By Jason Gonzalez at ringside
Heading into last Saturday nights fight, the match-up between former welterweight champions Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, was described as a real pick’em kind of fight.
Porter and Garcia collided head-on in the main event at the Barclays Center, before a vociferous crowd of 13,058. Porter, who was declared the victor at the end of the 12 round bout, captured the WBC strap that had been vacated by his foe Keith Thurman. Thurman eventually relinquished the title due to inactivity, after beating Garcia for it a year and a half ago. All three judges ruled in favor of the original native of Cleveland, Ohio by scores of 116-112, and 115-113 twice. Maxboxing.com scored it 116-112 for Garcia.
With the victory, Porter has now put himself in line to face the current 147-pound IBF champion, Errol Spence, Jr.in a huge welterweight unification bout in 2019.
In a strange twist of events, Porter opened up the contest by boxing. As oppose to looking to bring the action to Garcia, Porter was content to stay on the outside. Common sense suggested that Porter wouldn’t win the scrap by merely keeping his distance. While all of this going on, Garcia successfully landed big shots, periodically, over the top against his cautious counterpart.
In the 4th round, Porter landed two effective body shots around Garcia’s mid-section. Although Garcia seemed unbothered by them, Porter’s confidence began to grow as the fight progressed.
"I tell people all the time I don’t make predictions. I made a prediction and a hard one to live up to. I said I wasn’t leaving New York without this belt, and I’m not leaving New York without this belt," said Porter, 30, who improved to 29-2-1 (17) with the victory. "I knew he was going to be accurate. The game plan for me was to be accurate from the outside and show we could beat him without roughing him up on the ropes. This title means a lot to me. It meant a lot to boxing, and I wanted to be a part of that."
From the fifth round on, Porter was able to mix up his offense. He bounced on his toes, while banging it out on the inside with Garcia whenever he could. If there is any credence to the claim of judges looking for clean and effective punching, it sure wasn’t reflected on the scorecards. A lot of the punches that Porter threw didn’t land cleanly.
Most observers would agree that Porter was boxing aggressively, but was inaccurate. Porter missed his target more often than not. While doing so, Garcia would just step back and counter with a hook to Porter’s head.
To no surprise, Garcia remained true to his boxing roots. He thought he won the fight.
"I thought I did enough to win. It was close fight. The judges didn’t give it to me," said Garcia, 30, who’s ledger dropped to 34-2, (20) after the loss. "I busted my head on the inside, plus a couple head butts on my nose. It is what it is; this is boxing."
Porter’s offense was inconsistent. Whenever he failed to capitalize whenever he was in the trenches with Garcia, Porter would just maul him. This specific tactic may score points in the amateurs, apparently in the pros too. Garcia’s successful counterpunching should have taken precedence over Porter’s relentless pressure.
An accidental head butt in the seventh round, that was initiated by Porter, prompted the referee Steve Willis to warn him. For the better part of the same round, Porter had Garcia in retreat as he landed right hands over his head.
"He was throwing a lot," said Garcia of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "I had my defense tight, so it wasn’t effective. I thought I landed the clearer shots. I thought I won this fight. I have to sit back, relax and see what’s next for me."
Where Garcia may have gone wrong is that he was countering sporadically. Had he been a tad bit busier, he could have possibly persuaded the judges to see the scrap his way. According to the CompuBox statistics, Porter landed 24% of his punches [Meaning that he threw a lot more, but landed less.] In what other sport would this figure be acceptable? Inquiring minds would like to know. Garcia on the other hand was closer to landing at 40%. [36% to be exact.]
"He tried to outhustle me, mostly at the end of the rounds. He [Garcia] did a tremendous job," said Porter, now a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada. "It wasn’t necessarily about making it wild. My dad [trainer Ken Porter] wanted me to stay consistent with the body work and stay consistent with the pressure."
Taking heed to what his father requested from him, Porter continued to go for that imaginary bull’s eye on Garcia’s body in the eighth round. In typical Porter fashion he dropped his head and went for broke. But the narrative continued, Porter absorbed several counter right hands from Garcia every time Porter bum-rushed in.
Garcia failed to make good on his promise of knocking Porter out in the 9th round. There was a lot of back and forth action in the 10th, Garcia countered well in the 11th, and he appeared to close out the show in the 12th.
Both Porter and Garcia were compensated handsomely for their efforts. As they say in the street vernacular, both men were touching “M’s”. Porter walked away with a cool $1million, while Garcia did a little bit better at $1.25 million.
Neither fighter mentioned the possibility of a rematch.
Porter-Garcia was the 30th boxing card held at the Barclays Center. That’s pretty impressive considering that the venue opened in 2012. Madison Square Garden will always be the ‘Mecca of Boxing’, but you would be hard press to not acknowledge the fact that boxing has found a “new home” on the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue.
In the opening bout of the evening, heavyweights Adam Kownacki and Charles Martin battled in a ten round bout. Kownacki won a unanimous decision by scores of 96-94 across the board. The Polish Kownacki tagged the former IBF heavyweight champion in the head for the better part of the contest. The Polish constituency in attendance got behind their man as they cheered loudly every time he scored with a punch.
“The Polish fans were awesome tonight,” said Kownacki. “It definitely gave me a boost. It’s a blessing; they’re the best in the world."
Martin managed to have his moments, however, they were few and far in between. There were several instances in which Martin looked like he was going to go down. But to his credit he stayed on his feet.
“I think the fans liked it, it was a good fight,” said Kownacki, who improved to 18-0, (14). “I worked really hard to look impressive tonight. Charles Martin gave it his all in the ring tonight. He put up a good fight. I have a great team behind me. I think I proved tonight that I’m a top 10 fighter at heavyweight. I need a few more fights before the title shot. But it’s coming.”
To Martin’s credit, the southpaw managed to stop Kownacki in his tracks with his signature straight left hand.
“I believed I got the win. I did work on the inside and no one saw that,” said Martin, who’s ledger dropped to 25-1-1, (23) with the loss. “I did really good work on the inside. I will get back in the gym. I’ll keep on going. Looks are very deceiving. I put up a hell of a fight and I came up just short."
With the victory, Kownacki has now set up a showdown with heavyweight contender Dominic Breazeale.
"I thought I won the decision a little wider than the cards said, but Charles came to fight all night,” said Kownacki. “He was in shape and coming forward and I had to dig deep.”