Danny Garcia had everything to lose and very little to gain by fighting journeyman challenger Adrian Granados. If he put on a prominent performance, he simply was supposed to. If he lost a step in the ring — or, even worse, the fight — the 31-year-old would have further dropped down the rung of the stacked 147-pound division and lost his A-side appeal.
On Saturday, Garcia displayed the dominant performance he had promised throughout training camp by knocking down Granados three times en route to a seventh-round technical knockout at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson in a nationally televised fight on Fox.
"It feels great to make a statement. I did what no other fighter could do, and that’s to knock him out,” Garcia told the Los Angeles Times in the dressing room shortly after his fight. “I stopped him, but it didn’t feel easy. It was a challenge. He’s a tough cookie. I knew eventually if I put it on him, they would stop it.”
Garcia knocked down Granados twice in Round 2 and once in the fifth round and finished his night with a flurry of punches in the seventh. Referee Thomas Taylor had seen Granados take enough punishment and stopped the fight midway through the round.
Garcia landed an average of 23 of 69 punches per round, compared to 11 of 59 for Granados, according to the CompuBox punch-tracking system. He totaled 159 for the fight — 125 of them power punches. Granados connected with 79 total punches.
The former two-division champion, who improved to 35-2 (21 knockouts), came into the fight dropping two of his last three bouts in razor-thin decisions. Garcia’s urgency for stopping a losing stretch was as clear as day at the outdoor venue in which he was fighting in. A game Granados (20-7-2, 14 knockouts) attempted to play the spoiler, but his efforts ultimately fell short to a superior counterpart who outmuscled him throughout the fight.
"He was very sharp in the exchanges. That's where he was catching me. I knew that's what I had to avoid,” Granados said. “I had a plan to go the whole fight and they stopped me on my feet.”
Granados previously had dropped close decisions to Shawn Porter and Adrien Broner in a nine-month span in 2017. There was clearly a talent deficiency as the Mexican by way of Chicago tried trading as best as he could but got caught with a Garcia left hook that put him down midway in Round 2. Then, a right hook seated him again toward the end of the round, but the bell saved him.
"I’ve said it before, when Danny Garcia is at his best, nobody can beat him,” Garcia said.“I had gotten a little comfortable in the past, but I put my 110% into this fight and when I do, I beat everyone.”
Heading into the fight, Garcia said he wanted to put on a convincing performance with a revised blueprint that included throwing more punches. That proved to be the antidote the Puerto Rican who fights out of Philadelphia needed to get back on the winning track.
Several of Garcia’s trademark left hooks landed at will throughout the fight. He complemented his onslaught with combinations in Round 3 that drew blood from the nose of Granados, who simply could not get off enough punches.
"It felt good landing that big left hook,” Garcia said. “I was proud of my performance. I thought I did a great job tonight.”
It wasn’t the hallmark victory of Garcia’s 12-year professional career, but it surely was a win that will soon catapult him as prime contender to face welterweights that include Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence Jr., Mikey Garcia, Broner, and the only two opponents who have beaten him to date — Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman. Any of those fights can be made virtually overnight, as each of those fighters are contractually tied to Al Haymon’s promotional outfit Premier Boxing Champions.
Pacquiao said Saturday that if Garcia gave a solid account of himself against Granados, he would consider him — and Thurman — as a possible foe for a July return to the ring.
"I hope I didn’t scare Manny Pacquiao away,” said Garcia. "It would be a great fight. It would be a dream come true to end Manny's career, just like I ended Erik Morales’ career. It would be that same type of feeling. Pacquiao is a global superstar, and once I beat him, I’ll be the new pay per view superstar."
The undercard featured heavyweight title challenger Andy Ruiz (32-1, 21 knockouts) of Imperial, Calif. beating Russian veteran Alexander Dimitrenko (41-5, 26 knockouts) in the co-main event. Ruiz dominated throughout the fight with faster hands and superior power, and the bout was stopped after the fifth round upon advice of Dimitrenko's corner.
In another undercard fight, Brandon Figueroa (19-0, 14 knockouts), the younger brother of Omar Figueroa, outworked and battered Yonfrez Parejo (22-4-1, 11 knockouts) for eight straight rounds to win the World Boxing Assn. interim super-bantamweight belt. The Venezuelan quit on his stool before beginning the ninth round.
Manouk Akopyan has been a member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011 and has written for USA Today and the Guardian.