Alan Dawson – London
In a contest more competitive than the judges’ scorecards may suggest, unbeaten Philadelphian boxer Danny Garcia extended his undefeated streak and added a guaranteed future hall-of-famer to his resume as Mexican great Erik Morales was knocked down then out-pointed at the Reliant Arena in Houston, Texas on Saturday, March 24. Morales failed to cope when Garcia changed gears, giving credence to the notion that Morales’ battling performance against Marcos Maidana last year was the exception, rather than the rule of his comeback in the sport.
Official verdict: Garcia wins unanimous decision (117-110, 116-112, 118-109).
Danny Garcia was thrust into his first world title challenge and was given a stiff welcome to Texas as Morales thudded an overhand right into his jaw. Garcia may have been wayward with his jab, but midway through the fight he attached second and third punches onto the lead shot and began to land. The opener, though, seemed typified by Morales’ precision, craft, patience, ability to parry and occupation of the centre of the ring.
Morales jabbed to the body in round two, controlled the pace of the fight while Garcia paid the price for allowing Morales to fight his type of fight. In the stanza’s final minute, Morales impressively landed a succession of three straight uppercuts direct onto Garcia’s chin. One. Two. Three… before stepping back and watching Garcia engage in an act of bravado.
Any hint Garcia had been hindered by intimidation in the first two rounds was taken away in round three. Having taken heed of his father/trainer Angel Garcia’s advice: that Morales was just another opponent, not a ring legend, Garcia upped the tempo of the bout and forced Morales to absorb a multitude of right hands. In the fourth, he landed with the left hooks, however, the advantage he had in the third – landing bursts of punches – was not apparent in the next as he reverted back to firing single shots, which thus allowed Morales to regain the status of the aggressor.
If Garcia relinquished the ten score in round five, he beat his way to it in the sixth, backing Morales up, sticking the right hand onto him but Morales refused to bow out of the stanza and fought in kind, slugging toe-to-toe, feinting with the right hand to make Garcia flinch, then attacking him with a barrage of blows. In a tight round, it was Garcia who edged it.
The momentum was all Garcia’s during the middle rounds as he paid particular attention to the veteran’s body in an attempt to make Morales feel every one of his 35 years. In the ninth, he landed a one-two combination, to the head then to the body and, when operating behind the jab particularly, showed he could threaten to out-box Morales who had, as the last third of the fight got underway, slowed and saw his accuracy lull.
In round ten, Garcia enjoyed the upper hand throughout most of the round but the best punch – and move – of the entire night was landed by Morales who dented Garcia’s nose and caused the challenger to leak claret from the nostrils with a power punch launched from deep. In the 11th, Garcia looked to his corner in desperation while Morales jabbed away at the nose, angering the leakage. Just when the tide seemed to be turning, Garcia cracked Morales with a left hook to the chin, dropping the tough Mexican to the floor, to his knees, where he remained for a large portion of the count.
Morales fought sluggishly in the final round, drifting toward a decision defeat as Garcia became the newly-crowned super lightweight champion of the WBC. With victory, the man from the city of brotherly love – who was buoyed from the fatherly love advice of coach Angel – rose to 23-0-0, 14ko. Morales dropped down to 52-8-0, 36ko.