SATURDAY’S WELTERWEIGHT SHOWDOWN — There was Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns in 1981, the standard by which all other welterweight unification bouts are measured. Then there was Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad in 1999, and lastly in 2015 we had Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao. All three bouts were for the welterweight title of which each combatant owned a version and each was the most anticipated fight of the year in which they happened. This Saturday night WBC title holder Danny Garcia 33-0 (19) will meet WBA title holder Keith Thurman 27-0 (22) in just the 10th unification bout in the history of the division at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Some press releases have gone as far as to claim both Garcia and Thurman belong in the elite company of the fighters above. No, I’m not quite ready to make that over-statement. However, in 2017 undefeated Garcia versus undefeated Thurman in a title unification bout is about as good as it gets. And with both title holders trying to escape the ghost of former title-holder Floyd Mayweather and current WBO titlist Manny Pacquiao, not to mention the style clash and mindsets of Garcia and Thurman, the ingredients are there an action-packed and fan-friendly bout.
With Garcia being weeks away from turning 29 and Thurman turning 28 this past November, both fighters are peaking and no doubt the winner takes a giant leap into becoming a participant in a future super-fight – perhaps against the winner of the upcoming IBF welterweight title bout between Kell Brook and Errol Spence. And an even bigger fight for the winner would be a bout in which he defended his WBC/WBA titles against the fighter many believe to be the best pound-for-pound in boxing, and that’s WBC/WBO junior welterweight champ Terence Crawford 30-0 (21), who many believe willl soon be looking to add some welterweight hardware to his jewelry box.
One of the main attractions pertaining to the clash between Garcia and Thurman is that both carry themselves as tough guys and aren’t shy about the way they project themselves in and out of the ring. Garcia carries himself as if he’s Philadelphia’s welterweight version of former heavyweight champ “Smokin” Joe Frazier. That’s due to the fact that Danny loves his left hook and has no trepidation about going into the trenches and fighting it out with any opponent. Conversely, Thurman believes he owns a right hand that is the equivalent of Earnie Shavers at welterweight.
At one of the final press conferences for the bout, Garcia said “There’s a lot of pressure on me to be the best. That’s what keeps me focused. I think about the eyes that are going to be on me and I have to go in there and look my best. These kinds of fights really bring out the best in me.”
One thing that cannot be overlooked regarding Danny Garcia is the influence of his friend, Philly legend Bernard Hopkins. You can bet everything you own that Hopkins has been inside Danny’s ear, stressing to him how important it is to win these big fights, pointing out the money that can follow and that do-overs if you lose take a long time to get and aren’t guaranteed. This leads me to believe that we’ll see the best of Garcia this Saturday night.
During the same press conference Thurman said “Ultimately, my heart desires victory at this stage and at this level. I’m looking to do what I do best. Which is be a smart fighter. You can expect a world class fight. We’re both great champions with impressive skills. We’re going to be pushing each other and testing each other. I see myself as the smarter fighter. I’ve shown that I can adjust in the middle of a fight. With the experience that I have, I go in there with an objective I’m trying to achieve. If it’s not happening, then I have to use something else.”
In this fight the fighter who can adjust and implement a plan “B” is the one who will have a big edge. Yes, that’s a cliché, just as the saying “styles make fights” is. However, the onus is on Thurman I believe…and the reason for that is that Keith is more reliant on his big power to win. In his last fight against Shawn Porter, Thurman was very reliant on his power early and it didn’t turn the fight in his favor. Forced to fight his rear-end off over the last three rounds, he edged out a unanimous decision. All three judges saw the bout 115-113 or 7-5 in rounds in his favor. In other words Thurman was a single round away from a draw.
Based on what I saw Thurman do against Porter, I have reservations picking him to beat Garcia. I believe Garcia is the more resourceful fighter and better technician. Most observers see Thurman as the better puncher but I think it’s closer than most perceive it to be. I also believe that Garcia is the tougher guy and takes a better punch. In addition to that, Danny has been in with better opposition and I think his father, Angel, is a better trainer than Thurman’s trainer Dan Birmingham. It’s plausible that Angel has done his homework and picked up that Thurman doesn’t like it to the body and he’ll aide Danny in exposing Thurman’s limitations.
Garcia is certainly not a life-taker when it comes to his punching power with either hand, but I think he hits hard enough to gain Thurman’s respect. And because of that, the fight will more than likely go the distance. Without a doubt, conditioning, along with the strategic adjustments both will probably have to make as the bout progresses, will be a big factor in this one. If the fight hangs in the balance over the last three or four rounds, I have a hunch Garcia will prove to be more fit and better able to gut it out and win the rounds needed to swing the fight his way.
When Garcia vs. Thurman was first announced, I was leaning towards Thurman. With the eve of the bout upon us, I’ve had a change of heart and believe Garcia’s better overall game, toughness and grit will be the difference. I expect him to hold both the WBC and WBA welterweight titles Sunday morning March 5th 2017.
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com