Danny Garcia’s ability to figure things out during the endurance test of a boxing match made him welterweight world champion Saturday at Staples Center.
After five problematic rounds with determined veteran Robert Guerrero, Garcia found a way to batter his opponent with hard right-handed punches in the sixth round.
And as the man five years older dealt with the toll of that punishment, Garcia, 27, proceeded to out-box Guerrero for the final half of the World Boxing Council title bout, winning a unanimous decision by 116-112 on all three judges’ scorecards.
“It was what I expected. I knew I would win at least eight or nine rounds,” Garcia (32-0, 18 knockouts) said. “Guerrero is tough. No one has ever stopped him. He came to fight, he was in shape.”
The 32-year-old Guerrero (33-4-1, 18 KOs) relied on the remnants of the determination that made him a former two-division world champion, especially early, when he worked the body, landed jabs and made Garcia pay for missing a wild right hand with a scoring flurry in the fourth round.
Despite punch statistics showing Garcia landed 163 punches to Guerrero’s 108, Guerrero hung on to the early highlights in asking for a rematch, arguing that “not one person out there thought Danny won, but his team.
“I pressured him, I nailed him, busted his body up. I out-jabbed him. I thought I won … it was a great fight.”
With the underneath of Garcia’s right eye marked while he endured some Guerrero headbutts, the possibility of an upset crossed the minds of the 12,052 in attendance.
But Garcia’s dominant sixth round changed the course as he invented angles with the mighty right and smartly set up the steady blows that left the fighter from Gilroy, Calif., visibly altered.
Garcia, from Philadelphia, swept rounds seven through nine by repeatedly finding Guerrero’s head and body with rights.
“I was throwing my combinations, using my legs like my dad told me to do. I knew he was going to come to fight. He’s a rugged warrior,” said Garcia, now positioned for a showdown with the winner of the March 12 World Boxing Assn. title fight between unbeaten Keith Thurman and ex-champion Shawn Porter.
Referee Jack Reiss, right, talks with a mask-wearing Danny Garcia before his WBC welterweight title fight against Robert Guerrero.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Danny Garcia, right, lands a right to the head of Robert Guerrero during their WBC welterweight title fight Saturday night at Staples Center.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Danny Garcia can’t escape a jab by Robert Guerrero during their WBC welterweight championship bout.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Danny Garcia connects with a right during his WBC welterweight title bout against Robert Guerrero.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Robert Guerrero, left, congratulates Danny Garcia after he won their WBC welterweight title fight by unanimous decision on Saturday night.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Danny Garcia celebrates with the WBC welterweight title belt draped over his shoulder after defeating Robert Guerrero, at right, by unanimous decision on Saturday night at Staples Center.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Earlier, Sammy Vasquez outclassed Los Angeles’ Aron Martinez with speed and pressure, leaving Martinez defeated on his stool by a doctor’s stoppage after six rounds because of a left elbow injury.
“I couldn’t throw my jab,” said Martinez, who said the pain first surfaced in the third round. “I knew it’d be tough to keep going.”
Vasquez’s victory keeps the Pennsylvania product unbeaten after he served two stints in Iraq for the Army and returned with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The left-handed Vasquez (21-0, 15 KOs) defused Martinez’s plans to out-box from the beginning, stunting Martinez with straight lefts and a later combination in the fourth that maintained his control.
And Southland heavyweight Dominic Breazeale overcame a third-round knockdown by left-handed Amir Mansour with a left uppercut in the fifth round that caused Mansour to bite through his tongue and begin to choke on his blood, forcing a stoppage in the corner.
“Shows I’ve got some power after all,” Breazeale (17-0, 15 KOs) said. “I knew I could get up. It happens to the best of us and I’m a fighter at heart.”