On March 4th, WBA welterweight titleholder Keith Thurman will be taking on WBC welterweight titleholder Danny Garcia at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. This matchup is a rarity in modern-day boxing for many reasons, and it comes in a sense that is good for the fans, but also kind of sad that it’s taken this long for a fight like this to materialize.
First, it is a unification bout, which will presumably merge two champions into one and help bring clarity to the muddled school of contenders swimming in the sea of title belts. Sanctioning bodies have mushroomed over the years (each bringing their respective version of a championship), and have essentially swindled the public into believing certain matchups were more significant than they were in reality. Here we have a fight that actually matters.
Second, the fight is being televised on CBS, meaning a legitimate championship match will be shown on prime-time television for free. This is reminiscent of boxing’s “Four Kings” era when some of the best fights in the sport’s history were available to all. Sure, it’s no Leonard-Duran, but in today’s over-saturated PPV market, a matchup like Garcia-Thurman could have at the very least gotten away with being broadcast on a cable subscriber channel. This is essentially a move to bring boxing back to the people.
Third, this is actually a good fight. Both fighters are in their prime (28-years-old), both are undefeated (Garcia – 33-0 with 19KOs; Thurman 27-0 with 22KOs), and both have fought respectable opposition (Amir Khan and Lucas Matthysee for Garcia; Shawn Porter and Robert Guerrero for Thurman). They’re about as qualified and evenly matched as possible. As for drama leading up to the fight, there’s been a bit of that too.
In the press conference leading up to the fight, Garcia’s father, Angel Garcia, went on a 3-minute tirade that began by attacking Thurman for saying that he’d knock out his son, and oddly ended with an anti-immigration praise for current president-elect Donald Trump. Media outlets jumped on the family patriarch for throwing around racial epithets (specifically the n-bomb), which is technically true on the surface, but anyone who has been around old-school Nuyoricans long enough might argue that it’s simply part of the trash-talking lexicon. What was probably more awkward (and somewhat comical) was that at one point Garcia was the one to get between his father and his opponent to prevent the two from trading blows. Thurman appeared to take the whole thing in stride.
“It reminds me a little bit of the old school. There’s a part of me that enjoys it,” Thurman said afterwards. “We can start punching people right here at the press conference, that doesn’t bother me. But some of it is a form of ignorance and unnecessary. I think Angel wants to stir up the opponent as much as he can and create stress within that fighter’s mind and really just give his son every advantage in the fight.”
Which naturally brings us to the next question of how each fighter fares in the bout, and well, it’s a bit of a toss up. Judging by the records themselves, it will be a showdown between power and technique. I’ve always found Garcia’s style to be pretty basic, but it also seems that he executes the fundamentals very, very well since he has continued to win with every step up in competition. The knock against Garcia is that he’s only had five fights against marginal opposition outside of the 140lb division, while Thurman has spent his entire career at nothing less than a full welterweight. At the same time, Thurman’s last couple of performances has been questionable whereas Garcia has shined. And between the two, Garcia has actually faced the more recognizable competition, though not by much and at a weight class below. All factors considered, it’s an intriguing matchup.
Fights like this should be the standard in championship boxing, but unfortunately they’re more the exception than the rule. What perhaps is more unfortunate is that viewership will likely suffer because both Garcia and Thurman are largely unknown to the general public. If final ratings come in dismally, it may persuade the pugilistic-powers-that-be to continue running the sport into the ground. Let’s hope enough people tune in and support the fight so we can start moving boxing back in the right direction.
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