LAS VEGAS – If you wanted to hear Angel Garcia eat his words after his son’s showdown with Amir Khan you’re going to have to wait.
But if you were hoping to see a good action fight between two fast, hard-punching young junior welterweights, Danny Garcia and Khan delivered instant gratification on Saturday. In fact, their four-round shootout was one of the most electric and dramatic fights of the year.
It also produced one of the biggest upsets of 2012. Garcia, a huge underdog going into the HBO-televised fight from the Mandalay Bay, upset Khan by dropping the 7-to-1 favorite in the third round and then slugging it out in a wild and dramatic fourth round before finishing the brave British star with another knockdown.
Referee Kenny Bayless, who was generous to allow Khan to continue after he was dropped flat on his back by a hellacious left hook at the end of the third, ruled a technical knockdown when the 25-year-old former titleholder was rocked back into the ropes early in the fourth. Bayless allowed Khan to absorb more haymakers from Garcia during the fourth because Khan gamely fired back and landed his share of power shots, but when the 2004 Olympic silver medalist was knocked to the canvas again he waved the fight off at 2:28 of the round.
Khan (26-3, 18 knockouts) beat the count but Bayless had seen enough.
“It wasn’t my night,” said Khan, who skipped the post-fight press conference to be examined at a nearby hospital. “After watching the replays I saw I was coming in with my hands down and Danny took advantage. I respect Danny. He was countering very well against me. I got a little complacent and he took advantage and he caught me.”
Ever the warrior, Khan wanted to continue fighting, even though his legs resembled wet noodles.
“I was a little surprised the referee stopped it,” he said. “I thought he was going to let it continue because my mind was clear and I thought my legs were OK. But I respect the referee and the commission’s decision. Who knows? Maybe they made the right call.”
Khan’s trainer Freddie Roach believes they did.
“I think it was a good stoppage,” Roach said. “(Khan) never really recovered from the first knockdown. I was real close not to letting him get off the stool (for the fourth round).”
Prior to the first knockdown, Roach thought his fighter was boxing well.
“We were fighting a good fight and all of the sudden one punch changed it,” he said.
However, the five-time trainer of the year was also aware that Khan, who was supposed to stick mainly to his jab in the early rounds of the bout, was committing too much to his offense from the start of the fight.
“We did get away from the plan,” Roach said. “I think Mr. Garcia got under his skin and he wanted to go out there and knock this guy out.
“I told him to box this guy and to keep using his jab. The jab was successful and it was safe for him. I wish he would have done it a little bit more but his heart got in the way.”
Khan, who was incensed by Angel Garcia’s many vulgar and disrespectful pre-fight comments, including a racist dig about “never meeting a Pakistani who could fight,” vowed to knockout the trainer’s son.
Danny Garcia says he knew he had the heart and style to beat Khan but was convinced that he could score an early knockout when the Brit made that statement at the final press conference on Thursday.
“I always knew I was going to win this fight,” said Garcia (24-0, 14 KOs). “I needed a great fighter in front of me to show how good I am. Now everyone knows.”
If you bet the 24-year-old Philadelphian to beat Khan by knockout you would have received 8-to-1 odds from the Mandalay Bay sportsbook, but few put their money on Garcia.
Few members of the media picked Garcia to win. Some boxing writers questioned if Garcia, who won the WBC 140-pound title with a decision over Erik Morales in March, belonged in the same ring with Khan. Garcia dropped Morales in the 11th round but couldn’t put the faded Mexican legend away.
Prior to the Khan fight Garcia said Morales’ chin and pride made it look like he wasn’t a puncher, but he reminded the boxing media and the fans that he can crack with either hand on Saturday.
“I’m a killer,” Garcia said. “I hit him with the same shot I hit Morales with. That just goes to show you how great Morales is. He took those punches all night long. Khan couldn’t take them.
“We knew Khan would come out fast because he didn’t think I had power. I stepped up and used my speed and power and it worked. I was going to fight to the death, just like he did.”
Garcia won Khan’s WBA title and the vacant RING championship with his gutsy do-or-die effort. He probably earned some fans too, which he says he is due.
“I knew I was built for this and I knew I was born to be in the limelight,” Garcia said at the post-fight press conference. “I needed a great fighter like Khan to bring out my best. Either he was going to knock me out or I was going to knock him out.
“I knew the media was going to be on Khan’s side (before the fight) because he’s better known. This was only my second fight on HBO.”
It certainly won’t be his last. Angel Garcia wants his son back in the ring before the end of the year. There is no shortage of opponents for the new champ in the deep 140-pound division. Brooklyn-born former champ Zab Judah, who was present at the post-fight press conference, would make for an attractive East Coast fight.
Other RING-rated contenders, such as Lucas Matthysse and Mike Alvarado, would cause hardcore fans to salivate and would likely produce Fight-of-the-Year caliber slugfests.
Garcia’s battle with Khan might be considered a Fight of the Year by some fans. It certainly produced a front-runner for Round of the Year.
A Garcia-Khan rematch would be welcomed by fans, but given the brutal nature of the loss and the grueling 12-round bout the British star went through with Lamont Peterson last December, it might be wise to bring him back slowly.
Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Garcia and represents Khan in the U.S., says Khan will definitely be back late this year or in early 2013.
“He lost but he was exciting,” Schaefer said. “U.S. fans want to watch him and his British fans want to see him come back. We will bring him back as soon as we can because I am convinced that he will be a world champion again.
“Maybe he will fight at welterweight, where there’s a rematch with (WBA titleholder) Paul Malignaggi or the winner of the (Robert) Guerrero-(Selcuk Aydin) fight waiting for him.
“Khan still has the talent and speed and power to compete with the best. He showed it against Garcia but one punch changed the fight. However, one punch will not end his career.”
Photos / Naoki Fukuda