PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                         March 24, 2012


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Danny Garcia achieved his dream of becoming a world champion Saturday night with his dramatic 12-round unanimous decision over aging legend Erik Morales, in Houston, Texas. The old champion fought with his usual guts and determination, and gave Garcia a run for his money over the first half of the bout, but the 35 year old future Hall of Famer, could not keep it going for twelve full rounds. Garcia won the fight down the stretch, dropping Morales in the eleventh to seal his points win.

But it was Morales who started strongly, while Garcia proceeded with caution against the renowned puncher. Garcia was faster and more energetic, while the crafty old king picked his shots, landed well, and tried to set a trap for the young lion.

However, in round three, Garcia ripped Morales with a hard right that stopped the Mexican in his tracks and sent the message that the youngster was settling into his first title shot nicely, and starting to feel more comfortable about facing an all-time great.

But Morales rebounded well, knowing that he had to get the job done before his old legs and well-worn body started to give. After five rounds, Morales was up on my card, three rounds to two, but this fight was just getting started.

Garcia responded and took round six to even the score, but Morales nailed him as  the round wound down. The punch buckled Garcia's knees and served as a warning that Morales was still as dangerous as ever.

It became obvious watching the fight on the live HBO broadcast, that the official scorecards were favoring Garcia by a mile. With the WBC's dumb "open scoring" rule in effect (official scorecards are released to the corner of each fighter every four rounds) the TV audience was made aware that Morales was already far behind on points. His father/trainer implored Morales to go for the knockout if he wanted to win.

However in the fight's second half, Garcia's youth and conditioning began to rule the day. Garcia and Morales traded rounds seven and eight, but after that, it was all Garcia. Danny moved in and out, throwing and landing punches, while Morales slowed down.

As Garcia piled up points and kept the pace fast, Morales loaded up and tried to swing the fight to his favor with his famous punching power. But this was Danny Garcia's night, a night when the baton gets passed between the old and the new - like that night in 1997 when a 21 year old Erik Morales took the baton from Daniel Zaragoza. That was the night Morales won his first title, and it came at the expense of a 40 year old Zaragoza. It's one of the greatest traditions in boxing. It's great, and beautiful, and a little sad, but very a honored ritual.

So Danny Garcia pressed on the gas in the late rounds of the fight. You have  to watch these old guys. They don't care for the beautiful tradition, they prefer disproving it. Many good young fighters have been  hustled out of their big moment by old champs who still have a little too much left. Garcia did not let that happen.

In round eleven, the two fighters opened up and went to war. Garcia's pretty face was showing some signs of the fight. His nose had been swelling since the previous round, and suddenly in the eleventh, it was getting much worse and a cut over his left eye was bleeding. Was Morales pulling a little of his old magic? Garcia didn't wait to find out.

With a little more than a minute remaining in round eleven, Garcia landed a nice left hook directly on Morales' chin. The punch slowly crumbled Morales to the canvas. Garcia backed into the neutral corner and watched as the valiant old champ got up very slowly. For a moment, it looked like he might not beat referee Laurence Cole's count, but he did. He was just was just getting up like an old man does. It was the same Laurence Cole who had been the ref when Morales beat Zaragoza, all those years ago.

Garcia stepped back into the action and did what he could to end the fight, but Morales, buckled and tired and proud, wasn't going anywhere. Garcia closed the show by winning twelfth round with ease.

At the bell, Danny respectfully addressed Morales before the two fighters parted for their corners. As if to be sure that whatever he said to Morales had registered, Garcia went back over to Morales' corner a moment later to say it again.

All three judges had Garcia winning the fight comfortably, and then some. Judge Samuel Conde Lopez had it 118-109, Oren Shellenberger scored 117-110, and Mark Green saw it 116-112. My card favored Garcia 115-112.

With the win, Danny Garcia, 23-0 (14 KO), won the WBC Jr. Welterweight Title and  became Philly's newest world champ. Morales slipped to 52-7 (36 KO), and probably should make his eventual call to Canastota his next boxing outing.

From the beginning of Garcia's career, he seemed destined to win a world championship. So it was wonderful to see him achieve that dream, and even better that he got the chance to do it against a great former champion. It makes the accomplishment even better. Perhaps, with a lifetime filled with hard work, incredible focus and a little luck, Garcia can be a champion as great as Erik Morales. You never know what brings real greatness in the ring, and it's too early to tell with Garcia. It's up to him to make that happen. But with this win, Garcia has taken the first step, and has punched his way into Philly Boxing History.

Congratulations to Danny, and to his father / trainer Angel. They have worked hard together and deserve every bit of this.




John DiSanto - News & Notes - March 24, 2012