Power and youth won out over craft and experience on Saturday night at the Barclays Center, as undefeated 25-year-old welterweight boxing champion Danny Garcia defeated 35-year-old Zab Judah, a Brownsville, Brooklyn native and five-time world champion, in a 12-round unanimous decision.
The fight, broadcast on Showtime, was an opportunity for Judah to show a supportive hometown crowd and national television audience that he is still an elite-level boxer.
The duel was characterized by competition not only in the ring, but also in the crowd of 13,048, as cries of ‘Dan-ny’ in support of Philadelphia fighter Garcia clashed with chants of ‘Brook-lyn’ to back Judah, who has his home borough’s name tattooed prominently across his shoulder blades.
In a gritty fight that saw both fighters bloodied, a younger, taller, and apparently stronger Garcia secured a commanding lead by landing a slew of power punches in the first two-thirds of the fight, culminating in a knockdown of Judah in the eighth round.
Judah, whose past championship glory has been tempered by key losses to marquee fighters like Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Miguel Cotto, and Amir Khan, surged in the final rounds, but it was ultimately too little too late, with judges scoring the bout 115-112, 114-112, and 116-111 in favor of Garcia, who called Judah a “crafty veteran” afterward.
The early rounds of the fight saw Garcia unleash a series of looping body shots to set up a staggering right hand to Judah’s head in the fifth round that buckled Judah’s knees. While still reeling toward the ropes, a game Judah showed bravado with a right-gloved bring-it-on motion. While he managed to survive the round, the fifth round blow was so dazing to Judah that he jumped up to begin the sixth round with a wet towel still perched atop his head.
“I don’t know what was keeping Zab up,” said Oscar de la Hoya, the promoter of both Judah and Garcia, in a post-fight press conference. “I think Brooklyn was keeping him up.”
Judah eventually went down in the eighth round, as another powerful right hand from Garcia sent him to the canvas. He stood up in a matter of moments and smiled at the referee, despite the opening of a deep cut under his left eye.
Judah rallied in the tenth round with a stunning left hand to Garcia’s face that had Garcia on the run for the remainder of the round, and fought competitively in the eleventh and twelfth rounds, but Garcia’s lead still stood at the final bell.
With Judah’s latest title shot thwarted, questions surround the aging boxer’s prospects going forward.
“Zab is in the mix. He’s right there,” said de la Hoya after the fight, with Judah at his side. “He can face any other fighter. He didn’t lose anything.”
“He’s not washed up, he came to fight, he came with his ‘A’ game,” echoed Garcia’s father, Angel Garcia, in the post-fight press conference. “He got up from those shots. He got up and he went the distance for 12 rounds, so he wasn’t washed up.”
Danny Garcia, who earned a purse of $1.25 million for the fight, talked about bringing some Brooklyn fans to his corner following his win. “In order to take over somebody’s territory, you’ve gotta beat the guy from there. I beat the home guy in Brooklyn, so…” Garcia said, trailing off.
Judah, who pocketed $300,000 for the night, wore a baseball cap and dark glasses that covered his cut to the press conference. He said that he maintains hope of fighting in another championship bout, but his words and tone sounded somewhat resigned.
“I crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s. I don’t think that I did nothing under what I was supposed to do,” he said of the loss. “I don’t feel bad. It’s OK. It comes with the territory.”