Last night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse promised a savage consolation for those who preferred punches to pageantry, carnage to catchphrases, and a sense of drama not undermined by the presence of an androgynous teeny bopper mean-mugging. No, Garcia-Matthysse was just a high-stakes fight between two guys who crack heads—perfect, almost foolproof, in its simplicity. To the surprise of most, the fight went the distance; to the surprise of almost as many, Garcia did the best cracking, earning a hard-fought unanimous decision.
Garcia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had vowed to take Matthysse’s power from him, and he had some success doing so in the opening rounds. Using lateral movement to mix up his escape routes, Garcia never allowed Matthysse to lock in with one of his missiles. When Matthysse did try and close the distance, Garcia fired off sharp jabs, keeping Matthysse from getting into his wheelhouse. Still, Matthysse, Trelew, Chubut, Argentina, reddened Garcia’s ribcage with a number of vicious right hands to the body. Having done his homework, he also had a feel for when Garcia was cranking up his left hook. Whenever he finished unloading, Matthysse would duck out, letting Garcia’s hook whistle harmlessly overhead.
But while the bodywork was impressive, Matthysse had largely holstered his jab by the fourth round. No longer jabbing his way in, Matthysse began lunging at his target, compromising his power, spacing, and balance. When he did, Garcia would simply grab Matthysse (a tactic he would exploit repeatedly over the course of the fight, one that referee Tony Weeks mishandled). In those moments prior to Matthysse’s launch, Garcia often got off first, stopping his frustrated opponent in his tracks with an assortment of punches that, even if they missed, controlled the action. But for all Garcia’s success, by the sixth round Matthysse smelled blood and began to apply more pressure.
It is a punch that has bailed him out a number of times. Thrown naturally, intuitively, Garcia’s left hook, like his demeanor, gives credence to the argument that fighters are born. In the seventh round, Garcia dipped to his left and thumped Matthysse with that very punch. Unlike Amir Khan and Erik Morales, who did double Axels when Garcia tagged them, Matthysse took the shot well. His eye however, did not. By the end of the round, Matthysse was a cyclops. Garcia hit pay-dirt with what many considered his one chance at victory.
Over the next three rounds Garcia found his groove. Wary of throwing his right hand lest Garcia clip him with another hook, Matthysse abandoned his combinations and loaded up on lefts. Moreover, his best weapon in the fight—a lashing right to the body—was now harmlessly glued to the side of his face. With Matthysse now vulnerable in exchanges, Garcia came forward, ripping combinations. Matthysse still hammered Garcia whenever he could trap him against the ropes, but the fight was slipping away from him.
In the eleventh, Matthysse smashed Garcia with a right hand that sent his mouthpiece over the top rope. Weeks broke up the action to return the mouthpiece, however, and in those precious seconds Garcia recovered. When action resumed, Garcia did Matthysse one better, dropping him with a pair of combinations against the ropes.
The twelfth round delivered the action many had expected, as a series of furious exchanges brought the crowd to its feet. Matthysse was dropped again, this time from a low blow that cost Garcia a point. The bell sounded and a triumphant Garcia thrust his arms in the air. No, Garcia did not take Matthysse’s power away, but he certainly took it: off his chin, his ribs, his ears, cheeks, and mouth—and took it well. Matthysse’s air of invincibility, however? Garcia pocketed that. Scores read 115-111, and 114-112 twice.
There is a scene in Tim Burton’s Batman, where a news anchor warns the public of the dangers of Smilex, the chemical behind The Joker’s cosmetic terrorism. It is not one product—hairspray, or shampoo, for example—that is lethal, says the anchor; but rather, a combination of products that leaves death’s smile on your face. Garcia is boxing’s Smilex. Taken on their own, none of his attributes are especially lethal, but they can be deadly in combination. And Garcia uses all of them. Having cleaned out Golden Boy’s 140-pound stable, Garcia intends to move to welterweight, the same division that Floyd Mayweather Jr.—who schooled Saul Alvarez in the main event—rules. Mayweather intends to return in May, and if any fighter has earned the right to face him, it is Garcia, 27-0 (16). There may be fighters that pose a greater threat to Mayweather than Garcia, but none have earned the opportunity the way Garcia has. A little meritocracy in boxing would be welcome.
Matthysse, who went to the hospital to have his eye, jaw, and hand examined, might also consider a move to welterweight. He just lost the only meaningful fight remaining for him at 140 pounds, while fights with welterweights Marcos Maidana, Adrien Broner, Robert Guerrero, and Victor Ortiz would surely entertain. Considering the success he was having prior to his eye injury, Matthysse, 34-3 (32), might also pursue a rematch with Garcia; enough questions persist to warrant a second installment. It’s a fight that would sell: after all, their first fight, even without the presence of a coroner, rather predictably stole the show.