|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY April 27, 2013||
by John DiSanto
Danny Garcia defeated Zab Judah by close unanimous decision to defend his junior welterweight titles Saturday night in Judah's hometown of Brooklyn, NY. The fight was a terrific battle with both fighters landing freely throughout the contest. Garcia dominated early, and floored Judah in round eight, but the native New Yorker staged a brilliant comeback down the stretch. Judah's late heroics gave the fight a great final act, sternly tested Garcia's mettle, and brought the scores rather close on the official cards.
In the end, Garcia kept his collection of title belts (WBC, WBA, Ring Magazine) and remained undefeated at 26-0, 16 KOs. Judah, 42-8, 29 KOs, a former two division champion, continued his career revival with his strong effort.
Before the fight, Garcia told this web site that he wore his championship on his sleeve, but after the 12-round battle royal at the Barclay's Center, Garcia also wore signs of that championship on his face. By the time the brutal two-way war was over, the champion was wearing a bad gash on his forehead, another cut at his hairline, and a variety of lumps and bruises around his eyes. Judah was also marked with bad cuts above and below his left eye, and on the bridge of his nose.
However, Garcia also wore a big smile on his face, because he had just fought, and won, the toughest fight of his career. The bout was far more difficult - and entertaining - than many thought it would be, but it provided Garcia a master class in tough championship boxing.
"No doubt, Judah is the craftiest and most powerful guy I've faced so far," Garcia said in the ring after the fight. "I knew he wasn't going to give up here. I came to Brooklyn and I beat him in Brooklyn."
"Today Danny Garcia went to college," Bernard Hopkins said of Garcia's performance.
Garcia made an uncharacteristic fast start. He took the first two rounds, before southpaw Judah got on the scoreboard in round three with his accurate right jab. Garcia kept stalking his opponent and eventually closed the distance.
In round five Garcia's right hand began clubbing Judah regularly. At one point, one of those rights staggered Judah and had him wobbling across the ring. The resolute Judah kept his feet, but Garcia had him wounded.
Garcia jumped on his challenger at the opening bell for round six, and almost floored Judah with another right. For the entire three minutes, Garcia chased and landed, and almost had him down two more times. However, Judah's chin did not let him down, as many predicted it would. Zab stayed in the battle and kept swinging.
In round eight, Judah landed a strong left, but Garcia walked through it and landed his own right hand power shot. The punch put Judah down on the seat of pants, and seemed to spell that the end was near.
But this was a dogged Judah, fighting for both the title and the continuation of his career. He got up from the punch and fought back.
In the final four rounds, Judah jabbed brilliantly. He picked Garcia apart and set up his own thudding power shots. Down the stretch, Judah found success, where he couldn't before. Suddenly he was backing up Garcia and moving him with his punches.
Garcia remained in the fight, trading artillery with Judah. The battle became dramatic during this period. It was clear that Garcia had a lead on the scorecards, but Judah was coming on strong. A large cut on Judah cheek was gushing blood, and Garcia's eyes were staring to lump up slightly. Garcia's points edge seemed likely to hold, but all of sudden there were questions about whether he would make it to the end.
Punch after punch rocked Garcia, but he showed his toughness and stayed on his feet. Judah, however, was winning rounds.
In the final round, Garcia went right at Judah, attempting to close the show. At one point, the fighters banged heads and both twisted away in pain. Garcia came away with a large vertical gash in the middle of his forehead. The wound bled badly for the remainder of the round. Judah was also bleeding as the round wound down.
The bell rang ending the fight, and the fighters, so combative before and during the fight, smiled and embraced each other.
The scores were all in Garcia's favor. Judge Adalaide Byrd scored it 116-111, Tom Schreck had it 115-112, and Anek Hongtongkam tallied 114-112. My score, like Schreck's, was 115-111 for Garcia.
"I thought the scores were closer than it actually was," a candid Judah said in the ring after the fight. "We gave it our best shot. You're definitely going to see me fight again. I think Brooklyn wants to see me fight again."
Immediately after the fight, criticisms of Garcia began pouring in. Most of them claimed that the champion should have won more easily. However, Garcia put everything in perspective at the post fight press conference.
"I'm young. I'm still learning every time I fight," Garcia said. "They say Judah's not in his prime anymore, but I'm not in my prime either. I'm only 25. I'm not in my prime yet."
This is very true. In the fight, Garcia answered questions about his toughness, his heart, and his ability to respond to pressure. He will have bigger and tougher fights in his future, and his fight with Judah will help him get through those future battles.
It is a strange time in boxing. Fans truly believe that a fighter must be perfect to be good. This not only applies to a fighter's record, but also to each individual performance. It seems when a fighter is less than perfect, the fans start to label him as not good, not great, or finished. As if a single difficult night reveals a fraud.
On the same day Garcia struggled past Judah, the great Sergio Martinez squeaked by Martin Murray. Like Garcia, Martinez was criticized for his performance, which included at least one trip to the canvas. Martinez won the bout by close decision, but took a hit from fans.
It is important to realize that fights are great when both fighters have their moments, come close to winning. Has Floyd Mayweather ever been in a great fight? Not in my opinion. Important? Yes. Memorable? Yes. But a great fight? Not yet. He is a great fighter, but Floyd gave away his chance for a great fight and rivalry by avoiding Pacquiao. Now we have to wait for Mayweather to begin to slide before he's involved in a great fight.
Some fans misunderstand the feat of remaining undefeated as showing untouchable greatness. It's not. It's careful, risk vs. reward matchmaking.
Just because Martinez had a tough night against Murray doesn't mean he isn't a great fighter. Garcia's difficult battle with Judah doesn't mean that one day he won't be a great fighter. Garcia is still forming. He has some work to do, but he's becoming one of the sport's most exciting fighters.
Peter Quillin stopped Fernando Guerrero at 1:30 of round seven to defend his WBO middleweight title in a real punch-out. Both fighters landed, but Quillin was just too strong. He dropped Guerrero twice in round two and twice again in the seventh. A brutal right hand put Guerrero on the floor the second time in the seventh, and referee Harvey Dock halted the bout.
Danny Jacobs continued his comeback with a TKO at 2:06 of round four against Keenan Collins of York, PA in a scheduled 8-round middleweight bout.
Former champ Luis Collazo beat welterweight Miguel Callist by TKO at 1:33 of round five.
Eddie Gomez won a unanimous 8-round decision over Luis Hernandez in a junior middleweight fight.
Boyd Melson won his super middleweight bout with Edgar Perez by unanimous 6-round decision.
Light heavyweight Marcus Browne stopped Philadelphia's Taneal Goyco at :54 of round two.
Zachary Ochoa won his four round junior welterweight fight with Calvin Smith by unanimous decision.
D'Mitrius Ballard stopped Marcus Clay at 2:21 of round two of their scheduled 4-round super middleweight fight.
A total attendance off 13,048 was announced by promoter Golden Boy. The Garcia-Judah and Quillin-Guerrero bouts were televised live by Showtime.