LAS VEGAS — By an overwhelming 30-4, RingTV.com’s insiders favored Lucas Matthysse to dethrone Danny Garcia as RING, WBA and WBC champion on Saturday night at the MGM Grand, with 26 of them believing Matthysse would do so by stoppage.
Instead, it was the 25-year-old Garcia (27-0, 16 knockouts) who demonstrated his brilliance as a boxer-puncher.
With early movement, Garcia troubled Matthysse (34-3, 32 KOs). By the seventh round, Garcia’s jab had caused a grotesque welt beneath the right eye of THE RING’s No. 1-rated 140-pounder. And by the end, Garcia was the winner by unanimous decision.
“I’ve faced adversity before. That’s the difference between me and him,” said Garcia. “He’s a great fighter, and I take nothing away from him, but he’s never faced adversity. He’s never been cut late in a fight. He’s never been 12, hard rounds with a legend. I’ve been in there with a lot of technical fighters who can really fight, and who were hitting you with good shots.”
“I sucked it up. I’ve faced adversity before, and I knew if I took him late into the fight, that I would get him. He’s a strong puncher, no doubt about it, but somebody’s only strong if you let them be strong, and a lot of the punches that he caught me with, I was pulling my head back a little bit, and I was blocking a little bit. So I never really felt his power. I mean, he’s a strong puncher. I felt his aggressiveness, but he never really hurt me in the fight.”
Matthysse had won six straight fights, all of them by stoppage, but Garcia pounced when the Argentine’s eye began to swell.
“I think that it was the jab. It was the jab. I hit him with the jab, and I saw him blinking his eye. Then, about 45 seconds later, his eye was closed. So I just kept working it. Right there, it was in my head,” said Garcia.
“Before the fight, I was like, ‘this guy’s never faced adversity. He’s never been cut, he’s never been hurt.’ That was my game plan, to go in there and to cut his eye, to make his eye swollen, to knock him down. I did both things, and that’s what a true champion does.
“I made him think, I know that. A lot of people didn’t think that I could move the way that I was moving in there. I brought the Philadelphia out of me, right there.
“So a lot of people thought that I was a flat-footed fighter, and that I was slow, and that he was just going to be able to go in there and knock me out. But, you know, I had to go in there and show them what my name was about.”
During the post-fight press conference, IBF light heavyweight titleholder Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins likened Garcia’s performance to the one he had against Felix Trinidad, a previously unbeaten Puerto Rican power puncher whom he dropped and stopped in the final round in September of 2001.
“It reminded me of 2001, when I fought Felix Trinidad, and everybody was saying how hard his left hand was. So the gun that he brought, Matthysse, tonight, was taken away from him by a little bit of movement. You give him a little, slight movement, no running. Save the legs,” said Hopkins, a Philadelphian whose likeness graces a wall of a gym owned by Garcia and his father, Angel Garcia.
“There’s times where you’re going to have to take some punches to prove that you can take a punch. But you don’t have to take a lot of them to prove a point. Danny fought a perfect fight, but they say that you can’t do anything perfect. Tonight was one of those nights where he did what he was supposed to do. It was a masterful performance. He took the man’s gun away that everybody said was so powerful, and it was. He got desperate in the last four rounds. Danny at that time was encouraged by the damage to that eye, and he took advantage of that.”
Garcia said that Matthysse represented his last fight at 140 pounds, where he has scored fourth-round knockouts over Erik Morales and Amir Khan, split-decisions over Ashley Theophane and Kendall Holt, and unanimous decisions over Morales, Nate Campbell and Zab Judah.
“I beat the best fighters at 140. What else do you want me to do? I beat everybody at 140. I beat two guys that I wasn’t supposed to beat, and I beat them, in fashion,” said Garcia.
“Every fight’s a very important fight, because you’re going to grow,” said Garcia. “I feel like every fight led me up to this fight, and the experience, like I said before, I’m only 25. This is my fifth championship fight. I’m a young veteran in the game.”
Garcia’s options at 147 pounds might include Mayweather.
“Danny Garcia, at some point, has got to make believers out of us, So I don’t know if that is a possibility,” said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer. “The good thing is that Floyd is going to be fighting next May, and we don’t really have to make that decision until sometime in January.”
Hopkins called it a “signature” victory for Garcia.
“This man did a great job, and, you know what, he became a superstar tonight. Tonight, he had that signature fight,” said Hopkins. “That signature fight, where he can put butts in the seats. Well, tonight, he proved to me that he has reached that level. That was a great performance. It was the fight of the night, as far as I’m concerned.”
Garcia’s father and trainer, Angel Garcia, had emphatically predicted that Matthysse would offer “the easiest fight of Danny’s career, adding that his son would “destroy” Matthysse in “four or five rounds.”
“I’m the most under-rated trainer there is, and he’s the most under-rated fighter there is,” Angel Garcia told those gathered at Saturday’s post-fight press conference, “and you guys still ain’t going to give him credit, and it doesn’t matter because he’s still undefeated.”
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org