Leonard Garcia hadn’t fought since a first round TKO loss to Jim Alers in 2019, but made a big comeback tonight at BKFC 16, beating Joe Elmore by clear unanimous decision over five rounds — then announced his retirement.
Garcia (2-1 in BKFC, 18-13 in MMA) won the fight on scores of 49-46, 50-45, and 50-45. Bad Left Hook also scored the fight 50-45 for Garcia.
Elmore (2-1) and Garcia came to the fight with similar styles and similar determination, which made for a good fight on paper that lived up to that in the ring. The 38-year-old Elmore suffered a cut on the scalp in the first round that bled quite a bit, but didn’t alter the course of the fight a whole lot. He admitted he came into the fight with a shoulder injury, too, which did seem to prevent him from using his left hand as much as he might have wanted.
Garcia and Elmore both ate big shots from the other man, nobody going down in the fight, and it was Garcia who did the more consistent work, though Elmore absolutely landed some great punches in every round, only for Garcia to eat them and keep coming forward, which is what Elmore usually does and did again himself in this fight.
“I still got a lot left in the tank. I’m still a legend, I still did everything I said I was gonna do,” Garcia said after the fight. “But fighting a guy like Joe was something else. I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about Joe. I got all the respect in the world for him and I don’t take anything from him.”
Garcia, 41, then announced his retirement from fighting.
“I’ve got an important decision to make and it’s a hard one. When I signed with BKFC, I signed a three-fight deal, and I made a deal with my wife, I made a deal with my job, and I made a deal with God,” he said. “I said I was gonna be three and done, but my deal with God was to be the No. 1 guy when I left. That’s why I took the fight with Joe Elmore. I wanted to prove to the world I was the No. 1 fighter at 165 when I retired.”
Elmore congratulated Garcia on the win as the two embraced, then made sure to make clear that he’ll come back strong in BKFC.
“Three days before the fight I tore my rotator cuff. I tried to call and change the weight, but it wasn’t fair to Leonard, so I cut the weight,” he said. “I knew he was gonna be a tough guy, but I don’t go down, and I wanted to go against this legend. I’m here to stay. I’m gonna be a legend. Maybe I didn’t kill the legend today, but I’m gonna be a legend, I’m killing everybody!”
Reggie Barnett Jr TKO-4 DeMarcus Corley
Between this and Paulie Malignaggi’s one-off foray into BKFC in 2019, it can’t be stressed enough how much veteran boxers really do struggle with bare knuckle fighting. It’s a different sport. You really aren’t just going to waltz past these guys by being a better boxer. The active clinch in particular just throws off the timing, rhythm, spacing, and style these guys are used to; it’s a real problem.
Look, Corley is 46 years old, and Malignaggi was retired, but in both cases there were definitely people who thought they’d come in and easily dominate due to their boxing experience. They did not. We had Corley down 39-37 after four rounds here when he retired in the corner, telling the referee he was done. Barnett now has six wins in BKFC, which is the active record.
This wasn’t the most entertaining bare knuckle fight you’ll see. Barnett fully admitted coming in that he couldn’t let Corley box him, and he set out to prevent that as much as possible. constantly rushing “Chop Chop” and putting him in the clinch, where it’s legal to throw punches if the clinch is active. It’s not that he totally dominated Corley, but Corley just couldn’t get anything going with any sustained momentum, and by the fourth round Corley was clearly tiring and Barnett was able to land clean shots here and there. Not the prettiest approach, but probably the smartest all in all.
The two exchanged words after Corley said “no mas,” and Barnett seemed a little upset, but his post-fight interview cleared it up.
“I told him, ‘One more round, all we got is one more round, you can give me one more round,’” Barnett said. “And he said, ‘I know my body,’ and I gotta respect that.”
Barnett also called out BKFC lightweight champion Dat Nguyen after the fight, which is deserved at this point. He’s the No. 1 contender.
“Dat disrespected me as a man, he disrespected me as a fighter, and he disrespected the whole organization. I have more wins than you. If you are the so-called champion, you know who’s next, so stop hiding.”
Hats off to Corley for trying a new venture at 46. He looked in great shape, but he hadn’t fought in a couple years and obviously he’s up there in age. A younger Corley might adjust better, might pick up the differences a little more, and might just land a shot that ends it, period. But he came in and gave this a go, and not just against some scrub picked off the street, either, but a legit top contender in this sport. He’s had a terrific 25-year career in professional fighting, won world titles in boxing, and made a name for himself for a long time.
- AJ Adams KO-1 Bobo O’Bannon: Adams was the first BKFC heavyweight champion back in 2018, lost the title to Chase Sherman in 2019, and hadn’t fought since then. This was definitely a triumphant return. O’Bannon’s a tough dude, but Adams just had too much skill and speed and took the big guy apart, dropping him hard late in the first round. O’Bannon did get up, but didn’t quite beat the count. Adams knew it was over as soon as Bobo went down. Adams back in the mix in BKFC is good for their heavyweight division, where of course Joey Beltran (who beat Sherman in 2019) is still champion.
- Kaleb Harris TKO-1 Noah Cutter: Ironically, it was Cutter who got cut up bad in the first round, and the fight was stopped after it was over on the physician’s advice. Too bad, because the first round was really good action, both guys landing punches. Harris is now 3-3 in BKFC, and Cutter 1-2.
- Scott O’Shaughnessy TKO-1 Melvin Guillard: Two MMA vets, but the story of this fight is completely on referee Keith Hughes, who absolutely blew this, and that’s not me trying to pile on a referee. He just got this wrong. Guillard had clipped O’Shaughnessy with some good shots, O’Shaugnessy got him back with a good one that knocked Guillard into the ropes, and then Guillard was clearly down. But Hughes didn’t call a knockdown, and also let O’Shaughnessy just unload on a downed opponent trying to cover up. Then he called it a TKO. Guillard was incensed and should have been. This really should be changed to a no-contest later, honestly, and they should do a rematch. Promoter David Feldman was interviewed after and acknowledged the ending was “controversial” but nothing more than that.
- Jason Fish TKO-3 Adrian Miles: Heavyweight fight, not a great one from an entertainment standpoint. Miles is now 0-3 in BKFC, losing by DQ once in 2019, by TKO on an eye injury last December, and now by TKO here where he also was pawing at his eye. Fish is now 2-0 in BKFC.
- David Diaz MD-5 Spencer Ruggeri: An absolute war at 135 from these two guys, both making their BKFC debuts. Diaz works with heavyweight champ Joey Beltran, and man, he has a monster fighting heart. That’s taking nothing away from Ruggeri’s spirit either, but Diaz was just all energy. It hurt him early in the fight, as the more patient, relaxed Ruggeri kept catching him with cleaner shots, and scored a second round knockdown of Diaz, hurting him with a very clean punch. But Ruggeri tailed off some after the second round, and Diaz despite being totally spent just would not stop winging shots. Once both guys were flat exhausted in the fourth round, it became a true war of attrition, and Diaz gutted it out. Ruggeri was docked a point in the fifth for a backhand, but it didn’t change the outcome. Scores were 47-47, 48-45, and 48-45 for the Diaz majority decision. It did make a difference on my card, as I had it 47-46 for Diaz, giving him the third through fifth rounds. This was a great fight, just all action.
- Elvin Brito UD-5 Brad Kelly: Good fight at 165, Brito is now 3-2 in BKFC, Kelly drops to 1-1. Brito got scores of 48-47, 49-47, and 50-45, and Bad Left Hook scored it 49-46 for the Puerto Rican. But it was competitive and both guys did some nice stuff, Brito just kept catching my eye more and the eyes of the judges, obviously.
- Zion Tomlinson TKO-1 Tyler Hill: Tomlinson is 21, a young gun in the BKFC, and he just mauled Hill here, dominated him and dropped him, and then Hill said he couldn’t see with a cut on his eye and that was that in 1:40. Tomlinson showed some real promise.
- Ryan Jones RTD-2 Eric Thompson: Thompson, a 35-year-old MMA veteran who went 9-21 in that sport, predicted he’d end this fight in 30 seconds. He did not. Both he and Jones went down in the first round, Thompson and then Jones, and then in the second round Thompson kept falling while trying to throw a wild overhand right. Thompson retired from the fight after the second round claiming a broken hand.