By Bryan Armen Graham
October 21, 2012

NEW YORK -- The built-in hook for Saturday's fight card at the Barclays Center -- where Danny Garcia nearly decapitated a shopworn Erik Morales in the main event to defend his junior welterweight titles -- was the return of championship boxing to Brooklyn for the first time since before La Guardia was mayor.

Not since Maxie Rosenbloom outpointed Jimmy Slattery at Ebbets Field in 1931 had Gotham's most populous borough hosted a world title fight, an incomprehensible drought when you consider boxing has always thrived in urban centers and Brooklyn would be America's fourth largest city had it never merged with New York.

Everyone from The New York Times to boxing's cottage industry of Internet news hubs ran with it and with good reason: Brooklyn's place in fistic lore is undisputed, with a pedigree of champions that includes Riddick Bowe, Michael Moorer, Joey Giardello and Mike Tyson, who was ringside Saturday night. Harry Greb and John L. Sullivan fought there. And the Barclays Center, the $1 billion home of the Brooklyn Nets at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, so sparkling new the underground tunnels smell like Febreze, provides a sensible, stylish venue for the sport's return.

But while Brooklyn may be fertile ground for the sweet science, events like this one won't be enough for the seed to find purchase.

It's not that Saturday's card didn't feature recognizable stars. Showtime funneled nearly $4 million into the show, a massive amount for a non-pay-per-view telecast, an investment in line with the network's impressive recommitment under new president Stephen Espinoza. Without a main event that sells, however, people don't engage. Garcia, the unbeaten 24-year-old from Philadelphia who blasted Amir Khan in July to consolodate the WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine titles at 140 pounds, may be a rising star. But he was in against a faded opponent whom few gave a realistic chance of winning.

Worse, consider the four winners on the telecast -- Garcia ($1 million), Devon Alexander ($600,000), Paulie Malignaggi ($350,000) and Peter Quillin ($150,000) -- were matched against opponents they were expected to beat. These are what are known in the business as "A-sides." You can stack a card with 15 title fights, but one-sided matchups are not why people watch sports.

Garcia separated Morales from his senses with a heat-seeking right hand midway through the fourth round that spun the 36-year-old around like a top, a lamentable display that echoed Joe Louis getting knocked through the ropes by the younger, primer Rocky Marciano, who was as grieved by the victory as Louis by the defeat. (Never mind that Morales failed two drug tests and was still allowed to fight.)

Earlier, Randall Bailey landed a total of 45 punches against Alexander, the fewest in a 12-round bout in the 27-year history of CompuBox punch statistics. Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, in the night's biggest surprise, outperformed expectations in losing to Peter Quillin (but was still floored six times). Pablo Cesar Cano, who missed weight on Friday afternoon, lost on points semi-controversially to hometown favorite Paulie Malignaggi in the most competitive of the four fights.

That none of these feature bouts moved the needle is no surprise. A menu like Saturday's main course feels more like fulfilling business relationships and obligations than producing an authentic sports experience for fans.

Perhaps the plan to reestablish boxing in Brooklyn was flawed from inception. The Barclays Center signed an three-year agreement with Golden Boy, cash up front being no small matter for a billion-dollar building that went up mostly without public subsidies. But the short-sightedness of inking an exclusive deal with a promoter was laid bare in February, when the building missed the opportunity to host a Wladimir Klitschko fight because the heavyweight champ's promotional team understandably balked at sharing revenue with a co-promoter they didn't need.

Golden Boy made another dubious move on Wednesday, when it offered free tickets to the first 1,000 fans who could prove Brooklyn residency -- an effective one-finger salute to the loyalists who bought tickets early. When you paper a house, you risk killing a market. Needless to say, the gambit played no small part in boosting the announced attendance of 11,112 -- if not the live gate of just under $800,000.

Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer reaffirmed the company's ambitions in Brooklyn during the post-fight presser, saying they planned on returning in January -- never mind the original plan of monthly shows when the deal was announced in 2010 -- and declaring the Barclays Center the central hub of Golden Boy East.

Brooklyn is ready for boxing. Whether the powers that be will do what's necessary to make it stick remains to be seen.

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