Danny “Swift” Garcia hit the jackpot in Las Vegas last night when he overcame a few rough patches early to belt out Amir Khan via fourth-round TKO at the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort.
This fight, overshadowed by the ceaseless antics of David Haye and Dereck Chisora, seemed like an afterthought to most, and Khan reaffirmed that notion by saying—repeatedly—that Danny Garcia was not on his level. But Khan was facing an undefeated class “A” opponent, while Haye answered the bell against an erratic journeyman of limited everything.
For two rounds, at least, it looked like Garcia had, indeed, been overmatched. Khan, 139, came out with the whip hand early, dropping straight rights down the middle with relative ease. At long range Khan has an edge on most because of his speed and reach, and Garcia was having difficulty gauging distance. In addition, Garcia suffered a cut over his right eye sometime during the second. But by standing his ground and firing back at every opportunity, Garcia, also 139, set the stage for the biggest win of his career. How many times have we seen fighters intimidated by speed shut themselves down? Garcia, at his own risk, was willing to mix it up with the faster man in order to get his timing down and exploit openings. Khan often tips off his punches by stepping too early or pulling back his right before throwing it, and last night he found someone willing to take the risks to capitalize on these mistakes.
At times, Khan, 25, has looked like the real right thing in the ring, but with the exception of a handful of fighters, the top money ranks in boxing are illusory, products of the feverish HBO/Showtime/P-4-P imagination. Having been painted in gold from head to toe—like the poor Gold Boy in Bedlam—Khan has finally smothered beneath the veneer. Unlike Garcia, who has proven his durability by taking flush shots from a bomber like Kendall Holt, Khan does not have a particularly sturdy chin. Add this defect to his other weaknesses—getting too close when flurrying, standing straight up before his opponent, poor infighting skills, and a tendency to freeze when in trouble—and you have a fighter whose limitations may very well outstrip his attributes.
Even before Garcia, 24, dropped the hammer on Khan, he had already started making adjustments, moving his head a bit, punching more often, and backing Khan up with some thudding bodyshots. When Garcia turned aggressor, Khan did what he usually does when pressed: he raised his gloves and stood as stock still as a taxidermy specimen. This allowed Garcia to place his blows with more precision, including a nifty right-hand-body/right-hand-head combination. With Khan already forced into pitter-patter mode by some knifing shots to the ribs, Garcia was well on his way to upsetting the dope.
With a little under 30 seconds to go in the third, Garcia caught Khan— in the midst of curling a sloppy right uppercut from his hip-with a crushing left hook to the side of the neck. Khan, now 26-3 (18), went down like a grandfather clock knocked over in a half-empty antique store. Somehow he rose, on mutinous legs, at the count of four. Referee Kenny Bayless gave Khan a hard look—and precious extra seconds—before allowing him to continue, but the bell rang before Garcia could end matters then and there.
Khan, Bolton, Lancashire, United Kingdom, wobbled back to his corner, where he was unable to fully recuperate between rounds. Within 10 seconds of the fourth, in fact, Khan hit the deck again. A pair of right hands sent Khan scrambling, and he skidded to the canvas on his hands and knees for another count. When the fight resumed, Garcia pounded Khan from ringpost to ringpost with Bayless seemingly on the verge of stepping in at any moment. But Khan showed his mettle and battled back, even egging Garcia on at one point. Garcia obliged, lashing Khan with a crossfire attack, driving him hither and thither with overhand rights, left hooks, and body shots.
Although Garcia threw a few wild haymakers, he was, for the most part, calm and selective in chasing down his prey. Even when moving in for the kill, Garcia showed the measured approach of a professional. Garcia fights within himself, which is a virtue Khan certainly does not possess. A left to the top of the head sent Khan collapsing in sections, and a final, disdainful right clipped him on the way down. It was the kind of free fall that immediately qualifies as a danger sign. Bayless tolled the mandatory eight and Khan took it with a faraway look in his eyes, as if he had been chewing on kif for the better part of a summer afternoon. Having had difficulties controlling his motor skills for the better part of three minutes and now unable even to stand up to shots high on the head, Khan was in need of an intervention. Bayless wisely stopped the massacre with about 30 seconds left in the round.
Already Garcia, fighting out of Philadelphia, is being dubbed the Superstar of the Hour, with Max Kellerman—naturally—twirling his baton and leading the HBO parade float on a march to analytical nowhere. This is one of the silliest aspects of contemporary prizefighting: the fantasies of the few being taken as some sort of objective reality. A .300 hitter in baseball is a .300 hitter. In boxing, a susperstar is almost always little more than the projection of a handful of egomaniacs who span electronic media from network to network and from website to website. A workmanlike fighter, Garcia has plenty of good matchups waiting for him in the future. But where he stands on the Superstar spreadsheet as of today—or any day, really—is of no importance whatsoever.
As for Khan, he may or may not have gone to the dogs at this point, but he remains an exciting fighter with enough talent to trouble any number of world-class operators. That, in itself, is an achievement worthy of note.
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