By Tyson Bruce
The Puerto Rican fans were treated to a superb chess match between defending 140 pound champion Danny Garcia and Mauricio Herrera. So, it’s a real shame that judges, spitting distance from the action, chose not to watch it. Two of three judges scored the bout 116-112 in favor of Garcia, which was widely rebuked by the fans and Showtime commentators (all of whom scored in favor of Herrera).
The first round began in tactical fashion with Herrera using a pesky jab and smothering tactics, while Garcia (28-0, 16 KOs) attempted to land with his trademark power counterpunches. Herrera, who often takes fights on short notice, was obviously very well prepared as he completely nullified Garcia’s left hook. Garcia is traditionally a slow starter, so one figured that it was just a matter of time before he turned up the heat. It turned out not to be the case as the pattern established in the early rounds would be consistent throughout.
Herrera (20-4, 7 KOs) used a superb jab to the body, solid defensive skills, and smothering tactics that left Garcia befuddled. This was a classic example of a fight where every round was quite close, making it a scoring nightmare. That being said, it was largely Herrera that was dictating the pace and geography of the bout. His constant movement and destabilizing jab exploited Garcia’s need to be set in order to land counter punches. Garcia, clearly not at his best, very often fell into the habit of looking for one big shot instead or using combinations.
Garcia showed a little bit more life in the later rounds, especially in the tenth and eleventh where he was able to land some solid right hands and push Herrera against the ropes. He also benefited from the supportive Puerto Rican crowed that cheered wildly anytime he landed a blow—even if slow motion replays showed most of his punches falling short of the mark.
The worst part of the evening was the putrid open scoring, which spreads out the feeling of disgust and bewilderment instead of the traditional kick to the balls at the end. Even if you felt that Garcia’s harder punches carried the day, this was clearly not an 8-4 fight in Garcia’s favor. Yet, that was exactly how two of the judges scored it. Boxing Insider scored it 115-113 in favor of Herrera.
Herrera is proof of just how talent laden the 140-147 pound weight class really is, as even a fighter on the outside of the top ten can upset the apple cart on his day. Could it be the case that Garcia needs the extra motivation of being the underdog to bring the best out of him? Time will tell.
In the co-feature the Deontay Wilder (31-0, 31 KOs) express continued it’s charge up the heavyweight ranks, as it took all of 96 seconds for him to blast away the timid Malik Scott (36-2-1, 13 KOs). Going into the bout Scott was hailed by critics as Wilder’s stiffest test to date because of his size and solid skill set. The match was supposed to be a litmus test for whether Wilder was the beast that his record indicates or a fraud.
After a quiet opening minute that consisted of Wilder measuring distance with the jab and Scott moving away, Wilder exploded with a quick left hook-right hand combination that sent Scott to the canvas. Initially, it wasn’t even completely clear that a punch landed. Upon close analysis, however, it was clear that the left hook to the temple was the shot that destroyed Scott’s equilibrium and the partially landed right hand was basically just window dressing.
The real speculation is whether it was purely the punch that ended the bout or a combination of the punch and Scott being completely terrified of Wilder. It was probably the latter. Alas, we still don’t know whether Wilder can really box but with his punching power we might never have to.
The victory puts Wilder in position for a shot at the title between the winner of the Arreola-Stivern rematch. Given the reliable history of both of their chins, you would figure that they would provide Wilder with a more solid test. But make no mistake about it, Wilder hits like a monster and has a real mean streak to back it up.
In the Sho-Extreme portion of the undercard Juan Manuel Lopez (34-3, 31 KOs) and Daniel Ponce Deleon (45-6, 35 KOs) reunited hostilities in a true slobber knocker of a bout. Going into the bout Deleon was the heavy favorite to exact revenge because most boxing experts felt Lopez was shot after suffering knockout losses to Orlando Salido (twice) and Mikey Garcia. Lopez proved them wrong by besting Deleon in a knockdown filled war.
In a thrilling second round Lopez was put on the canvas, but would quickly respond by sending Deleon to the canvas twice. Shortly after the fight resumed referee Luis Pabon stopped the fight in what might have been a slightly premature stoppage. For better or worse Lopez probably earned the right to continue on with boxing career.