By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Ryan Garcia made a spectacular Madison Square Garden debut Saturday night.
The strong, fast-handed lightweight prospect dropped Braulio Rodriguez twice and stopped him in the fifth round on the Canelo Alvarez-Rocky Fielding undercard. Garcia floored Rodriguez with a right-left combination in the first round and a left hook in the fifth round.
Rodriguez couldn’t answer referee Ron Lipton’s count after the second knockdown. Their scheduled 10-rounder was stopped at 1:14 of the fifth round.
The 20-year-old Garcia (17-0, 14 KOs) fought for the first time with Alvarez’s trainers – Eddy Reynoso and his dad, Jose “Chepo” Reynoso – in his corner.
They began training Garcia following his previous performance, in which the fatigued Garcia was buzzed by light-punching Carlos Morales (17-4-3, 6 KOs). Garcia, of Victorville, California, won that bout by big margins on two scorecards (98-92, 98-92), but one judge scored it even (95-95).
His performance in that September 1 fight in Indio, California, convinced Garcia and his father/trainer, Henry, to hire the Reynosos to train him.
“I wasn’t looking for the knockout,” Garcia said. “I wanted to show them that I can fight and I am for real.”
The Dominican Republic’s Rodriguez lost by technical knockout in a second straight fight. Puerto Rico’s Christopher Diaz (24-1, 16 KOs) stopped Rodriguez (19-4, 17 KOs) in the fourth round of their March 17 bout in The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Rodriguez attacked Garcia at the start of the fifth round and tried roughing him up. Garcia got away from him, let his hands go and knocked him down with the left hook that ended their fight.
Rodriguez threw hard shots at Garcia with just over a minute remaining in the fourth round. Garcia moved out Rodriguez’s punching range and then fired back at his veteran opponent.
Rodriguez tried fighting from a southpaw stance in the middle of the third round, but it didn’t deter Garcia. He backed Rodriguez against the ropes toward the end of the third round, but Rodriguez stuck out his tongue and taunted Garcia.
Garcia dropped Rodriguez with 53 seconds to go in the first round, after drilling him with a straight right and then a left hook that sent him to the canvas. Rodriguez reached his feet and survived until the end of the round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.