By Derek Bonnett
With the careers of Miguel Cotto and Juan Manuel Lopez seemingly in their last lengths, Pennsylvanian-born Danny Garcia is grasping for recognition as a Puerto Rican champion. In spite of fighting his entire career as a "Philly fighter", Garcia looked able to fill the Puerto Rican void among the elites in this dark time for the small island which has previously produced world champions as if they were on an assembly line. Garcia’s task at hand at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico was the formidable contender Mauricio Herrera, who is best known for handing Ruslan Provodnikov his first defeat as a professional. The two junior welterweight clashed over twelve rounds for Garcia’s WBA/WBC titles. In the main supporting bout, unbeaten heavyweight hopeful , Deontay Wilder took a huge step up in class to face fellow American Malik Scott in a twelve round bout.
In the main event, Mauricio Herrera instantly established himself as a serious threat to Danny Garcia with a steady attack with his jab to the body and head. In the second, Herrera showed improved movement with his head and feet to avoid more shots than we had seen him do against other elites such as Provodnikov, Mike Alvarado, and Karim Mayfield. Although he was playing more the role of the boxer with his jab, Herrera mixed it up on the inside as he walked Garcia down in spots. The champion began opening up more with his punches, but he missed widely in spots or had his punches blocked by the challenger through three. Herrera’s one-twos followed by a clinch stalled Garcia’s counterattack, but the champion began finding more power-punch opportunities. Herrera remained elusive and built a 39-38 lead on the SecondsOut’s scorecard after four rounds.
Garcia received a tongue lashing from his father in the corner before the fifth. The champion simply was not throwing enough punches while Herrera established control with his jab. A big right hand from the challenger knocked the champion’s head back. Garcia returned the favor with a clean right of his own. Herrera kept his focus on the body, which prompted the champion to complain to the referee even though the challenger had not fouled him. Garcia found his head snapped back once again in the fifth. The challenger kept a steady flow of one-twos in the face of the champion in the sixth. Garcia found the mark with a solid right hand later in the round, but an all on attack was stalled by Herrera’s jab. Garcia’s head was snapped back early in the seventh. A rare Garcia jab put the brakes on Herrera briefly, but the challenger returned to smothering the champion’s attack. Garcia landed a nice right hand to the body in the eighth and appeared to be in a life and death affair in spite of the open scores. After eight, Herrera led 77-76 on the SecondsOut scorecard.
The final third of the fight saw the challenger opening the gap between himself and the favored champion. A beautiful right hand to the nose splattered blood all over the face of the champion. His countenance showed a lot more than blood though; it streamed with concern and doubt. Herrera captured round nine and ten with the same pattern of activity in the previous rounds. Herrera took a good part of the tenth off by laying on the ropes. However, his attention turned to defense and was able to block the vast majority of the champion’s shots at least partially. Garcia grew in confidence by being able to let his hands go. A right hand stunned Garcia to start the twelfth. The champion held frequently and seemed reluctant to engage Herrera knowing he was leading on the open scorecards. A left hook by Herrera landed cleanly and punctuated what should have been a title winning effort. Herrera won by a score of 116-113 at SecondsOut. Instead, Garcia received the victory by majority decision by counts of 116-112 twice and 114-114.
Garcia notched his fifth world title defense and raised his ledger to 28-0 (16). Herrera fell to 20-4 (7), but earned the respect of many fans and the champion himself. After the decision was announced, Garcia expressed the desire to move up and hinted that he had trouble making weight for this contest. It was rumored Garcia wanted one more fight at 140 before moving up to welterweight, but that plan may be adjusted given this close call.
On the undercard, Deontay Wilder proved once again that power is a great equalizer as he starched Malik Scott at the 1:36 mark of the first round. A right hand was the final punch Wilder threw, but it was clear it only partially landed at best. A left to the temple possible did the greater damage. Scott possessed the far greater experience as a professional, but Wilder’s raw power leveled the playing field and his heavyweight nemesis. Wilder raised his record to 31-0 (31). Scott crashed to 36-2-1 (13).