By Tom Donelson / Member Boxing Writers Association
Danny Garcia made his return to Puerto Rico, the hometown of his parents as he faced Mauricio Herrera in a title fight. The card began with Juan Manuel Lopez fighting Daniel Ponce De Leon at junior light- weight. Six years ago, Lopez knocked Ponce De Leon out but now both fighters faced a cross road fight at two higher weight divisions. Ponce De Leon decided that his strategy would be to knock out Lopez, a Puerto Rico native since he was certain a close decision would go to the hometown fighter.
Lopez looked a step behind as De Leon managed to land some giant shots in the opening round. In round two, De Leon sent Lopez down for a quick count and De Leon quickly went for the kill. Lopez nailed the hard charging De Leon with a sharp right hook that sent De Leon down. De Leon got back on shaky legs and Lopez sent De Leon down a second time. Lopez attacked De Leon on the ropes and after a six punch combination, the referee stopped the fight. De Leon felt the stoppage was too quick and there was an argument to be made as he had his hands up and only two of the punches got through flushed.
Leading up to the main event, Heavyweight veteran Malik Scott tested rising star and undefeated Deontay Wilder. For the first minute and half, there was no action but then a Wilder right hand sent Scott down for the count. Wilder showed power against a veteran fighter and now he may be ready for a championship bout. In real time, it did not look like it was knockout punch but in slow motion, a Wilder left hook hit the temple before the right hand went through the gloves.
It was time for main event with undefeated Danny Garcia facing the tough Mauricio Herrera for Garcia belts. Herrera had lost three close fights and he defeated Ruslan Provodnikov, the present WBO light welterweight champion.
During the first round, Garcia landed some solid right hands while Herrera landed his left jab to the body. Throughout the second round, Herrera finally landed some jabs to the head and throughout the round, frustrated Garcia with his movement. Herrera continued to frustrate Garcia from the third to the fifth round as he maneuvered his way around the ring and kept Garcia from establishing any consistent offense.
Garcia managed to land a double hook at the end of the seventh round as he countered the aggressive Herrera in a round that began with a Herrera combination that ended with a right. Each round through the first eight rounds were hard to score but Garcia fighting in his parents’ hometown gave him an advantage with the judges. Two judges had Garcia ahead and the other had Herrera ahead which agreed with the Showtime team.
In the ninth round, Herrera exploded a right hand bloodied Garcia with a minute to left and Garcia attempted to counter. Garcia landed some solid left hooks and some successful combinations in the tenth that may have given him the round. Garcia rallied over the second half of the eleventh round as he connected on left hooks and some right hands as Herrera drifted to the rope. This allowed Garcia to throw punches but Herrera blocked many of the punches.
Herrera began the final round by attacking Garcia and walking down the champion. Garcia counters failed to connect consistently. Garcia attempted to throw bombs and while a couple connected, Herrera landed some solid right hands of his own and may have taken the final round. The fight was now in the hand of the judges.
Herrera connected and threw more punches compared to the champion in a fight that was tough to score but the case could be made that this was his victory. One judge had the fight even but the other judges had it 8 rounds for Garcia to only 4 rounds to Herrera. Herrera preparation was solid as he forced Garcia to fight his fight but unfortunately for Herrera; the judges did not see his tactical advantages.
Garcia did not fight a brilliant fight and was lucky to win this fight. Garcia now has a decision on whether he stays at 140 pounds or move up to 147 pounds. In the post-fight interview, Garcia indicated that he is ready for welterweight division. As Herrera, he was disappointed in the final decision and Showtime announcers agreed that Herrera won the bout. This was not highway robbery as Garcia did land more power shots but many of those power shots had little effect. Herrera may have lost an opportunity to win a title due to judges who gave Garcia the benefit of the doubt.