By Keith Idec
CARSON, California – Ryan Garcia showed some flaws Friday night, especially defensively, but he still easily defeated Jayson Velez in what was considered a step up in competition.
The highly regarded, 19-year-old super featherweight prospect topped Velez by unanimous decision in the 10-round main event of an ESPN2 telecast from StubHub Center. Garcia (15-0, 13 KOs) won comfortably by the same score, 99-91, on the cards of all three judges – Max De Luca, Alejandro Rochin and Fernando Villarreal.
“I feel I did great,” Garcia said in the ring following his victory. “I didn’t expect him to be such a durable fighter. I’m 19 years old. I’ve got a long way to go. I’m still learning. I wanna thank Jayson Velez for teaching me tonight.”
Garcia, of Victorville, California, went 10 rounds for the first time in his brief but promising career. Puerto Rico’s Velez (26-5-1, 18 KOs), who has never been knocked out, lost a 10-round decision for the fifth time as a pro.
By beating Velez, Garcia won the vacant NABO and NABF 130-pound championships.
The 30-year-old Velez, once a top prospect, was the best opponent Garcia has faced since he turned pro in June 2016. Before Friday night, Garcia largely had knocked out journeymen or worse.
He hit Velez with a variety of powerful punches, but couldn’t knock down the stubborn veteran in what amounted to a valuable developmental fight for Garcia. Velez lost four straight fights from November 2015-December 2016, but each of those fights went all 10 rounds as well.
Garcia, who’s represented by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, went past the third round for just the third time since he made his pro debut, when he was just 17. The only other Garcia fight that went the distance was a four-rounder.
The fast-handed, strong Garcia landed a variety of power punches during a 10th round in which he proved he still was fresh.
Fans, most of whom came to StubHub Center to watch Garcia, booed briefly as Garcia moved around and stayed away from Velez early in the ninth round. Velez landed three left hands during the final minute of the ninth round, but none of those punches hurt Garcia.
Aware that he was behind on the scorecards, Velez began the eighth round aggressively. Garcia’s left hook late in the eighth knocked off balance.
Garcia unleashed a flurry just before the eighth round ended, yet didn’t appear to hurt Velez.
Velez’s hard right to the body made Garcia move around early in the seventh round. They traded right hands soon thereafter, but Velez had more success in that round than he had in previous rounds.
Velez clipped Garcia with a straight right hand when there were about 45 seconds to go in the sixth round. Taking that shot made Garcia unleash a flurry of power punches that prevented Velez from following up on his temporary moment of success.
Garcia hammered Velez with an array of right hands just after the midway mark of the fifth round. A game Velez moved forward after taking those shots, but clearly was slowing down as a result of all the flush punches Garcia had landed.
Over the final 20 seconds of the fourth round, Garcia blasted Velez with a short left hook inside, as Velez leaned forward, and an overhand right.
Garcia rocked Velez with a right uppercut near the 50-second mark of the third round. Velez kept coming forward, but Garcia buzzed him again with an overhand right to the side of his head just before the third round ended.
Velez landed a left hook that briefly backed up Garcia near a neutral corner with just over two minutes to go in the second round. A solid overhand right by Garcia knocked Velez off balance later in the second.
Like a veteran, Garcia drilled Velez with a right hand off a break toward the end of the second round.
Velez continually landed right hands to Garcia’s body early in the first round. Garcia connected with a hard, overhand right just after the midway mark of the first round.
Garcia also clipped Velez with a short left hook with around 25 seconds to go in the first round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.