BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Danny Garcia stood there with a gaping slit down the middle of his forehead, his fury dissolved by the time the final bell sounded on his unanimous-decision victory over Zab Judah in front of more than 13,000 fans on Saturday night at Barclays Center.
The scores were 115-112, 114-112 and 116-111, all for Garcia.
Garcia (26-0, 16 knockouts) successfully defended his RING, WBA and WBC junior welterweight titles for the third time. He also came away with a wealth of knowledge about himself, how hard his jaw is and mistakes he doesn’t plan to make ever again.
“It really was a great learning experience,” Garcia said. “Judah is a real crafty, experienced guy and I think I saw his best tonight. We had a game plan on going to the body, and I stuck with it for most of the fight, but I made some mistakes I know I can learn from.”
The 35-year old Judah (42-8, 29 KOs) might have helped his stock in defeat. He was in serious trouble in the fifth and sixth rounds, and was dumped in the eighth. The old Judah may have succumbed. This time, the wily veteran stabilized himself and fought back.
“I thought Danny had him in the middle rounds, but the thing is, Zab came to fight,” said Angel Garcia, Danny’s father and trainer. “He came with his A-game. He wanted to be a legend. I don’t think I know anything more about Danny. I know he’s a true man and a true champion and he can take a shot, because he took some shots.”
Garcia seemed to take control of the fight in the fourth round. He stayed with the plan, lowering his right and hitting Judah to the body. By the fifth round, Garcia was stalking Judah, who was backing up.
In the sixth, the crowd began chanting, “Danny, Danny, Danny, Danny” even though the arena is in Judah’s hometown of Brooklyn. In the eighth, Garcia stunned Judah with a right on the chin that put the challenger on his butt.
“Danny knew then he was in control,” Angel Garcia said. “He could have stopped Zab, I thought. Danny is the champion, and I think people keep forgetting that. He’s the champ until someone beats him, and no one has.”
In between the ninth and 10th rounds, Yoel Judah, Judah’s father and former trainer, came out of the stands and implored his son to begin applying pressure to Garcia. The suggestion seemed to work, because Judah found his legs.
In the 10th, Judah, fighting with a bad cut below his left eye, stung Garcia with a straight left to the face. Garcia seemed to falter in the face of Judah’s increased punch output. There were even a few moments when it appeared Garcia was in slight trouble.
Judah was on such a roll that he stuck his tongue at the young champ, sensing Garcia’s confidence may have been waning.
In the 11th, Garcia tried going back to his original plan, lowering the right and trying to nail Judah to the body. But his punches seemed to lose some zip. It was suddenly Judah moving forward and Garcia backing up. It was Judah stalking and landing, and Garcia appearing a little frazzled.
By the 12th, Garcia appeared to find his range again. He hit Judah with a right to the face, but about 30 seconds into the last round, the fighters’ heads collided. Garcia backed away holding his forehead, and a blood began trickling down his nose.
“This was a great test,” Danny Garcia said. “Judah was probably the best fighter I ever faced, and I think I did prove a lot of things. I think I showed people that I am a lot tougher than people think.
“Hey, I know sometimes I have the reputation of being a pretty boy. I don’t look too pretty now, but I proved that I am tough. I proved I could take a shot.”
Photos by Naoki Fukuda