No titles were on the line in the co-main events of the Premier Boxing Champions on NBC card Saturday night at Barclays Center, but even so, it was a night when close really counted, just like in horseshoes.
WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee was going to leave with his championship belt, anyway, because challenger Peter Quillin weighed in over the 160-pound limit, but he also managed to leave with his professional viability intact after overcoming two knockdowns to get a split draw from the judges.
It was a similar story in the second co-main between WBC-WBA super lightweight champion Danny Garcia and IBF 140-pound champion Lamont Peterson, who fought at a 143-pound catchweight because Garcia can't get to 140 anymore. Peterson danced away most of the first seven rounds but came on strong over the final five only to lose a majority decision to Garcia.
The upshot of the evening was that all four will live to fight for another lucrative payday, Garcia (30-0, 17 KOs) and Quillin (31-0-1, 22 KOs) remained unbeaten, Lee (34-2-1, 24 KOs) kept his belt, and Peterson 33-3-1, 17 KOs) also remains a champion.
Despite defeating Peterson by scores of 115-113 from two judges while the other called it a 114-all draw, Garcia came away looking the worse for wear with a shiner on his swollen right eye after Peterson battered him with power punches over the final five rounds when he finally settled down to fight on the inside.
"That was a war," Garcia said. "That's what the fans want to see . . . I thought it was close. I'm not going to lie. But I felt I did enough to win."
At the same time, Garcia admitted it's time for him to move up to the 147-pound welterweight division after four of his last five fights went the distance. "I have to go up in weight because it's affecting my performance," he said.
Newsday gave the final five rounds to Peterson to make it a 114-all draw exactly as judge Don Ackerman did. Peterson did not quibble with the narrow decision against him, saying, "I'm not calling 'robbery.' "
Peterson said he didn't really feel Garcia's punches, but when asked why he didn't sit down on his punches earlier, Peterson explained: "Maybe if I would've sat down earlier, maybe I get caught. The game plan was to let him tire and go for the kill."
Peterson only succeeded in wounding his prey in the end.
If anyone had a narrow escape, it was Lee, who nearly was knocked out in the first round and suffered a second knockdown in the third. But Lee came back from early deficits in his previous two fights to score TKOs, and the southpaw nearly did it again when he threw a right in the seventh that caught Quillin lunging in and sent him to the canvas. "It was a tough fight," Lee said. "He dropped me early because I was lazy. I understand with the two knockdowns that people thought I lost the decision."
Quillin, a clear 116-110 winner on Newsday's card, didn't dispute the decision and expressed respect for Lee, who put him on the canvas for the first time in his pro career. "He hit me with a timed punch when I was coming in, and I went down," Quillin admitted. "Every guy to go in there and try to finish him off got knocked out."
Quillin admitted he was surprised when Lee got up from the powerful right hook he landed in the first round because he obviously was in a daze. After Lee survived the third-round knockdown, Quillin said: "He got back up. After that, I was being a cautious thinker."