NEW YORK -- The long-awaited showdown between unified junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia and titleholder Lamont Peterson ideally would have been to unify their three belts and determine the world's No. 1 fighter at 140 pounds.
But even though it did not do that -- the fight was signed as a non-title bout at a catch weight of 143 pounds at the insistence of Garcia -- they still turned in an entertaining fight before 12,300 on Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn as Garcia pulled out a majority decision.
Judges Steve Weisfeld and Kevin Morgan each scored the fight 115-113 for Garcia, and judge Don Ackerman scored it 114-114. ESPN.com also scored it 114-114 as Garcia and Peterson battled on NBC in prime time in the main event of the network's second "Premier Boxing Champions" card.
"That was a war," said Garcia, whose right eye was swollen. "That's what the fans want to see. He stuck to his game plan and moved a lot. He did a good job and I did a good job. I feel great and I was really prepared.
"I felt like it was getting edgy in the middle there. I thought it was close, I'm not gonna lie. But felt like I did enough to win."
Peterson was disappointed but did not complain about the decision.
"I did my part. I'm not calling robbery but [it was] a good fight," Peterson said. "I don't expect an easy journey for me to get where I'm going. I feel great. That's probably the least contact I've ever had in a fight."
Barry Hunter, Peterson's trainer and father figure, wasn't as easygoing about the decision.
"Lamont fought a great fight. He can't do the judges' job, too," Hunter said. "Mr. Garcia definitely knew he was in the fight of his life tonight. Lamont did a great job of sticking to his game plan. I couldn't have been more proud of him even if he got the decision."
It appeared as though Garcia and Peterson would meet last August, but they were instead matched with second-rate opponents, also at the Barclays Center. Peterson hammered hapless Edgar Santana en route to a one-sided 10th-round knockout to retain his title, and Garcia obliterated Rod Salka via massive second-round knockout in a non-title bout because the sanctioning bodies wouldn't approve of the unqualified Salka to challenge for either of his belts.
But Saturday night's fight was a different story. There was true competition and stretches of excitement between two of the best in their division, even if they fought each other as welterweights.
Garcia (30-0, 17 KOs), 27, of Philadelphia, who earned $1.5 million to Peterson's $1.2 million, began by stalking Peterson, shooting jabs to the body and looking to land his right hand. But Peterson's defense was tight and he was moving well and avoiding most of the incoming jabs in a good match of styles.
Garcia seemed to be frustrated in the fourth round, stopping and shrugging his shoulders as if to ask Peterson if he was going to fight him. But Peterson's game plan was clearly to jab, move and pick his spots against the heavier puncher.
Late in the fifth round, Garcia broke though offensively, snapping Peterson's head back with a hard right hand, bringing the pro-Garcia crowd to life.
Garcia picked up the pace in the sixth round as he began throwing a lot more combinations while Peterson (33-3-1, 17 KOs), 31, of Washington, D.C., was throwing one punch at a time.
The last quarter of the fight was the most exciting. The eighth round turned into a strong action frame as both fighters landed some solid shots as they exchanged along the ropes, although Peterson seemed to have Garcia a bit on his heels.
"I thought Peterson was running a lot," said Angel Garcia, Danny's father and trainer. "He was saving his energy for the last quarter of the fight. Danny has a great chin. We got hit a lot, some good shots, but I don't know what that judge was thinking when he had a draw."
A right hand knocked Peterson back in the ninth round, in which Garcia landed some solid combinations while Peterson showboated by pumping his hands and pretending to dance. Another right hand late in the 10th round stopped Peterson in his tracks.
Peterson had a big 11th round, nailing a tiring Garcia with solid shots and busting up his right eye, which was swelling.
"I was putting a lot of effort into the eye to get it to swell up as much as I could," Peterson said.
The fight appeared to be on the table in the 12th as they both went for it in a tremendous round of action.
Peterson looked more energetic and connected with a right hand early in the 12th round that got the crowd going wild. They closed the show in a toe-to-toe exchange as both landed to the head and body in a fierce finish.
The CompuBox punch statistics favored Garcia, who was credited with landing 173 of 589 punches (29 percent) while Peterson connected on 170 of 494 blows (34 percent).
Peterson holds the IBF version of the 140-pound title, but the organization said before the fight that if he lost he would be stripped. This was his second non-title bout in his past four fights.
Belt or not, Peterson said he would consider moving up full-time to the welterweight division, where he would like a rematch with Garcia -- even though he did not think he would get one.
"I'll gladly fight him again if he wants," Peterson said. "But it was hard enough getting him in the ring the first time."
Garcia was fighting his second non-title fight in a row. He probably is done at 140 pounds and headed for 147 pounds as well.
That will not come as a surprise, especially since Garcia owes a mandatory defense to talented but little-known Ukrainian Viktor Postol (27-0, 11 KOs), who won on the undercard. That is not a big fight for Garcia, who will have many more well-known opponents to pick from at welterweight.
"I do think I have to go up in weight because it's affecting my performance, but feel like I did a great job tonight," Garcia said.
Added Angel Garcia of his son moving up in weight: "I think that's the plan for the next fight."
Every welterweight's dream, of course, is to fight the kings of boxing, Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao, who, of course, have their long-awaited unification showdown May 2.
"I would love to fight one of them," Garcia said. "But I need a couple of fights at 147 first."