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NEW YORK -- Unified junior welterweight titleholder Danny Garcia opened the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for boxing on Oct. 20 with a bang, hammering faded former titlist Erik Morales of Mexico in a huge one-punch, fourth-round knockout in their rematch.
Garcia, who hails from Philadelphia, will be back to headline the second boxing card at the new $1 billion arena on Feb. 9 in the main event of a Showtime-televised card. This time he won't be the crowd favorite, because he will be facing Brooklyn's own Zab Judah, the former three-time junior welterweight titlist and former undisputed welterweight champion.
The fight nearly got a head start at a Golden Boy Promotions news conference to formally announce the bout on Saturday at a midtown Manhattan steakhouse when the always-outspoken Angel Garcia, Danny's father and trainer, spent several minutes denigrating Judah's career when it was his turn to speak.
He dissed Judah for his losses and insulted him for taking nine rounds to knock out Vernon Paris in his last fight while saying that his son knocked him out in one round in a sparring session.
Judah listened quietly but was clearly not happy, eventually standing up and shouting down Garcia, who was next to him at the podium.
"I have a lot of respect for his father but I won't be disrespected," Judah shouted.
It was obvious what was going to happen next -- pushing and shoving and an ensuing fracas that had former light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins, an executive with Golden Boy, between the two trying to calm things down. But the members of the Judah entourage stormed the dais and some overzealous media members with cameras followed.
It took nearly 15 minutes to restore order as Angel Garcia and Judah yelled at each other and continued pushing and shoving. It did not appear that any punches landed.
Danny Garcia then took the microphone and stood up for his father, telling Judah, "I'm gonna punish you. You'll be laid out flat. I'm going for the knockout. This isn't going past four rounds. I'll teach you to respect your elders."
Golden Boy and Al Haymon, Garcia's adviser, are taking a calculated risk by matching the 24-year-old Garcia with Judah, a 35-year-old southpaw, who may not be what he was when he was on top, but he's still quick and still has considerable punching power. And with the news conference heat, he also sounded extremely motivated.
Judah (42-7, 29 KOs) is the ideal opponent for Garcia (25-0, 16 KOs) because he's still a solid contender at 140 pounds and, because Golden Boy is the exclusive promoter for boxing at the Barclays Center and has a deal to put on regular shows there, it made sense to match one of its young stars with a credible Brooklyn fighter to generate interest.
"We try to outdo ourselves by making great matches," Hopkins said before the meltdown. "Everybody knows Zab Judah comes to bring it and he's from Brooklyn. Everybody from every barber shop in Philly and New York is gonna be at this fight."
"Zab's a great fighter, one of the best of his era, but it's my era now and I'm going to prove it on Feb. 9," Garcia said. "The crowd in Brooklyn was great for my last fight, and I can't wait to put on another show for them. I plan on ending this one the way I did my last fight at Barclays Center -- by knockout."
Garcia will be making his third title defense. He claimed a vacant title by dropping and outpointing Morales in their first fight, which took place in Houston in March. In July, Garcia rallied to knock out Amir Khan in the fourth round to unify 140-pound titles and then clobbered Morales in the rematch.
Judah, who has won six of his last seven bouts, has been a fighter seemingly with nine lives. He's had many ups and downs in his career and has faced a who's who of stars, including losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto. But in 2010, he upset Lucas Matthysse on a split decision and then, in March 2011, knocked out Kaizer Mabuza to win a vacant junior welterweight belt. However, in his next fight, he faced Khan in a unification fight and was knocked out by a body punch on the fifth round. It was a performance in which Judah looked old and faded.
But he rebounded again in March by knocking out Paris -- a rising contender who was 26-0 at the time -- in the ninth round of a title elimination fight. That victory, which was at the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, a tiny venue compared to the lavish Barclays Center, set up Judah for a mandatory shot at titleholder Lamont Peterson.
However, with Garcia looking for an opponent, Judah accepted a more lucrative offer to face him than to challenge Peterson.
"I'm blessed to be able to come back home to Brooklyn, perform for my fans, and win another world championship," Judah said. "Danny is a talented fighter, but I have tricks he's never seen before. This will be the defining fight of my career, and I can't wait."
The televised undercard has not been finalized but Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer announced that middleweight titlist "Kid Chocolate" Peter Quillin (28-0, 20 KOs), who has Brooklyn roots and won his 160-pound belt by scoring six knockdowns and outpointing Hassan N'Dam of France in a slam-bang fight on the Barclays inaugural card, will make his first title defense. He is expected to face former undisputed champion Jermain Taylor, whom Showtime still owes seven figures as part of the agreement for him to drop out of the round-robin Super Six World Boxing Classic after he suffered a head injury in a knockout loss to Arthur Abraham in his opening round bout. Taylor suffered a brain bleed and went into a long layoff before he was licensed and made a comeback.
Another fighter expected on the telecast will involve Brooklyn middleweight Daniel Jacobs (23-1, 20 KOs), the 2009 ESPN.com prospect of the year, assuming he comes through his fight on Saturday night at Barclays Center competitor Madison Square Garden on the Showtime undercard of the Austin Trout-Miguel Cotto junior middleweight title fight.