Throughout the buildup to the fight, junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia felt insulted that power hitter Lucas Matthysse was not only favoured to win, but was expected to knock Garcia out. Garcia said people would regret their pick because all he did was win.
Well, Garcia did it again. He was poised and patient, and withstood Matthysse's early aggression to badly swell his right eye and cruise to a unanimous decision to retain his unified 140-pound world titles and clearly earn recognition as the best fighter in his weight class on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The fight was the high-profile co-feature on the Floyd Mayweather Jr-Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez undercard. Other than the main event, it was perhaps the most anticipated fight in boxing. Although it was not the action-packed fight many expected, it was a good one, and Garcia, 25, of Philadelphia, put on a terrific and controlled performance against 'The Machine', who had entered the ring as an interim titleholder.
The judges all had it for Garcia, 115-111, 114-112 and 114-112.
Matthysse dominated early on, but once his eye nearly swelled closed in the seventh round, the fight changed and Garcia took over. Matthysse's corner had no end-swell - the cold instrument used to control swelling. Garcia also knocked Matthysse down in the 11th round, the first time he had been down in his career.
"I'm the champion of the world," Garcia said. "The champion of the world isn't scared of anyone. If you can make it out of Philadelphia, you can make it out of anywhere. He's a strong fighter; he's going to come at me. The only way to slow him down is to go to the body. Later in the fight, I was throwing combinations, and he was just standing there and not slipping."
The fight figured to be a battle of Garcia's left hook against Matthysse's right hand, and Matthysse was trying to land the right in the opening round, while Garcia did not uncork the hook. Garcia, making his fourth title defence, was warned for a low blow in the second round after Matthysse had roughed him up a bit near the ropes.
Whenever Matthysse, 30, of Argentina, would swing, there were audible gasps from the crowd waiting for the big shot to connect. But Garcia was tight with his defence and cautious. He would not let his hands go early, obviously concerned about what might come back in return. Finally, in the fourth round, Garcia began to open up. He landed a thunderous right hand to the body but Matthysse did not budge. Then Garcia landed a clean right to the head near the end of the round, and again, Matthysse did not budge.
Garcia flirted with a point deduction in the fifth round when referee Tony Weeks issued him his second warning of the fight for a clear low blow that made Matthysse wince. Matthysse connected with a solid combination just as the round ended as Garcia got caught up in the ropes.
The fight changed dramatically in the seventh round when Matthysse's right eye began to swell badly. It was almost closed by the end of the round, when Garcia was landing shots Matthysse could not see. Early in the eighth, Garcia landed a clean left hook on Matthysse's eye. He most obviously did not see the punch coming.
Garcia dominated most of the second half of the fight, although Matthysse did knock Garcia's mouthpiece out early in the 11th round.
"He hit me right on the chin; that was a great shot," Garcia said. "But I sucked it up. I'm a warrior."
Later in the round, Garcia landed a right-left-right combination, and Matthysse pitched forward and went down for the first time in his career. Garcia landed a brutal low blow in the 12th round, and Weeks took away a point, but it was too little, too late for Matthysse, who was gracious in defeat.
"He's a great champion. I knew I was in a great fight and that he wasn't intimidated by the punching," Matthysse said. "I only had one eye for most of the fight, but there is no excuse. He fought a great fight. I am very proud of what I did; I am thankful for the opportunity. Garcia is a great champion."
The fight was the culmination of an unofficial four-man tournament to crown the king at 140 pounds. In April, Garcia outpointed former titleholder Zab Judah in one half of the supposed bracket, and in May, with Garcia at ringside, Matthysse pulverized Lamont Peterson in the third round of their nontitle fight.
Earlier in the night, Carlos Molina won a split decision against Las Vegas native Ishe Smith to claim a junior middleweight world title in a messy, clinch-filled fight.
Two judges had it for Molina, 117-111 and 116-112. One judge had it for Smith, 116-112.
"I'm happy about my win, but I'm never happy or satisfied with my performance in the ring," Molina said. "I always feel like I can do more. I want the winner of the [main event]. It makes sense."
Smith was obviously disappointed to lose in his first defence and in his hometown. "He barely landed any punches, and they gave him a title? Wow," he said.
Welterweight Pablo Cesar Cano of Mexico won a 10-round split decision against England's Ashley Theophane, who was one of Mayweather's sparring partners and the former British junior welterweight champion.
"I'm really happy with my victory," Cano said through a translator. "I'm only sorry I couldn't knock him out. He moved too much and it was hard to hit him, but I'm happy with the experience this fight gave me."
Theophane, 33, landed a contract with Mayweather Promotions when he impressed the boss with his work ethic and ability after asking whether he could train at Mayweather's Las Vegas gym last year.
"I thought I did enough to win," Theophane said. "It was a close fight. It's one of those things that could have been seen either way. If I had two more rounds, I think I definitely would have won."
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