Former World Champ Danny Garcia delivers devastating KO of Brandon Rios in welterweight title eliminator

Boxing's youngest world champion David Benavidez dominates super middleweight title rematch against Ronald Gavril; Cuban contender Yordenis Ugas ups his stock with seventh-round KO of Ray Robinson.

Danny Garcia vs Brandon Rios Highlights: February 17, 2018. (Showtime Sports)

Danny Garcia was missing something the last few years he was in the ring. That was Danny Garcia.

The former two-division champ from Philadelphia had to find himself again. The loss to Keith Thurman 11 months ago placed him into a deeper fog. Garcia had to take some time off to rekindle his love of boxing again.

On Saturday night, inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino Events Center in Las Vegas, Garcia had the perfect foe in front of him in Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios—someone who would stand in front of him, engage and allow him to find the elusive comfort zone he had been searching for.

And then it came in the ninth. It was text book, compact, sweet, clean and emphatic: A beautifully landed counter right on the jaw disconnected Rios from his senses at 2:25 of the round.

The ninth-round TKO will likely place Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) right back into the welterweight world title picture.

“I felt the ring rust a little bit in the beginning,” Garcia admitted to Jim Gray on the Showtime telecast. “My eyes weren’t as sharp as I wanted them to be. Rios is a good inside fighter. He was giving me some good inside uppercuts, and things like that. I felt good, I felt it was a good nine rounds. I came to bang, and I banged.

“I just noticed when I was getting my punches off, he was standing in front of me. I let the straight right hand go. As soon as I got the fight in the middle of the ring in the later rounds, I took it to the middle and landed good shots. I wasn’t looking for that shot, I was boxing, looking to let my hands go. I would love a rematch with Keith Thurman. It’s on him.”

In the third round, Garcia and Rios went hard at each other. Garcia began the round pumping the jab. When Rios had Garcia against the ropes, “Swift” unfurled a right-left-right-left-right combination on Rios’ head, hitting him with every shot. Rios did land his signature overhand right on Garcia’s face, though it had little effect.

After the round, Angel Garcia, Danny’s father and trainer, let him have it. “I don’t want that, I don’t want that,” Angel told his son. “Be rough. Don’t pity-pat this [expletive]. Hit this [expletive].”

I took it to the middle and landed good shots. I wasn’t looking for that shot, I was boxing, looking to let my hands go. Former two-division World Champion Danny Garcia

Garcia closed the fifth with a sneaky left uppercut, which caught Rios on the chin and slightly wobbled him. When the round was over, Rios was motioning with his right hand for Garcia to come on, and Garcia looked back as he walked to his corner with a smirk on his face, as if to say, “I’m in control here.”

Still, Rios did force Garcia against the ropes numerous times. He just didn’t have the power or overall wherewithal to hurt the iron-chinned Garcia, whose right-hand leads and counters began lumping up Rios’ face in the ninth. That was a quick clue the end was coming—and, wow, did it arrive.

Rios (34-4-1, 25 KOs) fell, referee Kenny Bayless reached eight, and when Rios got up and stumbled, Bayless wisely waved the match over.

“I’m mad, I didn’t want to go out like that,” Rios said. “I’ll die in the ring. I think I was doing really good. I got lazy with the jab and he came over with the right and he caught me. It was my fault. He caught me with a lucky punch.”

Garcia caught Rios with a lot of punches. He landed 188 of 614 (31%) total punches, and 131 of 287 power punches (46%), which was more than Rios landed in total (109 of 605, 18%, and 72 of 321 power, 22%).

Things got heated after the fight when Shawn Porter and his father, Kenny, entered the ring and Garcia and Porter jawed back and forth. The interaction certainly seemed to unnerve announcer Jim Gray, who blurted out to the Porters, “Get out of the ring!” before he spoke to Rios.

David Benavidez

David Benavidez still didn't get the KO he craved, but he was dominant nonetheless in his lopsided UD win over Ronald Gavril in their 168-pound title rematch. (Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions)

David Benavidez dominates Ronald Gavril in 168-pound title rematch

David Benavidez claimed his head was somewhere else when he became the youngest super middleweight champion in boxing history by beating Ronald Gavril this past September when they fought for a vacant title. Benavidez was battling a cold and was grieving over the loss of his uncle. That’s what he said kept him from stopping Gavril the first time.

Benavidez vowed the rematch would be different—and it was.

He used his jab, went to the body and counterpunched very well in fulfilling the promise with a virtuoso performance in retaining his super middleweight title with lopsided scores of 119-109 on judge Julie Lederman’s card, and 120-108 on the scorecards of judges Robert Hoyle and Glenn Feldman.

Benavidez (20-0, 17 KOs) had an idea how Gavril (18-3, 14 KOs) would attack, and he was right.

“I knew he was going to come in aggressive, he’s one trick type of pony, who doesn’t know anything else but pressure,” Benavidez said. “I used that to my advantage, jab and outbox him all day. He gave me an opening and I took it. I didn’t knock him out, but he’s a tough son-of-a-gun.

“I don’t really care (about the previous bad blood between the fighters). Look at his face, and then look at mine. Both hands hurt, but I couldn’t stop using both hands. I have a warrior’s mentality and I’m going to keep pushing, and that’s exactly what I did. I stayed calm, and I stayed patient and looked for openings. That’s the way I trained in the gym. I want to be the best in the division, so no matter who they put in front, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Gavril, his face ravaged by Benavidez’s scraping jabs and sharp counters, had a swollen and bloody right eye.

“I think everybody saw that (Benavidez) tried to box me outside,” Gavril said. “It was a good fight from the point of boxing. Everybody knows now (that he’s a very tough guy).”

Yordenis Ugas

Yordenis Ugas scored a seventh-round KO against Ray Robinson in their IBF welterweight eliminator. (Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions)

Yordenis Ugas makes a point against Ray Robinson

Both Yordenis Ugas and Ray Robinson had the same goal on the national stage Saturday night: Make a larger brand name for themselves. Ugas (21-3, 10 KOs) wants to fight Errol Spence Jr., and the 31-year-old Cuban expatriate knew something impressive would help. He definitely helped himself.

Robinson (24-2, 12 KOs) had not lost in seven years. An Ugas’ right hand smashed that run. Referee Robert Byrd stopped it at 1:05 in the seventh when Ugas pounded on a defenseless Robinson in the corner. Ugas had knocked down Robinson in the first with a straight right, but that may have been helped when Ugas stepped on Robinson’s lead right foot.

There was no doubt about the right that landed in the seventh.

“I felt like I was the stronger fighter by far and he didn’t hurt me,” Ugas said. “He lost a point for hitting me after the bell sounded, and knocked me down, but even that didn’t hurt me. He was very awkward and his style threw off my timing.

“Luckily I was able to land body shots that I knew were hurting him. I was able to dictate the pace and we never in trouble.

“I want Errol Spence next. Everyone wants Errol.”

For a complete recap of Garcia vs Rios, visit our fight page

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