KEITH THURMAN WINS BY SPLIT DECISION — The welterweight title unification showdown between undefeated title-holders Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia attracted a crowd of 16,553, a record high for a boxing event at the Barclays Center. Those in the building anticipated a zesty encounter comparable to Thurman’s last appearance here on June 25 when he scored a narrow, albeit unanimous decision over Shawn Porter. What they got was another close fight, but a skirmish that was yet disappointing.
It didn’t start out that way. Thurman and Garcia exchanged haymakers in the opening round. But the match quickly turned into a tactical fight as Garcia concentrated on working the body, which he did in spurts, which is to say whenever he could penetrate Thurman’s defense. In the end, the elusive Thurman, who was the busier fighter, got the nod by scores of 116-112, 115-113, and 113-115. There were no knockdowns in what could aptly be called a chess match, notwithstanding robust exchanges at the end of round nine and again at the end of round eleven.
The drama came when Thurman became more defensive-minded late in the fight, evoking memories of Oscar De La Hoya’s ill-advised bicycling in his 1999 welterweight unification match with Felix Trinidad. This enabled Garcia to close the gap. Round 12 was his best round of the fight and since the crowd was pro-Garcia it wouldn’t have been surprising at all if the final verdict was a draw.
Keith Thurman, now 28-0, arrived with the WBA belt and added the WBC belt to his collection after saddling Danny Garcia (33-1) with his first professional loss. A Premier Boxing Champions promotion, the fight aired live in prime time on CBS.
In the co-feature, 21-year-old Erickson Lubin (18-0, 13 KOs) continued his rapid rise with a fourth-round stoppage of Mexico’s Jorge Cota. Fighting with his back to the ropes, Cota got caught with an overhand left and went down hard. He beat the count, but was clearly dazed and the referee waved it off.
Lubin, in the words of TV analyst Al Bernstein, simply had the superior skill set. Cota, who was coming off a 19-month layoff, was a willing mixer but his movements were somewhat stiff and his punches were slow.
With the victory, Lubin ostensibly becomes the mandatory challenger to WBC 154-pound kingpin Jermell Charlo. Where that leaves Charles Hatley is anyone’s guess. Hatley was slated to fight Jermell Charlo this coming Saturday at the new MGM Grand in Oxon Hill, Maryland, but the entire show was cancelled when Columbia’s Oscar Escandon, Gary Russell Jr’s opponent in the main event, was forced to withdraw after injuring his back in training.
In a fight that wasn’t included in the TV broadcast, but was yet the most intriguing match on the undercard, Andrzej Fonfara came from behind to stop former lineal light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson in the 10th and final round. Fonfara dropped Dawson late in round nine and finished him off with a flurry of punches in the next round.
This was a crossroads fight of sorts for both men as each needed a big win to get back in the high rent district of the 175-pound division. Fonfara (29-4, 17 KOs) was stopped in the opening round by Joe Smith Jr. in his previous bout, a fluke defeat in the eyes of his backers who now have more ammunition to buttress that opinion. The 34-year-old Dawson (34-5), a 16-year pro, suffered a big loss in stature in 2014 when he was out-pointed by limited Tommy Karpency and his tarnished reputation took another tumble tonight.
In an 8-round featherweight contest, fan favorite Heather Hardy (18-0, 4 KOs) kept her unbeaten record intact with a unanimous decision over Hungary’s Edina Kiss (13-3). Hardy simply out-worked Kiss who was the younger fighter by eight years. She won every round on two of the scorecards.
Hardy competes in a strong division that includes fellow Brooklynite Amanda Serrano and El Paso’s Jennifer Han, but at age 35 she had best not tarry on her road to a well-paying fight.
In an 8-round junior welterweight contest, Sergey Lipinets scored a seventh round TKO over Clarence Booth. From Kazakhstan by way of Beverly Hills, Lipinets advanced to 12-0 (10).
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