Danny Garcia’s campaign for the world title in the third separate weight category got off to an auspicious start on Saturday night as he secured a major majority-decision victory over Jose Benavidez Jr. in his super welterweight debut at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The 34-year-old from North Philadelphia, a former unified champion at 140lbs who won the WBC title at 147lbs, made easy work of his taller, taller opponent, winning by scores of 116-112, 117-111 and (absurdly, In the view of ringside judge Velska Roldan) 114-114.
December 2020 marked Garcia’s first outing since a unanimous-decision loss to Errol Spence Jr., a span of nearly 20 months and the longest layoff of his career by some distance. Later, the former two-division champion was overcome with emotion while in the ring as he opened up about the debilitating anxiety and mental-health struggles since that setback.
Fighting back tears, Garcia said, “I took a break while going through the mental things, things got dark, I went through anxiety, deep depression, just trying to get stronger.” “It was the pressure of life, being a good father, giving it up now, because it was all stuck inside. It rained on me for a year and a half and the only way to do better was to fight again. I’m a warrior. If you fight with anxiety and depression, you can come out of it, that’s what I did today. I fought.”
The physical edge of about three inches in Benavidez’s height and reach was even more evident at Barclays Center lights than at Friday’s weigh-in, but Garcia’s fixed footwork left his opponent unable to take advantage of the opening round. Gave. Philadelphia continued to control the pace in the second and third frames, keeping his foe at bay with a steady diet of jabs to the body, while easily pocketing Benavidez’s lashing foray.
Realizing himself after closing out third with an excellent four-punch combination, García ramped up his activity and appeared in total command in the fourth and fifth as Benavidez’s already lagging work rate further diminished. And they started showing clear signs of despair. Garcia tackles the issue with hectic, rigid body work, using clever upper body movement to make it difficult to hit himself.
After building up a comfortable lead on the scorecard, as the fight entered its second half, Garcia began blending right-handers upwards with more frequency, flushing Benavidez with a crunching hook in the middle of the seventh. which stopped him in his tracks.
From there it was only a matter of whether Garcia, who was struggling to move his power from junior welterweight to welterweight, could close the show with a knockout. The pause did not come, but lack of trying did not come as García punished in the 12th round until the final bell.
Compubox’s punch figures give numerical references to one-way traffic. Garcia landed 223 out of 746 punches (31.2%), including a career-high 153 body shots, compared to 117 out of 600 for Benavidez (19.5%).
Benavidez, a one-time blue-chip prospect whose career trajectory was turned when he sustained a gunshot wound to his right leg while walking his dog near his Phoenix home in 2016, struggled with his mobility throughout the evening. did, but especially in the final round when it became clear that he needed to do something special to reverse the game’s rush, but was reduced to a practically static goal.
The 30-year-old from Arizona entered Saturday’s bout and fought just once – an unlisted majority against the unhinged Francisco Emanuele Torres last year – since the last loss on his lead against Terrence Crawford in 2018, but he was out of favor with the decision. Be excited after. came down.
“It’s tough, things don’t always go your way, they have ups and downs,” said Benavidez, whose older brother David was a two-time super middleweight champion. “I try to stay positive, like when the doctor said I’d never walk again. I didn’t let it get to me. Only I can stop me.”
During his three-year reign at junior welterweight, after his Hall of Fame resume during an electric run of victories over Lucas Mathisse, Amir Khan, Zab Judah and Eric Morales (twice), Garcia was consistently underestimated as he was confused. He wasn’t brilliant in any aspect, but hit hard with both hands, had excellent timing and could hit a punch. It turns out that the recipe can take you a long way.
But after moving to welterweight in 2016 for the vacant WBC belt and outpointing Robert Guerrero, Garcia was unable to deliver a signature win against the division’s elite, in a title fight against Keith Thurman, Sean Porter and, finally, Spence. was coming down.
What reflects his long-term outlook is anyone’s guess. But Garcia’s opening statement at 154lbs, coupled with the new appearance of his mind regarding his well-being, is a promising start even in a fight without an eventual victory.
“I still fight for a few days,” he said. “I have dark days, but I do my best to stay positive. I like it.”