By Frank Bartolini, Ringside
No other region on this earth is as ethnically diverse as the five boroughs that encompass New York City. The population of Brooklyn represents that fact. This was truly the case on the evening of July 30 at the Barclays Center when Danny “Swift” Garcia, a Philadelphian who is proud of his Puerto Rican heritage, faced Mexican American Jose Benavidez Jr. in the twelve round junior middleweight main event. The heavyweight semi-windup pitted Polish native Adam Kownacki against Ali Eren Demirezen of German-based Turk. Cuban junior welterweight Rances Barthelemy and Ukrainian middleweight Sergiy Derevyanchenko competed in separate contests on the undercard. All these combatants were well represented in the audience with either flags or shirts displaying national colors.
Danny Garcia returned to his home away from home, the Barclays Center, to face contender Jose Benavidez of Phoenix. This was the former two-weight division world champion Garcia’s first venture into the junior middleweight ranks. He weighed 152 ¾ lbs. Leading up to the fight, many questions were asked about Garcia, who was coming off a nineteen-month layoff (L12 Errol Spence). Have Garcia's skills faded? Can he still pack a punch in a higher weight class? Will Garcia shake off the rust accumulated during his long layoff? This was Garcia's ninth time fighting in The Barclays Center and the crowd of approximately 9,500 fans exhibited its appreciation by roaring upon his entry into the arena.
From the onset, Garcia started fast and maintained a good pace throughout. Benavidez,153 ¾ lbs., could not match Garcia’s punch rate. During the second round, Garcia darted in and out as Benavidez became more aggressive trying to stunt Danny’s offense. However, beyond this point it was all Garcia as he moved well to avoid being hit while scoring counter right hands. Garcia took full control of the action and began landing combinations to both the head and body while the house cheered “DANNY, DANNY, DANNY” in round five.
Trying to change the momentum, Benavidez pressed the action during the ninth stanza and it was the only session he clearly won. Closing out the fight, Garcia looked sensational in the final three minutes throwing beautiful, fast flurries. At the end, everyone in the building believed beyond a doubt that Danny had won. That is, everyone except for the official judges. Garcia, who is now 37-3, 21 KOs, won a majority decision by scores of 114-114 (Waleska Roldan), 116-112 (Glen Feldman), and 117-111 (Tony Paolillo). This writer had it 119-110 for Garcia, ten rounds to one with one even. Benavidez slipped to 27-2-1, 18 KOs.
This grand performance by Garcia not only extended his career it catapulted him into the junior middleweight rankings. In the days following the romp, Keith Thurman went on social media calling for Garcia to face him in a rematch. Garcia lost a close twelve round nod to Thurman in March of 2017 in a world welterweight unification tilt staged at The Barclays Center. One promoter said he finds Garcia vs. Connor Benn an intriguing match up and would like to promote it. Whispers of Garcia challenging WBA world middleweight champion Erislandy Lara, at a catch weight, are also circulating. Others have said Garcia is in line to meet physical anomaly 6’ 5 ½” Sebastian Fundora. With all these options, Garcia would be wise to enter the ring by year's end while he is still a hot commodity.
DEMIREZEN BEATS KOWNACKI
It was not long ago that Polish-born heavyweight Adam Kownacki, Brooklyn, NY, was a world rated contender in line for a chance to battle for the world heavyweight championship. But after losing his third straight against Ali Eren Demirezen, Hamburg, Germany, Kownacki's days as a world ranked fighter seem to be over. Nearly half of Kownacki's, 251¼ lbs., professional boxing career has taken place at the same venue. Polish fans came in droves and Kownacki admirers had plenty to root for following the first two rounds. Kownacki slowed down in the third and Demirezen got the better of the action from this point forward.
Both boxers threw plenty of punches, and combined, unleashed almost eighteen hundred blows over ten rounds. A humongous tally for heavyweights. By throwing and scoring more power shots Demirezen had the left side of Kownacki's face looking horrible. Demirezen, 272 ¾ lbs., got off first and landed a straight right that opened a gash over Kownacki’s left eye. Brawling and rough housing kept Kownacki in the fight and many felt the fan-favorite might receive a hometown nod. However, judges Steve Weisfeld and Martha Tremblay (97-93) and Mark Consentino (96-94) all scored the fight in favor of Demirezen, 17-1, 12 KOs. Kownacki, 203, 15 KOs, must re-evaluate his career. It will be a long road back for Kownacki.
RUSSELL STOPS BARTHELEMY
Competing for the first time in his life without his late father in his corner, Gary Antuanne Russell, Capitol Heights, MD, 137 ¾ lbs., kept his knockout streak alive with a controversial stoppage of Cuban native Frances Barthelemy, Las Vegas, NV. Gary Russell Sr. passed away suddenly in May, and his son, former WBC world featherweight king Gary Russell Jr. took over his duties of training and working in his younger brother's corner. An even battle until round six, southpaw Russell setup right hook to the jaw of Barthelemy, 139 ½ lbs., by dipping low before unleashing the bomb. Barthelemy fell to the deck and rose quickly, walking himself to a neutral corner. For reasons unknown to anyone, referee Shada Murdaugh called off the match. A cognitive and stable Barthelemy looked perfectly fine to continue the scheduled ten-rounder. The time of the stoppage was 50 seconds of round six. Russell's record remains unblemished at 16-0, 16 KOs. Barthelemy must rebuild with a slate of 29-2-1, 15 KOs.
DEREVYANCHENKO SCORES WIN
On the undercard, Ukrainian Sergiy Derevyanchenko. 159½ lbs., obtained his first victory in three years. Derevyanchenko out-punched journeyman Joshua Conley, San Bernardino, CA, over ten rounds. Conley, 160 lbs., gave a game effort but fell to 17-4-1, 11 KOs. All three judges gave the fight to Derevyanchenko, now 14-4, 10 KOs, by wide margins: Allen Nace and Don Trella had it 99-91, while John Basile scored it 98-92.