Foreman mopped the floor with Joe Frazier, Frazier topped Muhammad Ali, and Ali out-boxed Frazier.
Both men are characteristically slow starters. Garcia came out aggressively, though, while Peterson boxed. Garcia had tremendous difficulty hitting Peterson in the opening rounds. For all of Garcia’s vaunted hand speed — his nickname is “Swift” — Peterson was able to see the shots coming and either weaved away or just stayed at a distance and changed directions, giving Garcia few opportunities to land. By the fourth round, an annoyed Garcia took a few steps backward and beckoned Peterson to come forward, drawing roars from the crowd.
Despite Garcia’s frustrations, he was able to earn all six rounds in the first half of the fight from Weisfeld, while Ackerman and Morgan gave Garcia five of the six, seeing the third round for Peterson.
“He stuck to his game plan and moved a lot,” Garcia said afterward.
This was a departure from the Peterson who likes to grind his opponents down. That would change later.
Garcia may have thought he was going to take over after a breakout sixth round in which he was able to put leather on Peterson’s face more than before, throwing combinations, switching angles and then trying again. But by the eighth, Peterson was coming forward and mixing in shots to the head and body, pushing Garcia to the ropes and chopping away. Garcia tried to fight back, yet Peterson was smothering his punches, taking what shots did land and delivering more in return.
“I stuck to my game plan the whole time. It was about making him miss, tiring him out, seeing where I could take my chances and capitalizing,” Peterson said afterward. “People can call it a slow start. I thought I was controlling the pace of the fight. I didn’t get to the body as much as I normally would like to, but I caught him a few times as well.”
Peterson sought to demoralize Garcia more by rising from his stool early before the ninth round began and jogging around. He soon wound up his right hand as if to throw a Bolo, but Garcia landed a good right hand first.
Peterson’s punishing attack got the attention of the judges. Ackerman gave Peterson a sweep from rounds 8 through 12. Morgan gave Peterson rounds 8, 9, 11 and 12. Weisfeld gave Peterson rounds 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12.
It was Peterson who had taken control. It wasn’t enough. Garcia took the close decision.
CompuBox credited Garcia with going 173 of 589 on the night, landing just 29 percent of his shots. Peterson was 170 of 494, or 34 percent. Garcia’s jab was ineffective, landing just 26 of 201 times (13 percent.) Peterson was 65 of 283 with the jab (23 percent). Garcia had better success with his power shots at 147 of 388 (38 percent). Peterson was incredibly accurate, landing half of what he threw, 105 of 211.
“It thought it was close,” Garcia said. “I’m not going to lie.”
Said Peterson: “I’m not calling robbery. Danny fought a good fight. I don’t expect an easy journey to get where I am going.”
This was Garcia’s second straight fight with a contracted limit above the junior-welterweight division’s 140-pound maximum. His previous fight, an August blowout of Rod Salka, had a limit of 142 pounds. Garcia has spoken for some time about moving the rest of the way up to the welterweight limit of 147 pounds. That appears to be next.
“I feel like I have to go up in weight,” said Garcia, who turned pro in 2007 and has been at or around junior welterweight dating back to his amateur days. “It’s affecting my performance.”
Peterson is also considering that same move. He’s spent pretty much his entire pro career, more than a decade, at junior welterweight. Peterson, 31, of Washington, D.C., is now 33-3-1 with 17 KOs, with the other defeats coming against Tim Bradley in 2009 and Matthysse in 2013. Though this bout with Garcia took place above the 140-pound limit, he will be stripped of his International Boxing Federation belt in that division.
Garcia, 27, of Philadelphia, moves to 30-0 with 17 KOs.
Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]