Danny Garcia pulled the rug out from underneath Amir Khan Saturday on HBO, delivering a stunning upset via technical knockout against a far more acclaimed fighter as a 5-1 underdog or worse.
Khan already had the rug pulled out from underneath him once, in his last fight, a loss against Lamont Peterson that made a Floyd Mayweather fight seem absurd, in retrospect. But when Peterson tested positive for a banned substance, and a rematch fell apart, Khan had an opening to talk again about fighting Mayweather after beating Garcia. Mayweather will have to find a different opponent for his next fight.
This win legitimizes Garcia, who had been uneven as a prospect, steadier once he graduated to contender and now has the biggest win of his career. This was a spectacular performance. One wonders if his reprehensible father/trainer is too much for the son to overcome as a lovable figure in the sport; Danny comes off a nice guy, but when your dad is a straight-up racist, you’re going to get booed, as Danny was beforehand.
The 1st round looked like Khan would be too much, but there was an element of danger for him throughout. He was the faster, sharper fighter, but Garcia was also finding openings. Garcia is solid all-around, and it was inevitable that he’d catch Khan with some shots, and some of them were quite flush. But the pattern continued in the 2nd.
In the 3rd, it nearly ended. Garcia caught Khan with a counter left sort of on the neck and under the ear. It screwed Khan’s equilibrium all to hell, and he never, ever recovered. He survived the round, with just seconds left, but in the corner looked like ghosts had taken up residence in his brain. I thought trainer Freddie Roach should’ve stopped the fight.
The 4th was a Round of the Year candidate, a wild, dangerous, thrilling affair where Khan spent the whole stanza wobbling around like his feet were rocks, connected to his torso by strings. But, incredibly enough, he became competitive, actually landing huge bombs himself while half-to-3/4 unconscious. He couldn’t overcome the two knockdowns, though, and after the second referee Kenny Bayless waived it off. It was on the borderline, given the heart Khan was showing, but I support it — Khan was in a dangerous state, and it was generous for Bayless to have let it go as long as it had.
If karma was something that existed, Khan beats Garcia. Khan has become unlovable, personality-wise, but in the ring he’s all fighter, and I’m more of a fan now than I was before, because that was some hard, hard business to stay up and perform after all that. Still, Khan has his flaws. His chin has gotten sturdier, but he can’t be in fights like this where he’s trading shots. He needs to be more of a boxer, because he can’t take and give on equal terms against world-class guys. I don’t care about the loss: I want more Khan, but the man needs to overhaul his game.
Nothing against Garcia, but anyone rooting for Khan to make him eat his dad’s racist words couldn’t be blamed, and they got no justice Saturday night. Whether Garcia is a star now, as HBO’s Max Kellerman declared after the fight, remains to be determined; he might just be a star villain, whether that’s the way he wants it to be or not. Inside the ring, he’s now in contention for the label of “world’s best junior welterweight.” Lucas Matthysse is also in contention for it. Let’s see if Golden Boy Promotions puts its two fighters in the ring against each other so we can find out.