BROOKLYN, N.Y. – “That was a war,” Danny Garcia said after 12 wildly divergent rounds with Lamont Peterson. “That’s what fans want to see.”
Maybe so, and maybe not. Ring wars, like actual wars, come in many shapes, sizes and strategies. But what most fight fans apparently want to see – the announced attendance was 12,700, which seems about right –is not always what they got here Saturday night in the Barclays Center, with all four participants in the nationally televised co-features on NBC coming away feeling at least vaguely dissatisfied with the respective outcomes.
Garcia’s WBA and WBC super lightweight championships were not on the line because, fearing he would drain himself too much by continuing to try to make the 140-pound weight limit, he had asked and received an agreement from the Peterson side that the bout be fought at a catch weight of 143. The slightly enlarged Philadelphian then played the role of relentless pursuer, at least through the early and middle rounds, until Peterson, a former WBO junior welterweight titlist, decided the time was right to stop retreating and go on the attack himself.
Shortly after the final bell rang, Garcia (30-0, 17 KOs), in his apparent farewell to his current weight class and championship reign, was awarded, depending on one’s point of view, a deserved or mildly controversial majority decision. Judges Steve Weisfeld and Kevin Morgan each saw Garcia as a 115-113 winner, while Don Ackerman, who gave Peterson each of the five rounds, had it a 114-114 standoff.
Punch statistics compiled by CompuBox, never an indisputably accurate gauge of what transpires inside the ropes, were inconclusive. Although Garcia threw 95 more punches (589 to 494), he landed only three more (173 to 170). His lower overall connect percentage (38 percent to 50 percent) was offset by the fact that he landed 147 power punches to just 105 for Peterson, who had vowed beforehand to “give the performance of a lifetime.” And maybe the Washington, D.C., native did just that, if adhering to the stick (occasionally)-and-move blueprint mapped out by his father figure/trainer, Barry Hunter, is the standard of excellence to which he had aspired.
“I thought it was close, I’m not going to lie,” said Garcia. “But I felt I did enough to win.”
More than enough, figured Garcia’s always blunt father/trainer, Angel Garcia, who had predicted there was “no way” his son could possibly lose to the supposedly inferior likes of Peterson.
“I thought Peterson was running a lot,” Angel groused. “He was saving his energy for the last quarter of the fight.” And releasing any pent-up energy for the final 25 percent of the proceedings shouldn’t be enough for anyone to offset a dubious first 75 percent, the elder Garcia believed, saying, “I don’t know what that judge (Ackerman) was thinking when he saw a draw.”
Peterson (33-3-1, 17 KOs) agreed with Angel; he also did not believe anyone with a pencil and a scorecard could have considered the fight a draw – or a victory for Garcia, for that matter.
“My plan all along was to tire him out in the early rounds, find where I could get my chances and then take them,” he said. “I did my part. I’m not calling it a robbery. He fought a good fight, (but) it’s probably the least contact I’ve ever had. People can call it a slow start, but I thought I was controlling the pace of the fight.”
Added Hunter: “Mr. Garcia definitely knew he was in the fight of his life tonight. Lamont fought a great fight. He can’t do the judges’ job, too. Lamont did a great job of sticking to his game plan and executing.”
Unlike Garcia-Peterson, in which no knockdowns were registered, the co-feature, which pitted WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee against his would-be challenger, former WBO 160-pound ruler Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin, had its up-and-down moments. Quillin floored Lee with right hands in the first and third rounds, but Lee, a southpaw, negated one of those trips to the canvas by decking the Brooklyn-born and sort-of crowd favorite with a right hook in the seventh stanza.
In between those well-spaced flashes of power-punching, there were long stretches of feinting and faking by both fighters, who clearly had enough respect for one another that they were not disposed to recklessly engage. The audience made its displeasure known by booing as often or more than it cheered, but those supporting Lee – born in London to Irish parents, and a member of the 2004 Irish Olympic team – had more reason to feel good in the closing rounds as their guy, like Peterson, appeared to do more in the later rounds and thus was able to salvage the split draw.
Judge Guido Cavalleri scored it 113-112 for Lee, Eric Marlinski had it 113-112 for Quillin while their colleague, Glenn Feldman, saw it at 113-113, giving two of the final three rounds to Quillin. Maybe even more so than Garcia-Peterson, a draw seemed a reasonable result, given the similar punch totals (113 of 299, 38 percent, for Lee to 103 of 267, 39 percent, for Quillin).
Had the bout been for Lee’s title, he would have retained it on the draw, but, as it turned out, he was assured of remaining the champ in any case as Quillin failed to make weight on Friday, tipping the scales at 161.4 pounds. Perhaps “Kid Chocolate” should have restricted himself to broccoli or brought in Marie Osmond, she of all those NutriSystem weight-loss commercials, to serve as his strength-and-conditioning coach.
“What can I say? I didn’t make weight,” Qullin said. “I want to apologize to Andy Lee and to all my supporters and fans. I made every effort to make weight, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I have no one to blame but myself.”
The matter of weight – the need to go up or down – was a major pre- and post-fight topic, and not only by the principals in the gargantuan, 10-bout card which took over 7½ hours to complete, from start to finish.
“That’s a lot of boxing – maybe a little too much,” mused promoter Lou DiBella near the conclusion of his long day’s journey into late, late night, despite the fact the co-main events – the second telecast of Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions series on NBC – began in prime time. “I want to go to sleep.”
Garcia, who earned $1.5 million (to Peterson’s $1.2 million), is moving up from super lightweight to welterweight because it’s what his body is telling him, as well as his hope for a fattened bank account. He is aware that the welters are and likely will continue to be boxing’s marquee division, and that campaigning as a 147-pounder might someday bring him a megabucks payday against either Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao, whose welterweight unification showdown on May 2 will be the richest prizefight of all time, with each man likely to come away with a payday of $100 million-plus.
“I would love to fight one of them, but I need a couple of fights at 147 first,” Garcia reasoned, although he and his pop probably wouldn’t elect to wait if Mayweather or Pacquiao anointed Danny as their next man up.
Also heading to welterweight is impressive 22-year-old Puerto Rican prospect Prichard Colon (14-0, 11 KOs), who scored a ninth-round stoppage of Daniel Calzada (11-14-2, 2 KOs) on the undercard. Colon is currently a super welterweight, but he came in at a trim 148 pounds against Calzada and he concluded that it would be easy to shed another pound for a dive into the dangerous but profitable waters of the fight game’s deepest talent pool. “It is a stacked division,” Colon acknowledged. “There’s so many big names out there, you know?”
It remains to be seen whether PBC – which is heavily underwritten by Haymon, who sees the ambitious project as a means to vault boxing back into the mainstream, and not just for a special occasion, like May-Pac – is a business visionary like, say, Bill Gates, or an investor in an outdated product and destined to lose his figurative shirt. But the shadowy Haymon has a cast of thousands (OK, hundreds) under contract, and all those fighters need to stay busy. Marathon cards on PBC nights are likely to be the rule rather than the exception, at least in the foreseeable future.
For on-site consumers desirous of getting more bang for their buck, Saturday’s Barclays Center show was a veritable orgy of pleasant excess. There were three walkout bouts (all televised via NBC SportsNet) after Garcia-Peterson, which were attractive in their own right: welterweight Errol Spence Jr. (16-0, 13 KOs) stopped Samuel Vargas (20-2-1, 10 KOs) in four rounds; light heavyweight Marcus Browne (14-0, 11 KOs) halted celebrity son Aaron Pryor Jr. (19-8-1, 12 KOs) in six and junior welterweight Felix Diaz (17-0, 8 KOs) scored a unanimous, 10-round decision over Gabriel Bracero (23-2, 4 KOs).
The five pre-NBC fights also were televised, internationally, and featured both old (former WBA welterweight champ Luis Collazo, who turns 34 on April 22) and new (Colon). The entire as a whole was a United Nations smorgasbord, too, with fighters hailing from Northern Ireland, Hungary, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Ukraine, Ireland, Canada and the Dominican Republic. All right, so neither PBC event has featured anything along the classic lines of a Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard (Leonard was at ringside, as a color commentator) or Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo I, but they’ve featured very good fighters in reasonably competitive matchups, with Part 2 exceeding Part 1.
If the product continues to improve, boxing just might find the wider audience it has been searching for since the sport got regular dates on over-the-air telecasts in the way back when of Howard Cosell and Don Dunphy.