This past weekend former WBC welterweight title holder Danny Garcia 34-1 (20) looked terrific for not having fought in 11 months coming off his first loss against Keith Thurman in their welterweight unification bout.
In what was virtually a title elimination fight, Garcia stopped the aggressive and tough Brandon Rios 34-4-1 (25) in the ninth round with a well-placed right hand to the chin over Brandon’s lowered and out of position left hand. Throughout the course of the bout Garcia moved and countered beautifully whereas Rios applied steady pressure and had his moments. Garcia won all but two rounds on my card going into the final round but some of the rounds were close with a few great exchanges. Garcia worked the body well from both sides and his cleaner punching was the difference and took a toll on Rios leading to his legs being spent when he arose from the knockdown that ended the fight.
The thing that must be taken into account is that Rios was the ideal opponent for Garcia to rebound with off of his first career defeat. Brandon, who had nothing to lose, is a natural attacker who lacks defense and lacks the fight altering power he exhibited during his days as a lightweight. But he too was coming off a rough patch in his career and with limited options couldn’t turn down a high profile main event on Showtime versus Garcia. And now with the conclusion of the fight, Rios has some decisions to make and Garcia finds himself in a catch-22 with respect to regaining one of the welterweight belts he so covets.
As a former two division champ, Danny Garcia is a big name in the welterweight division. His only loss came by split decision in one of the most widely viewed non pay per view fights in nearly a decade. Although Garcia proclaims he should’ve won the decision, it properly went to Thurman who took his foot off the gas down the stretch which allowed Danny to close the gap, but not nearly enough to eclipse the ground he gave up in the earlier rounds. Thurman was the winner on that night but certainly not by enough to assume he’d win a rematch.
At the time that Thurman beat Garcia, Errol Spence hadn’t yet beat IBF titlist Kell Brook and former undisputed junior welterweight champ Terence Crawford hadn’t yet vacated his titles to begin campaigning as a welterweight. Since then, Spence has gone on to stop Brook to win the IBF belt and then looked sensational beating Lamont Peterson in his first defense. Crawford is scheduled to meet WBO title holder Jeff Horn this coming April and he’s an overwhelming favorite.
If all goes to plan, both Spence and Crawford will be in need of an established name to defend their titles against (and that may apply to Crawford a little more so). The conundrum for Danny Garcia, who has done some nice things in Philadelphia with his notoriety and funds and wants to get some version of his title back in a bad way, is that Spence and Crawford may turn out to be the Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard of this generation of welterweights.
Conversely, Garcia’s skill-set, when matched up with Spence and Crawford, is Carlos Palomino like….an outstanding fighter but not on their level. Even at his brilliant best, Garcia is minus one discernible weapon to take either of them down. With Keith Thurman committed to defending his title against Shawn Porter, that eliminates Garcia from getting a rematch with him – leaving two fighters, Spence and Crawford, holding two title belts. Unfortunately for Danny, he matches up much better stylistically with Thurman than he does with Spence or Crawford. If Danny could really punch at the weight, he’d be more of a live underdog. He’s smarter and more fundamentally stout than he gets credit for, but he lacks the physicality to make Spence do anything he doesn’t want to and doesn’t have the speed or guile to unravel Crawford.
Danny couldn’t keep Rios from moving him into the corners and against the ropes. His quicker hands stabilized things until he could get away and reset and cut loose, but he was forced to engage at times when it wasn’t the most opportune. Spence will be able to force him back and make him rush his shots and punch out of desperation. That’ll tax Garcia and he’ll get hit too many times in the process. Eventually the pressure will slow him to a walk and then Spence will really work him over. If Spence doesn’t stop Garcia, who has a good chin, then Danny will take a terrible beating.
Against Crawford, Danny will be forced to push the fight and carry it to Terence. Fighting as the attacker will leave him a sitting duck because he’ll get raked from range trying to get inside. And if he does get inside on Crawford, Terence will befuddle him and nail him good up the middle so there’s no edge for Garcia fighting inside or outside. If Crawford lures him into a two-step or a slow walk pace, Garcia will be bettered at every turn during the exchanges. Worse yet, Crawford will have the luxury of landing the first and last punch when they engage and that could discourage Garcia down the stretch…..It’s interesting that he’ll have to try to box to live with Spence but Errol’s power and pressure will force him to open up whereas, versus Crawford, he’ll have to try and force it and rough Terence up which could lead to him paying a huge price as he attempts to bear in.
Make no mistake: Danny Garcia can fight and is a warrior to his core. I have no doubt he’s not losing sleep over Spence or Crawford. But the reality is that Spence and Crawford are special fighters. Sure, some will question Crawford until he officially fights at 147, but they had the same questions regarding De La Hoya, Mosley and Mayweather and Terence is more skilled and more adaptable than all three of them and they moved up and had great success as welterweights.
The side show with Shawn Porter at center ring after the beatdown Garcia administered to Rios was entertaining, but Porter has the next shot at Thurman and that’ll take precedence over Thurman fighting Garcia. That leaves Spence and most likely Crawford holding open dates for later this year and, as Carlos Palomino never reclaimed the title once they were occupied by Duran, Hearns and Leonard, the same will probably apply to Garcia regarding Spence and Crawford.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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