For five rounds, Robert Guerrero looked like a fighter who was younger, hungrier and sharper than Danny Garcia. After that, Garcia showed why he’s an undefeated world champion who dominated the 140-pound ranks, then made the right decision to move up.
In a seesaw fight with an explosive finish Saturday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Garcia (32-0 18 KOs) came away with a unanimous decision, winning 116-112 on all three cards to stake his claim as one of the top fighters in the 147-pound division. In the process, Garcia captured the world title vacated by Floyd Mayweather Jr., who took in the fight from ringside.
While most of the high-octane fight burned at a steady pace, the 12th round exploded like fireworks doused in kerosene and nitroglycerine as Guerrero tried to gain a late knockout.
“The 12th round I was just trying to make him miss, because I knew he was desperate,” Garcia said. “I knew he was going to go in there and try to land the big shot. I didn’t want to trade with him. I was just trying to use my legs and move around. I couldn’t get off at the end. We stood toe-to-toe, and that’s what the fans wanted to see.”
That Danny Garcia would emerge with a title in a second division wasn’t a foregone conclusion in the early going. Robert Guerrero was more than game, hammering away at the body and stinging Garcia with crisp counters any time he tried to fight his way out of the onslaught.
Guerrero’s aggression forced Garcia to fight going backward, something he’s not normally accustomed to. He had Garcia in trouble in the fourth when he pounced on him, smothering him in the corner to the point where Garcia, slumped against the post, looked for a moment like he might go down. But Saturday wasn’t going to be the night the 27-year-old Philadelphia native suffered his first knockdown.
On the contrary, Garcia adjusted to Guerrero's aggression and turned the fight on a dime in the sixth. That’s when the power punches came out to play as Garcia blasted the 32-year-old former two-division champ repeatedly with hooks from both sides and visibly slowed the veteran.
“I knew he was going to be aggressive,” Garcia said. “I just had to keep my composure, keep making him miss and just land the cleaner shots as the fight went on. I felt like I did that throughout the fight.
"We worked on it in camp, going backward and throwing counterpunches and short shots when he walked in. I was able to time him. He was doing the same patterns over and over during the fight, so I adjusted.”
“ I knew [Guerrero] was going to be aggressive. I just had to keep my composure, keep making him miss and just land the cleaner shots. ” Danny Garcia
Guerrero might have been slowed in the middle rounds, but he was undeterred. Despite absorbing hefty amounts of punishment, he came back to win the 10th round on two of three cards. It left him behind 97-93 across the board, meaning he’d have to score multiple knockdowns over the final two frames, or else put Garcia to sleep.
Guerrero went for it in the 12th as both fighters unloaded on each other for much of the round, which was a vortex of bone, leather and bad intentions. The crowd of 12,052 loved it. Guerrero seemed to love it more as he hopped across the ring after the final bell. However, the smile on his face turned into a rictal grin when referee Jack Reiss raised Garcia’s hand in victory.
“I thought I won that fight,” Guerrero said. “It is what it is, but I’d love that rematch. Those fighters from Philly, they come to fight. They don’t run, they don’t hold, but that’s what happened. I just started laughing. I couldn’t really hear the scorecards because everybody was booing so crazy.”
Now Garcia becomes the man with a target on his back. Next up could be a rematch with Amir Khan, who is the mandatory challenger for the title Garcia just won. Garcia scored an upset over Khan in July 2012 when he stopped the Brit in a fourth-round stunner in Las Vegas.
“I’m interested in whatever,” Garcia said. “I’m a champion now at 147. I just want the best fighters. Whatever match gets made, I’m ready.”
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