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Garcia put on the finest performance of his career

Why the Barclays Center sometimes insists on scheduling the curtain raiser to coincide with the opening of the front doors is beyond my understanding. I had already been perched in my crow’s nest on Press Row for over half an hour, so it wasn’t an issue for me personally. Yet, I think they could at least extend to the fighters the consideration of having their ticket-holding family, friends, and fans find their seats before the opening bell.

The first ring walk occurred at 5pm sharp to a ghost town of an arena, missing only the tumbling tumbleweeds to complete the tableau. The gunslingers in question were a pair of super-featherweights who moseyed all the way to Brooklyn to settle a territorial dispute back in the Buckeye State. Desmond Jarmon, a 2015 National Amateur Champion from Cincinnati had an Ohio standoff with Cleveland’s Darnell Pettis (1-3) and would emerge with his undefeated record intact with a four-round unanimous decision. Jarmon sent Pettis to the deck with a right hook in the waning moments of round two and dislodged his adversary’s mouthpiece with one of several straight rights he landed in the fourth. All three ringside judges gave every round to Jarmon who improved to a perfect 3-0.

Hopeful welterweight contender Noel Murphy, who fights out of the Woodlawn section of the Bronx by way of County Cork, Ireland, entered the arena to the bagpipe-laden rock anthem “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by (appropriately enough) the Dropkick Murphys. Both Murphy and Julio Cesar Sanchez (11-0), appearing for the first time outside of his native Dominican Republic, were putting their unblemished records on the line and hoping to edge past the other a rung or two up the jam-packed division ladder. Sanchez scored with a right cross over a lax Murphy jab in the second of eight rounds but proceeded to walk straight into a check hook and a lead left just seconds later. Murphy would go to work to the body of Sanchez during close quarters exchanges in the third, then took a step back to create just enough distance to land a nice left hook. Not only would Sanchez be warned more than once for holding behind Murphy’s head and butting with his own, but the action was halted twice so that his cornermen could attend to his dreadlocked hair coming undone from its ponytail. The Irishman rapped a one/two combination off his opponent’s skull in the eighth and threw toe-to-toe with Sanchez as time expired with nothing of significance landed by either fighter. Noel Murphy ran his record to 11-0 by official tallies of 80-72, 79-73, and 78-74. A nice start to the evening for representatives of the Emerald Isle. Things would get even better just a little later.

Staten Island’s Kenny Robles had his first professional fight against an opponent not named Latorie Woodberry. Perhaps he should have gone for the hat trick against his two-time rival as he came out on the wrong end of a majority decision to Dan Murray of Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey. Both local welterweight prospects now sport identical 2-1 records.

I missed the Robles/Murray scrap as my rumbling tummy required that I go downstairs to grab some of the free (vegetarian-friendly!) grub at Media Catering. Rounding the corner while juggling a water bottle and cup of coffee, I literally stumbled upon the Gervonta Davis press conference to promote his involvement in the co-main event of his employer’s circus sideshow on August 26. Defying expectations, Floyd Mayweather was not present for the announcement and neither the IBF Super-Featherweight Champion nor Leonard Ellerbe would reveal the name of his opponent for the sake of not upstaging Adrien Broner’s big night.

As luck would have it, I arrived back at my workstation at the precise instant that David Diamante was reciting the ring introductions for the twelve-round IBF Super-Flyweight Title eliminator between Rau’shee Warren and McJoe Arroyo. Having lost two of his last three bouts, Warren avenged a 2015 foul-plagued defeat to WBA champion Juan Carlos Payano in their rematch, only to drop his newly-won belt to Zhanat Zhakiyanov eight months later. Arroyo was hoping to attain mandatory challenger status for the title he defeated Arthur Villanueva for in July 2015 and lost in his first defense to Jerwin Ancajas who just wowed fight fans across the globe with his gory TKO victory over Teiru Kinoshita as the co-feature to Jeff Horn’s controversial win over Manny Pacquiao.

Looking to swarm Warren in the hopes of negating his superior hand speed, Arroyo’s efforts were thwarted by his adversary’s head movement and lateral motion. The two southpaws traded right hooks at center ring with Rau’shee getting the better of the deal and Arroyo concentrated on Warren’s body in the middle rounds to try and hold his target still long enough to land consequential power shots. With Rau’shee pressing the action in the seventh, Arroyo stood his ground and pursued his intended prey, a right lead driving Warren backwards and off-balance, causing him to swing for the fences and whiff badly. Though he was unable to hit the show-stopping home run, Warren closed the deal on a unanimous decision win by repeatedly staggering a fatigued and increasingly sloppy Arroyo just prior to the bell ending three of the last four rounds.

I took off from work on Wednesday to attend the boxers’ open workouts at Modell’s Sporting Goods just across Atlantic Avenue from the Barclays Center. If not for the fact that Katie Taylor was one of the participants, I wouldn’t have made the effort or spent the train fare. Getting a closeup and personal chance to witness Katie hitting the mitts with considerable pop and exhibiting her intense focus and quick reflexes by whacking away at the tennis ball tethered to the band of her baseball cap was more than worth it. Taylor’s humble and selfless demeanor was also on full display when she invited a young girl watching right beside me to take some shots at the practice pads worn by her trainer Ross Enamait. Both charmed and dazzled by her hard-hitting little fan, Katie not only happily obliged the girl’s request to autograph the boxing glove she had brought along but said in response, “After that, I should be asking you to sign mine.”

All things considered, Taylor’s public workout on Wednesday afternoon (shortly after she had finally learned who her opponent would be) lasted far longer than her United States’ debut Saturday evening which consisted of six solid minutes’ worth of office work. Jasmine Clarkson, a twenty-two-year-old from Cedar Hill, Texas, was the second consecutive southpaw that Katie would be facing but the fact that Taylor had dispatched Nina Meinke inside the distance on the Joshua/Klitschko undercard meant that this stylistic difference was likely no great cause for concern. Taking such a high-profile fight on short notice, Clarkson had been in the ring only three weeks ago, losing a six-round unanimous decision to Kimberly Connor in Baton Rouge, LA. Although she can still claim to have never been dropped in a professional bout, Katie heavy-handedly delivered to Jasmine the first stoppage loss of her three-year career.

The mind-bogglingly complex technical aspects of Taylor’s ambidextrous combinations to the body and head as well as her dizzying, constant kinetic motion renders a punch-by-punch replay nearly impossible and almost beside the point. That said, Katie walked Clarkson down behind a crisp left jab and short uppercuts. With practiced patience and an enviable ring IQ, she effortlessly sidestepped Clarkson’s counters while following up blows intended to crack the ribcage with brain-rattling shots upstairs from any conceivable angle she chose to work from. With Jasmine trapped helplessly in the corner, Taylor wound her right hand up as a diversionary tactic, crashing home a lightning strike of a left hook.

With the doors blown off their hinges, Katie then let loose with the right hook that had been lurking in the darkness for the opportunity to sneak in and tear the structure’s façade asunder. Even if Clarkson’s foundation remained firmly intact and standing upright, the cumulative damage sustained during the six-minute storm proved to be more than she could withstand and her corner informed referee Charlie Fitch that Jasmine could not answer the bell for round four. The TKO was the fourth such victory among Katie’s six successful outings. Hoping to amass a significant fan following here in the States for the benefit of women’s boxing as much as her own personal good, Taylor is confident that Eddie Hearn will arrange a world title shot for her in the very near future (maybe not in Ireland as originally planned, but potentially as a co-feature to the Joshua/Klitschko rematch, rumored to be headed to Las Vegas), after which she will return to New York as a conquering hero. Though no doubt a modest and benevolent one.

Speaking of Wladimir Klitschko, a sparring partner once employed by the former heavyweight champion and his brother Vitali was Brooklyn’s Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller who was looking to establish a name for himself with an impressive outing against Gerald Washington. ‘Big Baby’ was emerging from an eleven-month long nap professionally speaking, inactive since forcing Fred Kassi to quit on his stool last August. With WAR emblazoned on the waistband of his red and gold trunks, Miller was armed and ready to charge into battle. A one-time Navy man, Washington sailed into Brooklyn equipped with some heavy artillery of his own. He unleashed two torpedoes in the form of overhand rights that momentarily made ‘Big Baby’ stumble around like a prematurely awoken toddler. There didn’t appear to be that much more left in the armory, however, as Miller unloaded a right uppercut and a body shot that nearly crumpled Gerald’s hull early in the second round.

If conditioning and stamina were to figure into the equation, it stood to reason that the 299-pound Miller would appear worse for wear the longer the fight progressed and yet it was Washington with his chiseled physique who seemed to tire from the sheer effort of keeping ‘Big Baby’ at arm’s length. Time and again, Miller backed Washington against the ropes where he would unleash body blows and uppercuts while pawing with his left jab to measure Gerald up for the purpose of detonating one of his right-hand bunker-busting bombs. Miller showed surprising agility for a big man, avoiding or riding out the worst of Washington’s punches, absorbing two left hooks but returning one of his own toward the end of the eighth and, as it turned out, last round. Failing to emerge from his corner for round nine, Gerald was given a dishonorable discharge, suffering his second straight stoppage loss after being knocked out in February by Deontay Wilder. Miller has publicly called out the WBC Heavyweight Champion but will have to take his place in line behind Luis Ortiz and Bermane Stiverne to name two possible finalists for Wilder’s autumnal title defense. I would love to see Jarrell Miller and Adam Kownacki get matched together. ‘Big Baby’ versus ‘Baby Face’. The infantile puns practically write themselves, plus it would be a hell of a slugfest which would help thin out the herd at the mid-level of the heavyweight food chain.

Jorge Sebastian Heiland looked to be in fine form at Wednesday’s public workouts so I can only imagine whatever he did to rip up his left knee must have happened in the two days between then and fight night. I do recall him gesturing to his trainer to Modell’s wood floor which the tread of his boxing shoes was evidently not equal to and would hate to think that some mishap there caused the injury that he failed to disclose to the NYSAC physician until Saturday morning. The particulars are still a little murky at this time, but why he was allowed or encouraged by the commission or his cornermen to enter the ring when he showed up at the arena with a suspiciously taped left knee is ponderous if not dangerously irresponsible.

The 29-4-2 Argentinian entered into Saturday as the WBC’s #1 ranked middleweight and was riding a four-year winning streak (eight fights in all with seven knockouts), the highlight of which was a 10th round TKO of Matthew Macklin in Dublin in November 2014. But last night he was no more than a lame duck in a shooting gallery with Jermall Charlo, making his 160-pound debut, setting Heiland in the crosshairs. The second-round knockdown occurred when Heiland’s left knee spontaneously buckled and he fell as if by chance into Charlo’s right fist on his way down. Unbent and quivering, Heiland’s left leg nullified his mobility and only made a greater advantage of Charlo’s hand speed as Jermall tore into his stationary target with a brutal succession of hooks and uppercuts. Heiland attempted to clinch and smother Charlo which drew a round of boos from the more ghoulish spectators who must have been oblivious to the Argentinian’s apparent distress.

Heiland hit the canvas again in the fourth, a delayed response to being nailed with a left cross, and somehow managed to stand upright–in a manner of speaking. The left side of Heiland’s body collapsed beneath its own weight and he toppled over like a foreclosed structure wired up for implosion, nearly taking referee Benjy Esteves Jr. with him. His victory installs Jermall Charlo in the WBC’s pole position among challengers to Gennady Golovkin’s middleweight crown although we’re all well aware how meaningless that designation is within that particular organization.

A beardless Adrien Broner was outfitted in red, green, and white like Christmas in July. Fortunately, Mikey Garcia was in a giving mood. I doubt very much that left hooks landing on his chin and right hands blasting away at his ribcage were the kinds of gifts boxing’s ‘Problem’ child was anxious to unwrap. Nevertheless, they came in plentiful supply in Saturday night’s main event with the posturing and shit-talking out of the way and the time to deliver or else come up empty finally at hand. Whether either of them cared one iota about the WBC’s otherwise valueless diamond-studded trinket being offered to the winner of the super-lightweight bout, I have no idea. Broner is comfortable, happy even, assuming the role of villain but it was Garcia who came to the ring wearing a black Stetson. If only he had an old-timey moustache to twirl.

The largely pro-Mikey crowd was unhappy with Garcia’s cold, clinical stalking of Broner in the opening stanza but came to life when the pace picked up in subsequent rounds. Other than poking his left jab in Garcia’s nose on occasion, Broner seemed unable or unwilling to let his fast hands do the talking, irked by the far more studious and disciplined approach of Mikey who was saying plenty by virtue of left crosses and straight rights which materialized in great numbers and consistently split his opponent’s guard, solving the “problem” of Broner’s peek-a-boo defense and Matrix-like contortions.

Despite himself, Adrien did have some lucid moments in the later rounds and enjoyed limited success but Garcia would merely eat Broner’s best shots and spit them right back in his face at a nearly 2-to-1 ratio. Thunderous chants of “Mikey! Mikey!” left little doubt as to with whom the allegiance of the Barclays’ vocal majority lay and the back-and-forth roundhouses flying between the two combatants before the closing bell brought the 12,000 attendees to their feet.

Perhaps only hardcore Broner supporters were able to justify the two 116-112 scorecards when even the 117-111 tally seemed indulgent to most rational-minded fight fans who are practically salivating in an unseemly yet understandable manner at the prospect of Mikey Garcia stepping between the ropes opposite Jorge Linares, Terence Crawford, or Vasyl Lomachenko.

Which to choose? Now that’s a good “problem” to have.