Elite welterweight battles must lie ahead after Garcia's win

Andy Lewis 25/01/2016
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Danny Garcia lands a big right on his way to a unanimous points victory over Robert Guerrero.

A victorious Danny Garcia resisted the temptation to call out his welterweight rivals – but only the biggest names in the division should be on his radar after claiming the vacant WBC title against Robert Guerrero on Saturday night.

As expected, Garcia had too much for an opponent who has seen better days, but had to cope with an early onslaught to eventually take a deserved unanimous decision at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

All three judges had the fight 116-112, which was a fair reflection of an aggressive Guerrero’s early successes and the clean, hard shots Garcia frequently landed throughout the middle and later rounds as he got a read on his opponent and found his timing.

The victory saw one of ringside observer Floyd Mayweather’s old 147-pound titles fall into Garcia’s grasp and put the now 32-0 Philadelphian in line for some major fights in the division.

Formerly the recognised champion at 140lbs, and having unified two belts at the lower mark, Garcia’s step up to a more competitive class is long overdue but should belatedly restore some momentum to his career.

“It was what I expected. I knew I would win at least eight or nine rounds,” said the 27-year-old afterwards.

“Guerrero is tough. No one has ever stopped him. He came to fight, he was in shape. I want to fight the best. Whatever my team wants.

“Danny Garcia never ducked anybody. I showed I can stand toe-to-toe with a great veteran and win the fight.”

That much was true, and it was a better performance from Garcia, who after a sensational run of wins through 2012 and 2013 has been poorly matched. He won acclaim for knocking out Amir Khan in four rounds three-and-a-half years ago and 12 months later proved he was the genuine article with a decision over Lucas Matthysse.

Argentine puncher Matthysse was coming off a three-round demolition of Lamont Peterson and was favoured in that fight.

At that point Garcia was figuring in pound-for-pound top-10s and being talked of as a potential opponent for Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao.

But after a career-best win, he took a surprise beating at the hands of Mauricio Herrera in Puerto Rico and only some creative scoring prevented a first loss on his record. Perhaps shaken by that experience he then took a fight so bad it spawned its own term in the boxing lexicon. Second round KO victim Rod Salka was so embarrassingly out of his depth that ‘Salka’ has become a quick and apt method to describe a mismatch.

Garcia scarcely stayed on the right side of the judges when he faced Peterson his next bout before a largely pointless win over Paulie Malignaggi brought him to the ring on Saturday night.

Now Guerrero is no Salka, far from it, but Garcia’s victory was widely predicted and it’s a long time since we saw him in the ring with another prime contender.

And, as is the way with boxing, hollow victories can do more harm to a reputation than performing well in defeat.

One soft touch is one too many for a fighter of Garcia’s calibre.

The WBC are likely to order his first defence to be a rematch with Khan, which is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. The Brit, who was also among the crowd on Saturday, is convinced the tweaks he has made with trainer Virgil Hunter will ensure a different outcome this time around.

Khan’s eternal vulnerability to the type of clean blows Garcia tagged Guerrero with, and the needle that exists between the two, would certainly provide excitement. That fight should be made, while if a deal cannot be made for Khan to face Kell Brook then the Special One must also get involved with the elite across the Atlantic.

With Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter fighting on March 12 , hopefully by the end of 2016 we’ll have a better picture of the true pecking order at 147lbs. There’s no need for a single ‘Salka’ with that much talent around.

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Fight Club: Cyborg-Holm would be huge at UFC 200

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Big-name fighter: Cyborg.

Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino may well be the most feared woman on the planet. In fact, you can make the solid argument she is the best fighter in the world – male or female – outside of the UFC.

The Brazilian slugger continued her utter dominance of Invicta FC on Saturday after she knocked out Daria Ibragimova at 4:58 of the first round. It was her third straight first-round KO and provided further evidence that the featherweight division has been well and truly smoked.

She hasn’t tasted defeat in 10 years. She hasn’t even been taken to a decision since 2008 and the 145lbs division is now scorched-earth. There’s nowhere left to go. So it begs the question, how long can she remain outside the boundaries of the UFC? There was a time when Cyborg formed part of one of the biggest fantasy bouts in mixed martial arts. If she could make the cut down to 135lbs, the match-up on everyone’s lips was with then UFC-champion Ronda Rousey.

Given Cyborg’s contract is with the promotion’s parent organisation Zuffa, a UFC debut has always been touted. The only problem? The Brazilian’s walk-around weight is in the region of 170lbs and she doesn’t believe making the cut is a viable option. With Rousey’s stunning defeat to Holly Holm at UFC 193, the desire to drop that weight became even less pressing. But that could be about to change.

With UFC president Dana White confirming last week that Rousey’s acting commitments could see her remain away from the Octagon until later in the year, it opens up a hole for July’s UFC 200.

“The filming of the movie got pushed back,” White said. “She could do both, but the question is, should she do both? She could do both, but why should she? The filming is in a time frame where she’d finish before 200, but it would be cutting it too close.”

Holm will be in need of a megafight worthy enough of making it onto what could be the promotion’s biggest ever card. Cyborg represents exactly that. Of course, the bantamweight queen has the tall order of Miesha Tate to deal with at March 5’s UFC 197 first but come through that and it opens up the enticing proposition.

While Rousey was dubious of the Invicta champion making the cut, Holm hasn’t put as much stock into what Cyborg does. And she isn’t particularly picky about the weight-class difference either having fought at 154lbs, 145lbs and 138lbs as a boxer.

Right now, Cyborg is in limbo. She is a fighter with the potential to headline pay-per-views but without the competition at Invicta to give her that platform. And she knows it.

“Of course, I want to be a UFC fighter, but I fight in Invicta, because they have my division,” Cyborg said after demolishing Ibragimova.

She added: “I hope to fight her (Holm), of course because It would be an amazing fight, two strikers.”

The 135lbs cut is an issue but a catch-weight 140lbs superfight with Holm, now that’s a possibility. For now, the dream of Cyborg stepping into the Octagon remains exactly that but if she continues her unstoppable form, the appetite for her to meet Holm will become ravenous.

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Fight Club: David Haye can muscle in at the top again

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Bulked up: David Haye.

If David Haye needed any extra motivation upon his victorious return to the ring then it swiftly arrived from across the Atlantic in the small hours of the morning following his first round demolition of Mark de Mori.

Having brutally knocked out his Australian opponent in just 124 seconds at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday night, Haye was granted an immediate opportunity to size up the competition when two versions of the heavyweight title were contested just a few hours later in New York.

And the former WBA champion, now 35 and back in boxing after three-and-a-half years out, should be more convinced than ever he can get back on top.

WBC title holder Deontay Wilder matched Haye in producing a highlight reel knockout, but for nine rounds up until that point had looked flawed and eminently beatable as he struggled with Poland’s Artur Szpilka, a blown up cruiserweight who wouldn’t trouble anybody’s top 10 at the heavier mark.

Earlier in the night a new IBF champion had been crowned as underwhelming American Charles Martin benefitted from a knee injury to Vyacheslav Glazkov to claim the gold. Yet even in the three rounds that lasted, Martin looked anything but a top contender. Haye might just be thinking he has timed this comeback to perfection.

Of course, the true heavyweight champion is his fellow Brit Tyson Fury, who could be found mindlessly taunting Wilder postfight with an absurd display of WWE-style flouncing.

Fury is the man after beating the man, his dethroning of Wladimir Klitschko installing him as the undisputed No. 1 in the division. And while Haye is convinced the bitterness between him and Fury precludes a shot as long as the latter is on top, events in New York showed there are alternative routes.

As for his own performance, it is difficult to learn a great deal from a one-sided beatdown inflicted on a fighter so hopelessly out of his depth that he really had no business being in the ring with a man as dangerous as Haye.

But what was clear is that this is a physically bigger version of the Londoner, who came in at a career high 16st 3lb 5oz, and as De Mori’s treatment for concussion proves, the huge KO power is very much still there.

What’s also obvious is that Haye is still popular. The 16,000-plus crowd inside the O2 dwarfed the turnout across the Pond.

“I’m a bigger version, a bigger, stronger version, with more experience,” Haye said after his first win since knocking out Dereck Chisora in July 2012. “I’m not rushing my punches now, I can be patient, and not worried about what’s coming at me because we’ve been working on technique. I felt really comfortable in there.”

If there was a negative, it was that Haye’s previously electric speed looked to have dropped off. But despite ring-rust or his inflated physique being obvious explanations, he was quick to deny he’d lost any of his snap.

Who next for Haye?

  • Chris Arreola: Rumours persist that Haye will sign with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions. Arreola is on their roster and would be the perfect second fight on the comeback trail.
  • Lucas Browne: Promoted by Ricky Hatton and ranked second by the WBA. If he gets past Ruslan Chagaev he may risk ranking for a big payday v Haye.
  • Dillian Whyte: He gave a good account of himself against Anthony Joshua and a big win for Haye would enhance his chances of landing a fight with AJ for himself.

“I didn’t feel slow at all, I didn’t feel there was any shot I wanted to land that I couldn’t land,” he said. “My speed doesn’t feel any slower at all, it feels better.

“It’s very satisfying (to finish De Mori like that). Because as much as I believed I could do it, I didn’t know: I’d never spent three-and-a-half-years out of the ring.”

Perhaps most pleasing for Haye, though, was that his surgically reconstructed shoulder stood up to the test.

“I’d had training camps but I didn’t get in the ring and fight,” he continued. “People kept saying ‘you’re ring-rusty, your shoulder’s going to fall out of its socket, this, that, and the other’.

“Although I knew what happened was going to happen, I was expecting it to be a tough fight, and expecting maybe to be missing punches from time to time, so I’d mentally prepared to have a hard, tough fight, because this guy’s been fighting regularly.”

And fighting regularly is now the key for Haye as he looks to muscle in on a heavyweight division coming alive but perhaps still lacking in genuine world-class talent.

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