LAS VEGAS (AP) — Danny Garcia defended his WBC and WBA 140-pound titles with a unanimous decision over Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse on Saturday night, remaining unbeaten with a gritty comeback victory.
Carlos Molina claimed Ishe Smith’s IBF 154-pound title belt with a dull split-decision victory, and welterweight contender Pablo Cesar Cano won a split decision over Ashley Theophane at the MGM Grand Garden on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s bout with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
Garcia (27-0) spent several rounds feeling out Matthysse’s impressive power before rallying in his fourth title defense, even knocking down Matthysse in the 11th round.
“I’m the champion of the world,” Garcia said. “The champion of the world isn’t scared of nobody.”
The fight turned in Garcia’s favor when Matthysse’s right eye swelled shut in the seventh round, allowing the Philadelphia fighter to pepper his power-punching Argentine opponent with left hooks and combinations.
Garcia got a flash knockdown of Matthysse in the 11th when the challenger got caught up in the ropes, although Matthysse immediately bounced back up. The champion even hung on after referee Tony Weeks docked a point with 37 seconds left in the final round for a low blow.
“I knew if I slowed him down, I could go to the body,” Garcia said. “I’m a great warrior. He kept coming, but I fought my heart out because I’m a Philadelphia fighter.”
Both fighters landed roughly 36 percent of their punches, but Garcia threw 78 more blows. The champion also connected with 48 percent of his power punches to Matthysse’s 44 percent.
Garcia has emerged as a durable champion during a run of impressive victories over the past two years, but Matthysse has become one of his sport’s most intriguing fighters for his formidable punching power and heedless style.
Matthysse (34-3) had won six straight fights, all by stoppage in increasingly dramatic fashion. His only previous career losses were debatable decisions to Devon Alexander and Zab Judah.
With superior aggression and power, Matthysse appeared to win most of the early rounds — until the seventh, when his right eye abruptly swelled nearly shut.
After several rounds of punishment from Garcia, Matthysse responded with fire in the 11th round, chasing Garcia around the ring and knocking out his mouthpiece. But Garcia caught Matthysse along the ropes late in the round, knocking the Argentine to the canvas with a combination punctuated by a right hand.
Garcia lost a point in the final minute, but two judges scored the bout 114-112 for Garcia, and a third favored the champion 115-111. The Associated Press also scored it 114-112 for Matthysse, giving five of the last six rounds to the champ.
The 35-year-old Smith (25-6) won his title in February with a narrow decision over Cornelius Bundrage in Detroit, but his reign as Las Vegas’ first born-and-bred world champion extended only one bout.
Smith struggled to connect with anything against Molina (22-5-2), the gritty Chicago-based fighter who fought Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Erislandy Lara to draws earlier in his career. While Molina didn’t exactly overwhelm Smith in a fight featuring plenty of clinching and missed punches, Molina consistently was more aggressive and creative all the way to a strong 12th round.
Two judges favored Molina 117-111 and 116-112, while a third favored Smith 116-112.
“I’m happy about my win tonight, but I’m never happy or satisfied with my performance,” Molina said. “I always feel like I could do better.”
Molina thinks his next bout should be a unification fight against Mayweather or Alvarez: “I want the winner of this fight tonight. It only makes sense.”
In the opening fight on the pay-per-view card, Cano (27-3-1) largely dominated Theophane, a 33-year-old welterweight from England also backed by Mayweather’s promotional company.
Although Cano staggered Theophane a few times, bloodying his opponent’s nose and never really getting hurt himself, judge Ricardo Ocasio awarded the final five rounds and a 96-94 edge to Mayweather’s fighter. The other two judges comfortably favored Cano, who has lost title fights to Erik Morales and Sugar Shane Mosley.
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