Garcia sends Morales reeling

Junior welterweight champ blasts former four-division titlist by knockout

Updated: October 22, 2012, 6:54 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Banned substance in his system or not, nothing could help Erik Morales against the savage youth of junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia.

Garcia had gone to bed Friday night after a meeting with his team having decided not to fight their rematch because of Morales' failed drug tests, but he changed his mind Saturday morning. A $1 million purse will do that.

And then he took it out on the old and faded Morales, dominating him and knocking him out with a clean left hook in the fourth round Saturday night in the main event of the first boxing card at new Barclays Center, which opened last month, before an announced crowd of 11,112.

Morales had failed two random U.S. Anti-Doping Agency tests in recent weeks, testing positive for the banned substance clenbuterol, which often is used to assist in weight loss. Morales failed to make weight for their first fight, in Houston in March, and was stripped of the title. Garcia won the vacant belt on a unanimous decision the next night.

Morales blamed tainted meat he had eaten in his native Mexico for the positive tests, and the New York State Athletic Commission did nothing to stop the fight. And then Garcia agreed to go through with the fight.

Morales is a future Hall of Famer and one of Mexico's all-time greats. He won world titles in four weight classes -- junior featherweight, featherweight, junior lightweight and junior welterweight -- and had many memorable fights, including epic trilogies with Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera.

But the 24-year-old entering-his-prime Garcia dusted the 36-year-old Morales (a pro for 19 years), showing once again that boxing is a young man's sport.

"I'm OK, I'm OK," Morales said through a translator after the brutal knockout. "I was prepared to win this fight, but I couldn't do it."

Morales said he planned to take one more fight in his hometown of Tijuana and then retire -- for the second time.

[+] EnlargeDanny Garcia
AP Photo/Jason DeCrowDanny Garcia, who fought Erik Morales on Saturday only because Morales had a rematch clause, may now set his sights on Lucas Matthysse or Amir Khan.

"This is my last fight in the United States," Morales said. "I want to say goodbye in Tijuana, Mexico. Time passes everyone by. I came to fight. I was ready. It's early signs that it's over."

Garcia was simply too fast, too strong and too young. In the third round, Garcia nailed Morales with a right, and Morales smiled and nodded to him as if to say, "Good shot."

At the end of the round, Garcia, of Philadelphia, landed another big right hand on Morales' chin, badly shaking him and nearly knocking him down.

Morales was so hurt by the punch that when the round ended, he walked to the wrong corner.

It was a sign of what was to come, because in the fourth round, Garcia (25-0, 16 KOs) ended it. First he knocked Morales (52-9, 36 KOs) back with a booming right hand, and then he landed a massive left hook on the chin. It landed with such force that Morales nearly spun around before crashing to the canvas. His body was half in the ring and his top half was draped over the bottom ring rope on the apron as referee Benji Esteves immediately waived off the fight at 1 minute, 23 seconds.

Morales' father and trainer, Jose Morales, and the rest of his corner jumped into the ring to rush to his side in a scary scene, although he was able to get up a few moments later.

"Boom," Garcia exclaimed as he watched a replay. "That left hook, I get that from my mom's side. Everyone on her side of the family is left-handed, so thanks, Mom."

Garcia, who was making his second title defense, has had a big year. He beat Erik Morales in March and then knocked out the heavily favored Amir Khan in the fourth round in July in a big upset to unify two of the 140-pound belts, putting himself on top of the division. Then came the big finish against Morales.

The spectacular knockout came as a surprise to Garcia, but he'll take it.

"He's a crafty veteran and he hit me with a few good shots," Garcia said. "I thought it was going to go 12 rounds because he's a warrior. He knows how to take a good punch. We train hard and we're happy it came early."

Garcia said he could have made his first fight with Morales easier, but it was Garcia's first major main event and he admitted he was a little nervous.

That didn't seem to be the case Saturday.

"I showed him too much respect in the first fight, but in this fight, I wanted to press the action, work behind my jab and set my big punches up," Garcia said.

The plan worked liked a charm, and now Garcia can move on to something more significant. He was facing Morales again only because he had a rematch clause in his contract from their first fight.

There are other potential opponents for Garcia, such as big banger Lucas Matthysse and perhaps a rematch with Khan, who has a Dec. 15 fight against Carlos Molina. Those are probably easy fights to make because Garcia, Matthysse and Khan all are promoted by Golden Boy Promotions.

"I never ducked anyone. I want to fight anyone," Garcia said. "You want the belts? You gotta come and get 'em."