He was a 6-to-1 underdog, in one of those situations where by and large, beyond his family, nobody expected Danny Garcia of Philly to beat the Brit Amir Khan in their junior welterweight title consolidation showdown Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Ah. This is we why consistently must remind ourselves that this sport is the theater of the unexpected. What looks like one thing on paper can look very different in the ring, where flying fists jumble neurons, and turn the best-laid plans of promoters into confetti.
Garcia, age 24, got at Khan's Achilles heel, which is his chin, or more specifically, his ability to take a punch.
He sent the 25-year-old, who was in the mix to win a Floyd Mayweather fight lotto ticket, down to the mat in the third round. Khan was saved by the bell, and soldiered on, showing a heaping helping of heart. But Garcia had him down two more times in Round Four. After the second knockdown, referee Kenny Bayless looked into Khan's eye, and halted the scrap. The winner was Danny Garcia via TKO.
Brooklyn-bred Paulie Malignaggi called the fight on BBC radio and checked in with NYFightBlog after the upset. "I thought both guys boxed their fight," he said. "Sometimes styles make fights and this is a case of that. Danny was punching with Amir. He knew he couldn't match handspeed with him, but he knew he could time him jumping in." That's what Garcia was doing from the opening bell, the WBA welter champ told me. He kept at that game plan even after it wasn't working all that well. "That shows mental character and strength because Amir was kicking his ass in that time," he said.
Khan boxed super smartly when he met Malignaggi on May 15, 2010. Khan won by TKO in NYC. Why didn't he use the same tactics versus Garcia?
"He has the same problem most have when they see you are hittable. He increases the offense. Most trainers [Khan's is Freddie Roach, seen as a "pro offense" coach] encourage that anyway. I was not easy to hit. They knew I was slick. So, Khan knew to break me down. So, he was patient and it worked like a charm. He should fight like that all the time."
Fans who like drama -- yup, that's all of us -- are happier when Khan doesn't play it safe-smart. But Malignaggi is right, if we are talking about Khan's prospects for a long, fruitful career. "Khan should have seen what Danny was trying to do, but he was so into what he was doing. I guess he wasn't thinking enough, seeing that he was actually being sucked in like a fisherman hooks a fish."