Danny Garcia Gets Gift in Puerto Rico
Saturday’s fight at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, between Danny Garcia and Mauricio Herrera was supposed to be a homecoming…
Saturday’s fight at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, between reigning and defending WBC/WBA light welterweight champion Danny Garcia (28-0, 16 KOs) and Mauricio Herrera (20-4, 7 KOs) was supposed to be a homecoming. Garcia, a Philly fighter and pound-for-pound claimant of Puerto Rican descent, was returning to his roots to establish his bona fides as a fighter in the great Puerto Rican tradition. Even though he was awarded a majority decision after 12 rounds by scores of 114-114 and 116-112 twice, he no more won the hearts and minds of Puerto Rican fight fans than he won the fight.
Fighting out of the blue corner in red trunks with black trim, Garcia was matched in an easy showcase bout. Wins over Amir Khan and Erik Morales in 2012, and Zab Judah and Lucas Matthysse in 2013, made Garcia appear invincible. But that invincibility is under scrutiny after a lackluster showing against someone he was destined to defeat and defeat easily.
Unfortunately for Garcia, Herrera, fighting out of the red corner in red trunks trimmed in white, had a different sort of destiny in mind. He trained hard. He had a game plan. He had no intention of rolling over. Herrera had fought and decisioned Ruslan Provodnikov in 2011, so there was nothing Garcia could bring that could possibly faze Herrera, who took control of the fight early and refused to let go.
Garcia looked good in round one. He appeared as sharp and focused as usual. Walking Herrera down, keeping the challenger at a safe distance, he was landing right hands against a pesky opponent firing jabs at his midsection. The fight looked as it was supposed to look, with Garcia outclassing the veteran Herrera.
Things began unraveling in the second. Herrera had closed the gap. He was busier than Garcia. His jab was working beautifully. He was landing upstairs and downstairs. His work rate prevented Garcia from getting off. And whenever the fighters clinched, Herrera got the better of it, as Garcia appears to have no inside game. When the bell rang to end the round, the champ was bleeding from the mouth.
Garcia had not fought in 182 days and perhaps the long layoff had a negative impact. But as Herrera showed in rounds three and four, he knew exactly what was required to neutralize Garcia. Moving in and out, landing punches and moving out of range, what he lacked in power he more than made up for in volume. The times that Garcia let his hands go, he usually missed the moving target, and threw the second of two low blows in frustration to try to slow Herrera down.
Because a WBC title was at stake, dreaded open scoring was a part of the proceedings. Another misguided attempt, in my humble opinion, to bring some order to our disorderly sport, the scorecards naturally showed Garcia ahead on points. I didn’t agree with the judges, and neither did Angel Garcia, Danny’s father and trainer. Between rounds four and five he was furious. Most of what he said was unintelligible, but “What the fuck is wrong with you?” was not.
Herrera appeared to be gaining ground as the rounds progressed. In rounds five and six he was outthinking, outpunching, and outmaneuvering the champ in the fourth defense of his title. Garcia the counterpuncher wasn’t counterpunching and he rarely got off first. He landed a nice three-punch combination in round five and a good-looking counter left hook in the sixth, but aside from those moments of activity, he wasn’t doing nearly enough to possibly win rounds two through six.
Garcia snapped out of it in round seven. He and Herrera were trading jabs. He made the most of the few opportunities he had to counter. Herrera was able to smother most of Danny’s output, but at least he was busier than he had been in the first half of the fighter.
Angel Garcia was the mouth that roared in the corner. Intense on the edge of unbearable, he told his son, “You’re the champ. You’ve got to knock him out.”
Gracia drew blood from a cut under Herrera’s left eye in round eight, a round which could have gone either way. But judges or no judges, Herrera was winning the fight. He was worried about the cut during the one-minute rest period, but his cornerman calmly assured him, “It’s just a little baby cut. No big deal.” In the opposite corner, Angel Garcia told Danny, “You gotta bend your knees. You gotta control in the clinch. Put your head on his chest.”
Herrera had a big ninth round. He resumed exploiting Garcia’s offensive and defensive liabilities, his failure to adjust to Herrera’s awkward style, his lack of side-to-side movement, his inability to lead or counter. The formerly pro-Garcia crowd began to boo, to offer up catcalls at his performance. A terrific punch by Herrera straight down the pike caused Garcia’s nose to start gushing. He resembled a beaten man. At the bell his face was smeared with blood.
Garcia came out for the 10th looking much the worse for wear. Herrera had busted him up and continued to bust him up for the next three minutes. Danny was swinging and missing, while Herrera was swinging and landing. A big right by Herrera at the bell punctuated the round. Angel Garcia was almost restrained between rounds. He told Danny, “You gotta hit him with the right hand, son,” as though he hadn’t been trying. Herrera’s corner by contrast was optimistic: “Come in with everything now the last couple of rounds.”
Herrera took his foot off the gas and let Garcia pocket the 11th. Resting against the ropes, he was a stationary target for a fighter who needed a stationary target to make contact. It was good to see the champion on the offensive, but replays revealed that most of the punches didn’t land clean or were blocked.
In the 12th and final round, Herrera, his strength restored, finished in style. When he wasn’t stalking Garcia, he was hitting Garcia with combinations. At the bell to end the fight, Garcia was still missing and Herrera was still landing.
Except for the “baby cut” under his left eye, Herrera’s face was unmarked. Garcia, by contrast, looked a mess, and there was no way in hell he won the fight.
But everyone knew the decision was his. It wasn’t just open scoring that kneecapped suspense. It’s that Danny Garcia is bankable while Mauricio Herrera is not, and the bottom line, as usual, seems to be all that matters.