SAN DIEGO, March 2, 2017 – Outside the heavyweight division, the welterweight division is a glamour division which has produced some of the greatest and most well-loved champions in boxing history: Sugar Ray Leonard. Thomas Hearns. Oscar De La Hoya. Felix Trinidad. Manny Pacquiao. Floyd Mayweather.
Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia hope to add their names to this list and can take a big step toward making it happen on Saturday.
In the most anticipated prizefight since Kovalev vs. Ward, welterweight champions Keith “One Time” Thurman and Danny “Swift” Garcia will settle their differences and unify division titles for the entertainment of fans Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Give Thurman (27-0-1, 22 KOs), the WBA champion, and Garcia 33-0 (19 KOs), the WBC champion, credit for making this fight, risking perfect records and facing arguably the most significant if not the most dangerous opponents in their careers. Credit Premier Boxing Champions for putting this fight on the CBS broadcast network in prime time, not on premium cable and not on pay per view.
Millions of fans will be tuned in to see this showdown, and it shouldn’t disappoint given the stakes, anticipation, and the true animosity between the boxers and their camps.
With history fueling some of the interest, all the right pieces fell into place. Showtime general manager Stephen Espinoza notes the significance of the bout, the first unification between undefeated champions in the division since De La Hoya vs. Trinidad in 1999. “This is a rare battle of undefeated champions fighting to unify the division. It’s so rare, in fact, that this is just the 10th world title unification bout in the history of the welterweight division,” mentioning the great names and the elite company either man can join with a win.
Thurman, who lives and trains in his hometown of Clearwater, Florida, comes into this fight from a unanimous decision over a rugged Shawn Porter in June. It was a tremendously exciting fight, just the kind of fight that belongs on prime-time broadcast TV. Two appealing fighters with power and aggression, two never say die opponents who nevertheless have tremendous respect for each other as people. This fight did wonders for the sport.
Garcia is coming off a make-work seventh round stoppage over Samuel Vargas in November, and before that a fairly easy victory over veteran Robert Guerrero, who’s simply past his prime. Garcia’s last significant bout was a difficult victory over Lucas Matthysse three years ago, and he also has two disputed decision wins on his record against Lamont Peterson and Mauricio Herrera, fights most observers believe he lost.
Philadelphia native Garcia has the most to prove in New York. He has battled criticism over padding his record with easy opponents, and he has to continually defend his father and trainer, the notoriously foul-mouthed equal opportunity offender Angel Garcia. In the news conference first announcing the bout, the senior Garcia let loose with a series of racial insults at Thurman; security personnel had to escort Garcia off the platform. Up until today, it wasn’t certain New York State Athletic Commission officials would permit Garcia in his son’s corner Saturday as a result. After a hearing earlier in the week, Garcia was granted his license to be on hand.
Garcia defended his father as he always has, calling it “freedom of speech in America … People talk like that every day.” Thurman has used the insults as fuel, saying “This is boxing, baby. This ain’t nothing new.”
Thurman says he’s happy to be at this point of his career. “Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman has had this dream,” he said at the final news conference Thursday. “This is gonna be a fight y’all can’t miss. If you can’t make it to the arena, you can make it to the couch!
“Don’t blink. Stay tuned. One love.”
Garcia says he’s had a tremendous training camp. “We ran the hills, we ate the rocks, we chased the chickens. I may not get the credit, but at the end of the night, be sure the check is right … All being the underdog means is there are a bunch of people who don’t know what I can do,” said Garcia acknowledging his critics.
Both men are coming to the fight at their prime, 28 years old and in superb condition with no injuries and nothing they need to focus on other than the opponent in front of him. In boxing today, this doesn’t happen too often.
It’s also a tough fight to call. While Thurman may be the favorite, it’s by a slim margin. Thurman has the edge in power and footwork. Garcia doesn’t have a secret weapon. He does everything well, nothing great but no flaws either. Garcia can take a punch.
Garcia is the more disciplined fighter in the ring, and here’s where Thurman can learn something from Garcia. It’s to Garcia’s advantage to let Thurman bring the fight to him and counterpunch. If Thurman refuses, Garcia will need to come forward, and this is where Thurman can catch up. If the fans are whipped up and calling for the two to engage, they might cave into the pressure to entertain and this is where Garcia loses an advantage. Thurman can be reckless in the ring; so far, he hasn’t paid the price for it, but if he allows Garcia to get close and throw his best punch, the short left hook to the body, Thurman better pray he trained hard enough to take it. If Thurman can close distance on Garcia, perhaps entice him into a brawl to entertain the fans, it’s to his advantage.
Garcia’s biggest fights have been at 140 pounds, not the 147-pound welterweight limit. Thurman is the naturally bigger man and has fought his entire career at 147 pounds. As long as he’s in top condition (and it appears so), this gives a power punching edge to Thurman.
The “X” factor is mental toughness and desire. Who wants it more? It’s Thurman, and the trash talk hurled by his opponent’s father surely is ringing in Thurman’s ears. He’d love to shut the old man up by defeating his son. Garcia makes noises about being the underdog and how it’s to his advantage. It’s all too easy to internalize this sort of thinking and start to wonder if people are right.
What cannot be discounted is Garcia’s uncanny ability to find a way to win. When it goes to the cards in a close fight, Garcia knows how to give the judges what they want to see and he gets the benefit of the doubt. If it goes to the cards without a knockdown or significant dominance by either fighter, the decision is sure to be controversial. As long as people are talking, it’s good for the sport of boxing.
“PBC on CBS: Thurman vs. Garcia” airs Saturday, March 4, at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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