LOS ANGELES (AP) Danny Garcia needed several rounds to figure out how to handle Robert Guerrero. He still had plenty of time left to claim his first welterweight title in style.
Garcia won the vacant WBC 147-pound belt Saturday night with a resourceful performance in a unanimous-decision victory over Guerrero.
Garcia (32-0, 18 KOs) recovered from a slow start and largely controlled the later rounds to win a world title in just his second welterweight bout. The Philadelphia fighter took charge with a dominant right hand, out-boxing and punishing Guerrero (33-4-1) before surviving a frantic 12th round.
“I’m back where I belong,” Garcia said. “It was what I expected. I knew I would win at least eight or nine rounds.”
Garcia won 116-112 on all three judges’ scorecards to claim the WBC title left vacant by the retirement of Floyd Mayweather Jr., who watched from ringside in the Staples Center crowd of 12,052.
The main event was scored identically by judges Max DeLuca, Rey Denesco and Steve Weisfeld, who only varied in their opinion on two rounds. The Associated Press also scored it 116-112.
After cementing his claim for the next big star in the welterweight division, Garcia celebrated in the ring with his new green title belt – and a tiny replica for his 5-month-old daughter, Philly.
“I was throwing my combinations, using my legs like my dad told me to do,” Garcia said. “I knew he was going to come to fight. He’s a rugged warrior.”
Earlier, former U.S. Olympic heavyweight Dominic Breazeale survived a knockdown to remain unbeaten when Amir Mansour quit before the sixth with a mouth injury. Welterweight prospect Sammy Vasquez also stayed unbeaten when Aron Martinez quit with an injury before the seventh.
Garcia didn’t waste his quick opportunity for a 147-pound title shot after a championship-winning career at 140 pounds. He beat Amir Khan, Erik Morales, Lucas Matthysse and Lamont Peterson at junior welterweight before moving up to 147 pounds last August with a ninth-round stoppage of veteran Paulie Malignaggi.
Guerrero got off to an impressive start against Garcia, but became less mobile and less effective late in his third career loss in a welterweight title fight, following previous defeats against Mayweather and Keith Thurman. The former multi-division champion’s career has hit a crossroads with three losses in his last five fights, along with two debatable decision victories.
But Guerrero was more aggressive early on at Staples, following Garcia around the ring and landing big shots while Garcia backpedaled. Garcia also complained about head-butts, but he gradually gained control of the bout, exploiting Guerrero’s lack of head movement and defense.
The bout turned after Guerrero rocked Garcia with a straight left to the head in the fifth. Garcia recovered and answered with a series of punishing right hands in the sixth.
Garcia exerted control from there, but Guerrero occasionally replied before they finished with an all-action 12th round.
“Not one person out there thought Danny won, but his team,” Guerrero said. “I pressured him. I nailed him, busted his body up. I out-jabbed him. The crowd thought I won the fight. I thought I won the fight, and I definitely want a rematch.”
Garcia is heavily backed for stardom by Premier Boxing Champions, Al Haymon’s company putting fights back on network television. Garcia has backed up the hype for years with lively, athletic performances, but was tested more than many expected by Guerrero.
The pre-fight promotion featured the usual shenanigans of both fighters’ excitable fathers, Angel Garcia and Ruben Guerrero. The fathers, who both train their sons, even exchanged trash talk during the faceoff before the bout.
Breazeale (17-0, 15 KOs), a former college football quarterback who boxed at the London Olympics, got rocked repeatedly by the 43-year-old Mansour (22-2-1) in the first three rounds. Breazeale, whose mother died on New Year’s Eve, crashed to the canvas in the third.
He recovered well and landed several big fifth-round punches on Mansour, who quit on his stool, believing he had broken his jaw. A subsequent trip to the hospital revealed his jaw wasn’t broken, but his tongue was badly injured, a PBC spokesman said.
“Shows I have punching power after all,” Breazeale said.