Danny Garcia: A star is born? That might be jumping the gun but the young Philadelphian certainly had a huge night Saturday in Las Vegas, scoring a stunning fourth-round knockout of Amir Khan in the fourth round to win THE RING junior welterweight championship and a become a major player in boxing. Garcia (24-0, 15 knockouts) appeared to be losing the fight when a mammoth left hook to Khan’s neck in the third round led to the Briton’s demise and the biggest night of Garcia’s young career. Garcia now holds the WBC, WBA and RING titles, which is quite a collection. He has now beaten in succession Kendall Holt, Erik Morales and Khan, which is impressive even if you acknowledge that Holt and Morales have seen better days. Still, Garcia has not proven that he’s a pound-for-pound-caliber fighter. He landed a big punch against a fighter with a questionable chin and was able to finish the job, for which he richly deserves credit. Now, if he can do the same thing against top-tier opponents in their primes two or three more times, then we’ll have no choice but to anoint him a true star.
Amir Khan: Khan (26-3, 18 KOs) probably isn’t quite as good as many of us thought he was. He’s definitely not the smartest fighter on the planet, as he demonstrated Saturday. He was overly aggressive – almost reckless – which increased the chances of Garcia landing that big punch. Doug Fischer, my colleague, pointed out that he simply doesn’t have the chin to back up his bravado. And why wouldn’t he hold when he’s in trouble? He might’ve survived had he clutched Garcia rather than fought toe to toe in the final minutes. That said, no one can question his heart. I have never seen a more courageous performance. Khan was hurt throughout the fourth round yet fought his heart out, taking more of Garcia’s bombs and dishing out quite a few of his own. And he was genuinely upset when the fight was stopped. He was willing to risk it all to win, a trait of a true warrior. He certainly has nothing to be ashamed of. And he’ll be back. The natural gifts remain. He can still win important fights if he fights more intelligently.
Garcia’s future: The possibilities abound. The most intriguing might be a fight with tough Argentine Lucas Matthysse, who fights for the same promoter as Garcia (Golden Boy Promotions). Garcia-Matthysse would be a war. And there’s Erik Morales, from whom Garcia took the WBC title. Morales lost a one-sided decision in that fight but both he and the fans probably would appreciate another shot. Morales also fights for Golden Boy. Zab Judah, who was at the fight, would make for an interesting matchup. There’s Marcos Maidana, who can turn any fight into a thrilling brawl but might not be able to make 140 pounds any longer. Maidana also is a Golden Boy fighter. And while Juan Manuel Marquez has his sights set on Manny Pacquiao he could settle for Garcia if things don’t work out. See what I mean? Garcia almost certainly will have the fodder against which to prove that he is as good as some people think he is.
Khan’s future: Khan’s fate reminds me of another talented fighter, Terry Norris, a tremendous all-around fighter who also wasn’t blessed with the ability to take a big punch. Norris suffered two brutal knockouts similar to those of Khan, a second-rounder to Julian Jackson in 1989 and a four-rounder to Simon Brown in 1993. Norris bounced back from both to build a Hall of Fame career. He stopped John Mugabi in one round to win a junior middleweight title four fights after the Jackson setback and successfully defended it 10 times. And, in a rematch with Brown two fights later, he won a one-sided decision by using his guile rather than his brawn. I’m not saying that Khan is as good as Norris was; he isn’t. However, he is gifted. If he has the mental toughness to put the knockouts behind him, as Norris did, he can still accomplish quite a bit in his career. That’s a big IF. The knockout he suffered on Saturday is the type that can derail a career.
POOREST CHOICE OF WORDS
Mine: I tweeted immediately after referee Kenny Bayless ended the Garcia-Khan fight that it was a “terrible stoppage,” which was an emotional reaction to a dramatic moment. It was NOT – I repeat was NOT – a terrible stoppage. I won’t even say it was a bad stoppage even though I would’ve given Khan one more chance to turn the tables for two reasons: 1. He was fighting back with great intensity; and 2. He seemed to respond correctly to the referee’s questions after the final knockdown. That isn’t to second guess Bayless, though. Let me explain. I wasn’t face to face with Khan at that moment; I don’t know exactly what he heard or saw. Something must’ve convinced Bayless that enough was enough. And Bayless undoubtedly (and appropriately) had in mind the punishment Khan has taken over the past several minutes, which was considerable. I shouldn’t have complained about the stoppage initially and I certainly don’t now.
BIGGEST WINNER II
David Haye: That’s what you call bouncing back from a disappointing loss. Haye (26-2, 24 KOs) completely bombed in his much-hyped fight against Wladimir Klitschko in July, losing a pathetically one-sided decision that soured the public on him and then “retiring” immediately afterward. A year later, on Saturday in London, he dominated and then stopped Dereck Chisora with some of the most crushing blows in recent heavyweight history. Just like that, Haye is once again the top contender for one of the belts owned by the all-but-unbeatable Klitschko brothers. It would be difficult to justify a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko in light of the first fight. However, a showdown with Vitali Klitschko has good storylines and would be perceived as at least a semi-legitimate matchup, although the elder Klitschko brother would be a significant favorite. Bottom line: Now, after his performance Saturday, we look forward to seeing Haye fight again.
BIGGEST LOSER II
Dereck Chisora: Chisora (15-4, 9 KOs) is in an unusual position: He has lost four of his last five fights yet remains a marketable heavyweight. One reason is that he was competitive in two of the four setbacks, against Robert Helenius and Vitali Klitschko. He’s a decent fighter. The main reason is that his antics – however disagreeable – have made him into something akin to a star in the UK. His pre-fight confrontations with Haye generated a tremendous amount of hype and drew a fairly remarkable 30,000 fans to Upton Park for the fight. Chisora obviously has something. And he’s relatively young for a heavyweight, 28, with only 19 professional fights. He has time to improve. I don’t think he’ll ever be a special fighter; the ability doesn’t seem to be there. But he’ll always be able to sell a fight, which could make him a lot of money before he’s finished.
Glen Johnson: “The Road Warrior,” who lost a unanimous decision to Andrew Fonfara (22-2, 12 KOs) on Friday night in Chicago, lost most of his biggest fights. They include setbacks against Bernard Hopkins, Antonio Tarver, Chad Dawson, Carl Froch and Lucian Bute, among several other big-name foes. And he failed in his first three attempts to win a major title before outpointing Clinton Woods to win the IBF light heavyweight belt in 2004. That preceded his greatest moment in boxing – a one-punch, ninth-round knockout of Roy Jones Jr. in his next fight. Johnson (51-17-2, 35 KOs) soon vacated the title and would never again wear a major belt. And no one seemed to care. He was appreciated because of the fire with which he always fought, the fact he faced the best fighters at his weight – sometimes more than once and often on the opponent’s turf – and the grace with which he carried himself outside the ring. He was admired by his fellow fighters and fans alike. The sport needs more Glen Johnsons.
Richard Schaefer, Khan’s promoter: “It doesn’t matter who you are. If you get hit on the neck, right behind your ear, even Superman – or in this case King Khan – goes down. All of these so called ‘boxing experts’ who are now all over Amir criticizing him should frankly get lost. Who in the hell needs them. Most importantly, Amir is a terrific young man who is a pleasure to be with, and I am proud to call him my friend. This kind of s–t motivates me, and believe me, Amir and I and his entire team will, in the end, be the ones who will have the last laugh.”
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org