By Keith Idec
Ryan Garcia gave his adoring fans another victory Saturday night.
He also gave promoter Oscar De La Hoya and his matchmakers cause for concern. Carlos Morales, who has just six knockouts, hurt Garcia with a jab in the seventh round and a fatigued Garcia spent a lot of time during the final four rounds of their competitive fight holding his rugged opponent.
The undefeated, 20-year-old junior lightweight prospect still did enough, particularly within the first six-plus rounds, to win a 10-round majority decision at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.
Judges Max DeLuca and David Denkin scored their lightweight fight 98-92 for Garcia. Judge Edward Hernandez Sr. scored the action even (95-95) in the main event of a card that was streamed live by Facebook Watch.
Garcia admitted afterward that even he thought the toughest fight of his pro career was closer than DeLuca and Denkin had it on their scorecards. DeLuca and Denkin each scored eight of the 10 rounds for Garcia, of Victorville, California.
“First I wanna say much respect to Carlos Morales,” Garcia said during his post-fight interview. “I felt like the fight was closer than the scorecards say. He did a great job. I’m giving all my respect to him and it was great. It was a great fight.”
CompuBox counted 142-of-382 overall punches that landed for Garcia, 49 more than for Morales (93-of-451). According to those unofficial punch stats, Garcia landed more power punches (101-of-223 to 76-of-282) and more jabs (41-of-159 to 17-of-169).
Garcia (16-0, 13 KOs) went the distance for a second straight fight and the third time in his two-year pro career.
Puerto Rican veteran Jayson Velez (26-5-1, 18 KOs) took Garcia all 10 rounds in his previous fight, May 4 at StubHub Center in Carson, California. Garcia won nine of the 10 rounds on all three scorecards versus Velez (99-91).
The 28-year-old Morales, a native Mexican who resides in Highland Park, California, slipped to 17-3-3. Garcia gave him plenty of credit in his post-fight interview, though, for testing him in his 16th professional fight.
“I was a little winded,” Garcia said. “I admit it. I was winded and he was coming to fight, so we were just fighting. That’s all I can say.”
When asked if he still thinks he is ready for WBA 130-pound champion Gervonta Davis, Garcia replied, “I don’t care what nobody says. I’m young and I’m hungry. I just gotta get back to the gym and work on my craft, and I could be ready for anybody. I’m young and I have time on my side, so I’m not worried about it.”
Morales exploited Garcia’s defensive flaws at times and tried his best right until the end of the fight to knock out his heavily hyped opponent. He landed an overhand right approximately 25 seconds into the 10th round, but he couldn’t catch Garcia with another flush punch before their fight ended.
Garcia landed a left hook just before the one-minute mark of the ninth round. He didn’t follow it up, though, and wound up holding Morales in a headlock before referee Thomas Taylor broke them up.
Morales cracked Garcia with a short left hook several seconds later.
Sensing Garcia still was buzzed from a jab in the seventh round, Morales attacked him at the start of the eighth round and cracked Garcia with a left hook that moved him backward. Garcia landed a couple body shots later in the eighth and let his hands go late in the eighth to fend off Morales toward the end of the eighth.
Morales’ left hand to the body and subsequent left hook to the head forced Garcia to hold him around the midway mark of the seventh round. Garcia began moving around once Taylor broke them apart.
Morales then landed a stiff jab that buckled Garcia’s legs and made him move backward with just over 50 seconds to go in the seventh. Garcia glanced up at the clock after absorbing that shot and managed to make it to the end of the round.
Garcia’s left hook caused Morales to hold him just after the halfway point of the sixth round.
Morales’ right hand landed to the side of Garcia’s head twice within the first minute of the fifth round. Garcia lunged and landed a left hook late in the fifth round.
For the second time in the fight, Garcia fell the canvas after getting tangled up with Morales when there was just over two minutes left in the fourth round. Garcia connected with a right and followed up with a left later in the fourth, which caused Morales to shake his head to indicate he wasn’t hurt.
Morales landed a left hook that backed Garcia into the ropes just before the midway mark of the third round. Garcia drilled Morales with an overhand right that made Morales retreat later in the third.
Morales also suffered a cut across the bridge of his nose during the third round.
Garcia hit Morales with a short right uppercut when there were about 50 seconds remaining in the second round. Taylor warned Morales for shoving Garcia to the canvas with 20 secons to go in the second round.
Morales landed an overhand right that got Garcia’s attention about 1:15 into the first round. Garcia connected with a short right hand as Morales came forward with about 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.