Fabian Garcia of Rockville dominated Jake Smith of Arbutus from the opening bell to closing bell in their 10-round fight at Martin's West last night, but then had to live through the suspense of a split decision before walking off with the Maryland light-heavyweight championship belt.
Judge Karl Milligan shocked the standing-room crowd of more than 2,000 by favoring Smith, 96-93. Larry Barrett scored it 96-93 for Garcia, and Terry Moore seemed in the money with his 98-93 vote for Garcia.
"Whoever voted for me was crazy," said Smith, who was floored in the fifth round and repeatedly rocked by Garcia's power punches.
"To tell you the truth, I was a little scared of his power."
As soon as the decision was official, Smith, 31, announced his retirement from the ring and invited the crowd to his Fells Point bar. Only his stout heart and elusiveness kept Garcia from duplicating his knockout victories in their two previous scuffles in 1989 and 1990 when both fighters were in their budding stage.
"I gave everything I could, but I just couldn't hold him off," said Smith (10-4-1), sporting gashes under both eyes.
Garcia, a youth counselor and private detective in the Rockville area, applauded Smith's courage.
"I was too anxious to knock him out," the winner said. "I dropped dropped him with a right hand behind the jab, but after that I was loading up and missing a lot of wild rights. I was just walking straight in, and he was smart enough to slip a lot of my punches."
Asked if he was shocked by the split decision, Garcia, a native of Jamaica, said, "I've been around long enough to know anything goes in boxing."
Garcia, 31, who raised his record to 8-5-1, said winning the state championship would give him recognition. But with the belt now in his possession, he had a change of heart.
"I'd rather be rich than famous," he said. "I just hope this belt will help me to make some big purses."
This often sloppy fight could not match the intensity of the rest of promoter Stuart Satosky's action-packed show.
In the 10-round co-feature, world-ranked cruiserweight Jade Scott of Brooklyn, N.Y., exhibited exceptional hand speed and boxing ability in winning a decision over rugged Mauribe Wilson of Washington.
Scott (17-1), co-managed by Lou Duva and Jim Fennell, took control in the fourth round, slowing Wilson with hard body shots.
In the sixth round, Wilson suffered a cut over his right eye, but he staged a brief rally in the seventh, catching Scott with an overhand right.
But Scott regained command in the eighth round to seal the decision.
In earlier bouts:
* Mike Tidline of Washington won by majority vote over Kenny Blackston of Baltimore in a rousing four-round welterweight bout. It was the pro debut for both fighters.
* Baltimore lightweight Eric Campbell (1-0) survived two first-round knockdowns to win a split decision over Nathaniel Hardy (1-2) of Washington.
* Matt Phillips (5-4) of Easton, 149, stopped Eddie Sauerhoff (5-6), 144, at 2:17 of the third round when Sauerhoff's left eye was cut.
* Washington super-middleweight Ruben Bell made a spectacular debut in stopping Greg Smith (3-2) at 2:41 of the third round. Bell, who is a terrific body puncher, should move up quickly through the ranks.
* Promising Baltimore light-heavyweight Courtney Butler (2-0-1) overpowered Steve Gurley (2-3) with a booming right hand at 2:37 of the second round.