By Keith Idec
It wasn’t a pretty victory, but Martin Murray fended off Roberto Garcia in their middleweight fight Saturday night.
Murray mostly was the busier, more accurate fighter and withstood Garcia’s rally late in their 12-round middleweight match at O2 Arena in London. England’s Murray (37-4-1, 17 KOs) won a unanimous decision over Texas’ Garcia (41-4, 24 KOs, 1 NC), who had two points deducted, one apiece in the second and ninth rounds.
The 35-year-old Murray won on the scorecards of all three judges – Pedrag Aleksic (118-109), Francisco Alloza (116-111) and John Keane (118-108). Murray had some success with his jab and went to Garcia’s body well, but he couldn’t hurt the rugged, rule-bending Garcia in an ugly fight full of clinches and interference from referee Hector Afu.
Murray extended his winning streak to four fights since losing to London’s George Groves by unanimous decision in their 12-round super middleweight match in June 2016 at O2 Arena.
The 38-year-old Garcia, of Weslaco, Texas, was a late replacement for Billy Joe Saunders. Prior to Murray beating him, Garcia hadn’t lost since fellow Mexican Antonio Margarito defeated him by unanimous decision in their 10-round junior middleweight match in May 2010.
Garcia tried right up until the final bell to score the knockout he knew he needed to win the fight.
With Murray against the ropes, Garcia’s overhand right landed to Murray’s head about 20 seconds into the 12th round. An aggressive Garcia, clearly behind, tried to land something big for the remainder of the 12th, but he couldn’t hurt Murray.
Garcia hit Murray with a straight left hand that snapped back Murray’s head right before the halfway point of the 11th round.
Afu deducted a point from Garcia for the second time in the fight during the ninth round. Whereas the first deduction in the second round was a penalty for low blows, it wasn’t clear why Afu took another point from Garcia in the ninth.
Murray remained the more active, accurate fighter in the seventh and eight rounds. Garcia continued smiling at him, though, as Murray landed punches Garcia wanted him to know didn’t hurt.
Murray continued to attack Garcia’s body in the sixth round and punched in combination to Garcia’s head. Afu warned both boxers for clashes of heads where there was about 1:15 remaining in the sixth round.
Murray connected with several left hooks to Garcia’s body in the fifth round. Garcia simply shook his head and kept moving forward.
Garcia was warned for landing a low left hand when there was about 1:50 to go in the fourth round. Murray was the busier fighter in the fourth round, but none of his punches seemed to affect Garcia.
Murray landed a straight right hand directly to the middle of Garcia’s face with around 1:05 to go in the third round.
Garcia came back later in the third by drilling Murray with a right hand to his chest. That shot caused Murray to hold Garcia.
The first two rounds were closely contested as well, with Garcia consistently coming forward and Murray remaining at a distance, trying to work off his jab. Garcia fell behind, however, because he had a point deducted for a low blow in the second round.
Afu warned Garcia for a low blow in the second round before taking a point away from him for landing a right hand to Murray’s leg with under a minute to go in it.
Murray was supposed to challenge Saunders for the British southpaw’s WBO middleweight title Saturday night. Saunders withdrew from their fight for the second time June 3, this time due to a hamstring injury.
Their fight first was postponed from April 14 until Saturday night because Saunders suffered a hand injury during training camp.
A frustrated Murray made it clear once Saunders withdrew a second time that he doesn’t believe Saunders was hurt this time. Murray has accused Saunders of pulling out of their fight to see if he could land a better payday for a higher-profile fight against Gennady Golovkin or Canelo Alvarez.
Saunders agreed to battle Golovkin on August 25 in Inglewood, California, but Golovkin-Saunders plans were scrapped once Golovkin and Alvarez agreed to terms June 13 for their rematch September 15 in Las Vegas.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.