NEW YORK -- Junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia wanted to make a statement in his move up to welterweight. He did, with a dominant but not unexpected wipeout of former two-division titleholder Paulie Malignaggi in a ninth-round knockout victory Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Fighting in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN card, Garcia might have sent Malignaggi into retirement. He was too fast, too strong and too fresh for Malignaggi, beating and bloodying a faded fighter who barely resembled the slick boxer with a superb jab who won world titles at welterweight and junior welterweight.
Garcia basically did as he pleased. He battered Malignaggi around the ring for most of the fight, much to the chagrin of the announced crowd of 7,237, who were mostly cheering for Malignaggi, the hometown fighter.
"I feel strong, I feel good. I used my jab," said Garcia, 27, of Philadelphia. "I still have things to work on, but I'm proud of myself -- 147 is where it's at. I felt a lot stronger [at 147]. In the ninth round, I felt like it was round 1. I need to work on shortening up punches and sticking with the game plan."
It was a sad display, as Garcia punished Malignaggi. When it mercifully ended, Malignaggi, 34, sat on his stool and appeared to be crying as the ringside doctor examined him. The emotion was probably from the realization that his fighting career is probably over, though he has another to fall back on -- he has emerged in recent years as one of boxing's finest TV analysts, with work on Showtime, CBS and Fox Sports 1.
"I'm probably not fighting again," Malignaggi said. "You hate to make an emotional decision. My career started in Brooklyn 14 years ago. If it ends in Brooklyn tonight, then at least I ended it at home, where I'm from, and in front of the greatest fans in the world. I've got a really good job commentating and watching great fighters fight ringside. I hope to sit around ringside for a long time."
Angel Garcia, Danny's father and trainer, said he thought Malignaggi should hang up his gloves.
"I'm really proud of Danny. He did what he had to do. He went in there and retired Paulie Malignaggi," Angel Garcia said. "If Paulie was my son or family member, I would tell him to retire."
The one-sided nature of the fight was reflected in the CompuBox punch statistics. Garcia landed 121 of 485 punches (25 percent); Malignaggi landed just 77 of 335 (23 percent).
Garcia (31-0, 18 KOs), who earned $1.25 million to Malignaggi's $550,000, looked strong at his new weight and got Malignaggi's attention in the opening round with his right hand. He continued to land right hands and was obviously the stronger fighter.
Malignaggi (33-7, 7 KOs) tried to box and move but could not avoid nearly enough punches, and his offense was nonexistent.
In the third round, Garcia cut Malignaggi over the right eye, which added to what was already looking like a tough night for him.
Malignaggi had little to keep Garcia off of him, and Garcia knew it. He walked Malignaggi down and kept firing right hands. Even when Malignaggi landed punches, Garcia, whose good chin is one of his best attributes, brushed them aside.
Malignaggi, whose jab is one of his best weapons, barely used it. In the third round, he landed only two of them.
Garcia, fighting at the Barclays Center for the fifth time and third fight in a row, dished out a lot of punishment in the fifth round, and it seemed only a matter of time before he would stop Malignaggi, whose right eye was a mess after getting cut underneath it in the sixth round.
"He was walking me down fairly well behind the jab," Malignaggi said. "He cut me in the [third], and I think that upped his confidence. I never could get control of the pace, though. In spots, I felt I was giving up less ground, and I had him missing. He got back on his groove though."
Garcia pounded Malignaggi in the eighth round, as he landed clean left hooks and right hands in a fight that looked like it could be stopped, though referee Arthur Mercante let it go. As soon as the bell rang to start the ninth round, Mercante called time to have the ringside doctor look at Malignaggi's cut, but he said he was good to continue.
Garcia was all over him in the ninth round and sent him reeling into the ropes. As he unleashed a flurry of shots, Mercante stepped in and waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 22 seconds. Garcia was winning easily on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage, 79-73, 79-73 and 78-74.
"He's a great champ, a crafty veteran with a good jab and foot movement, but I went in there and executed my game plan," Garcia said.
Malignaggi said he had no issue with the stoppage.
"I felt like if I couldn't put up a great performance tonight, then it would be my last," he said. "I was trying to hang tough as much as I could. I remember when I was taking big shots, I just kept thinking, 'Don't give in. This is your last night if you give in. Don't show that you're going to give in. If you can show that you're still hungry for it, then you'll convince yourself that this isn't the end.'
"I wanted to keep showing that I want it. Little by little, he broke me down, and I have no problem with the stoppage."
Malignaggi was a huge underdog -- for good reason. He was coming off a 16-month layoff in which he had toyed with retirement after suffering a one-sided fourth-round knockout loss against then-welterweight titleholder Shawn Porter in April 2014.
Garcia, who has had trouble making the 140-pound junior welterweight limit, had not defended his belts since March 2014 in a controversial decision against Mauricio Herrera. Because of the weight issues, his next two fights were nontitle bouts over the 140-pound limit, a second-round knockout of massively overmatched Rod Salka followed by his tight majority decision win against fellow titleholder Lamont Peterson on April 11 at 143 pounds.
But with the writing on the wall about his weight, he vacated one belt -- the other he will vacate sooner than later or be stripped -- Garcia made the move up to 147 pounds to face the vastly experience Malignaggi on his way to bigger and better fights.
Malignaggi gave Garcia his highest endorsement.
"I think Danny can be an upper-echelon fighter. He already is," Malignaggi said. "He can put his name in the history books. He has a lot of talent. People don't realize he has a lot of character, too. He has a very good poker face. He doesn't get frustrated, and if he does, he doesn't show it to you. His father's a great trainer, and he really stays on him.
"Danny listens, and they have a great relationship. Every time a round would start, it was like he was fresh. Even at the end of rounds, when I gave him something to think about, he came back, and that's really important."
With Malignaggi dispatched, Garcia will surely move on to a bigger fight. There are some attractive fights in the weight class, even if he doesn't get a fight with the king, Floyd Mayweather.
"[Titleholder] Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter are great fighters in this division, and they're both represented by Al Haymon, so if they want, we can make it happen," said Garcia, who is also with Haymon. "I want whoever Al Haymon wants. It's been that way my whole career, and it's not going to change now. I will take anyone at 147."