Dani Garcia makes his debut at 154, winning the dominant decision over Jose Benavidez

NEW YORK – Danny Garcia tackled his new weight class while Jose Benavidez Jr. was fine on Saturday night.

Patient Garcia defended himself well, occasionally fending off Benavides with the right hand and decisively beating Benavides in two scorecards in their 12-round, 154-pound main event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Judges Glenn Feldman (116-112) and Anthony Paolillo (117-111) scored eight and nine straight runs for Garcia the Shorter, who got the majority decision because Judge Wilska Roldan scored Garcia’s first middleweight tie (114-114).

Garcia (37-3, 21 KOs) didn’t fight for nearly 20 months before defeating Benavidez. Former welterweight and junior welterweight champion lost a unanimous decision to undefeated IBF/WBA/WBC welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. in his previous fight, which took place in December 2020 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“I took a break,” Garcia told Showtime’s Jim Gray in the ring. “You know, I was struggling with some mental issues. I felt a little dark. You know, I passed a little…”

The 34-year-old Garcia’s voice broke, he unexpectedly collapsed and cried at that moment in the interview.

“I’ve gone through some anxiety and depression,” Garcia said. “I did my best to stay strong. That is. …I weighed myself for a year and a half. I know the only way to get better is to fight and win. I’m a fighter. That’s what I do and I love to do it. And I know that’s the way, if You were battling anxiety and depression, you better beat it. That’s what I did tonight – I came and fought my heart.”

Phoenix’s Benavidez (27-2-1, 18 KOs) lost for only the second time in 12 years as a professional. His only defeat before Saturday night was a 12th-round technical knockout over WBO welterweight champ Terrence Crawford in October 2018 at CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

Although he didn’t come close to a win on paper, Benavidez cornered it better against Garcia than in a 10-round majority with Argentine underdog Francisco Torres in his previous game eight months ago.

“I’m happy with my performance,” Benavidez said. “I felt like I did a good job. Lots of fighting in his backyard, you know? I’m fighting, you know, one of my best players. I punched him like it was nothing. You see, they weren’t hurting me. That’s what it is – I’m not going to let that put me down. You know, losing makes you stronger and I’m happy to be here, and I’m glad to be able to fight at the Barclays center, you know?”

CompuBox counted 116 more punches for Garcia, who unofficially fell 233-of-746 to 117-of-600 for Benavidez.

The 30-year-old Benavidez obviously needed a knockout to enter the 12th round, but Garcia continued to use his legs and had Benavidez chase him around the ring. Garcia stuck his tongue at Benavides midway through the final round, but later fired with two hard oaths as Benavidez pressed forward.

Garcia talked trash and hit his chest, but seemed content to move on and reach the last bell.

Garcia’s defense was great during the eleventh round, but Benavidez pounded his gloves together by about 1:15 to go for it because he wanted Garcia to stand his ground.

Garcia’s right hand made its way around the Benavides guard just after halfway through the 10th round. Garcia’s other right hand bolstered Benavides with just over 10 seconds remaining in the 10th round.

Benavidez earned Garcia’s header right and Garcia’s right 50 seconds into the ninth round. Garcia grabbed his other right hand while Garcia moved back about a minute later.

Benavidez snapped Garcia with a left hook that rebounded barely 45 seconds into the eighth round.

Garcia’s right-handed shot 10 seconds into the seventh round, but Benavides indicated it wasn’t a difficult shot. Garcia Benavidez grabbed his other right hand at the exact mid-round mark.

The counter left by Benavidez sent Garcia off balance with less than 50 seconds remaining in the seventh round. Another oath by Garcia caught Benavides before the bell rang to finish the seventh round.

Benavidez landed his right hand while Garcia moved back just under 2:15 to go in the sixth round. Willis Garcia cautioned for his low left hand that landed with just over 50 seconds to go in round six.

Garcia reviewed early in the fifth round in response to Benavidez’s theatrical performances. Backed up against the ropes, Garcia lunged forward with his right hand that landed with about 45 seconds remaining in the fifth round.

By then, Garcia Benavidez’s dribbling had thwarted.

He hit Garcia Benavides’ right by just over 1:20 on the clock in the fourth round. Benavidez had two counter rights as Garcia slipped with just over 50 seconds to go in the fourth round.

Benavidez nailed Garcia with his right hand who propped up Garcia in a neutral corner and drew a smile from him barely a minute into the third turn. Garcia responded together and hit a right-handed shot that knocked Benavids off balance about 1:10 in the third round.

Garcia snuck his right hand around the Benavidez goalkeeper 1:05 in the second round. Benavides’ right hand fell less than a minute before the end of the second round, though Garcia tied his own right after about 20 seconds.

As promised, Benavides used a jab during the first round a lot more than he had during his previous fight. They traded right hands just over 35 seconds on the clock in the opening round.

Keith Edick is a senior writer/columnist at BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.

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