NEW YORK - They stepped into the ring at 10:09 p.m. Saturday, Danny Garcia with a career ahead of him, and Paulie Malignaggi with a career to save.
Their contrasting styles, personalities, and career arcs clashed at the Barclays Center, and Garcia won by technical knockout in the ninth round.
Garcia, the undefeated 27-year-old, was looking to punch his way closer to superstardom. Malignaggi, 34, was looking to, if for just for one night, disprove the prevailing opinion that he should have retired 16 months ago. Garcia (31-0, 18 KOs) is humbly quiet outside the ring but employs brute force inside it. Malignaggi (33-7, seven KOs) is as animated as any fighter, and his results hinge on his boxing IQ.
In Garcia's first fight in the 147-pound welterweight division, headlining Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN, the North Philly native dominated with power punches.
"I feel strong. I feel good," Garcia said. "I used my jab. There's still things I need to work on, but I'm really proud of myself. One-forty-seven is where it's at."
Garcia's last two fights were between 147 and 140, and he won by a questionable decision and a second-round knockout criticized as too easy. Malignaggi fought Shawn Porter for the IBF welterweight title in April 2014, lost by technical knockout, and heavily considered hanging up his gloves for good.
On Saturday, Garcia was looking to get his feet wet as a welterweight and Malignaggi was intrigued by the opportunity to fight in his hometown of Brooklyn.
Malignaggi came out aggressively, dropping his head and attacking Garcia with quick combinations to the body. Garcia countered with big left hooks, but Malignaggi turned them into empty threats by ducking out of the way.
As Malignaggi's reactions slowed in the next few rounds, Garcia started landing more power punches and took full control of the fight.
When Garcia landed a right jab at the end of a three-punch combination 40 seconds into the ninth round, Malignaggi stumbled into the ropes, and the referee called the fight with Malignaggi in his arms.
"Little by little he broke me down, and I have no problem with the stoppage," said Malignaggi, who also said this was likely his last fight.
Garcia hugged Malignaggi before the two took a lap around the ring with their arms linked. Then Garcia stepped away as Malignaggi was checked out, and he looked almost the same as he did when the fight began.
Unfazed. Unblemished. And, above all else, undefeated.