This week unified welterweight titlist Keith Thurman voluntarily relinquished his WBC title while recovering from elbow surgery last year and a recent hand injury suffered in training. Many boxing fans are welcoming the news because in their eyes Thurman has held up the title too long with his injuries, pushing back some compelling match-ups in boxing’s deepest division. With Thurman vacating the title, the path is now open to make one of the best stylistic clashes in all of boxing between former champs and the two top WBC contenders in Shawn Porter 28-2-1 (17) and Danny Gardia 34-1 (20). The winner of the match, which will be held sometime this summer, will be the new WBC champ and must make their first defense against Thurman who will be deemed the mandatory challenger when he’s back to being 100% physically.
Most observers believe the best match in the division would be between IBF title holder Errol Spence 23-0 (20) and Terence Crawford 32-0 (23) who challenges WBO titlist Jeff Horn 18-0-1 (12) on June 9th with the expectation the heavily favored Crawford will exit the ring with the title. But they’re wrong. Spence and Crawford are no doubt greater fighters than Porter and Garcia, but a match between them would be fought at a more sophisticated level due to their sublime skill, versatility and ability to present each other with problems like no other opponent they have been confronted with. However, it wouldn’t be the back and forth edge-of-your-seat war that Porter vs. Garcia has the potential to be.
In Porter, 30, and Garcia, 30, you have two fighters, both trained by their father, with contrasting styles. Porter is a swarmer who is constantly trying to push the fight and wage war on the inside, opposed to Garcia who likes to counter punch after his opponents take the lead and go first. Garcia’s Sunday punch is his left hook, a punch most effective at close quarters. Porter throws every punch with bad intentions and considers every shot his Sunday punch, and he’ll have no reservation fighting Garcia in the pocket where Danny thinks he can land his hook. Add to that, neither guy is what I’d consider a life taker with their power, and both have a first tier chin, so there’s no way outside of one of them sustaining a cut that their fight won’t go the 12-round distance.
Ironically, Thurman defeated both Porter and Garcia in his last two fights. He won a very close unanimous decision over Porter in June of 2016, a fight in which all three judges scored it 115-113, meaning a swing on one round would have resulted in a draw. Yes, it was that tightly contested.
In March of 2017 Thurman won a split decision over Garcia, and the fact it was a split decision is an unfunny joke. Ask any unbiased observer who saw both fights and he will tell you that Thurman beat Garcia with much more room to spare than he did Porter. There’s no way Garcia, who didn’t begin to get back in the fight until about the eighth round, could possibly have won seven rounds as he did on judge Kevin Morgan’s card. Garcia was bothered and rattled by Thurman’s power during the first two rounds and therefore didn’t push the issue until Thurman began to run out the clock…so there’s nothing to glean from either Porter or Garcia’s fight against Thurman.
Why Porter-Garcia has FOTY potential:
For starters, Porter’s style almost assures he’ll be in an exciting fight regardless of who the opponent is. Shawn brings it right to his foe with the belief he has a sturdy enough chin so in case he catches one or two on the way in, it won’t slow him. His mindset is to win every exchange with the only onus on him, as he sees it, is that he must make you exchange and then try to force you to fight him off. Call it a hunch, but I’d count on him bringing that singleness of purpose and physical stamina to execute what needs to be done when he meets Garcia.
Conversely, Garcia doesn’t like to be rushed and fights in a more structured manner. But he likes it and will fight you if you lean on him and press the issue. In preparation for the fight, Garcia knows how Porter is going to approach him, so he’ll work on what he can do to either impede Porter’s aggression or try to use it against him…much easier said than done in the heat of battle, especially when you don’t carry a big enough punch to prevent the fighter bringing the heat, Porter, from becoming fearless and bold. Porter is going to attempt to throw so much at Garcia that instead of looking for clean counters, he’ll have to instead cut loose with both guns with the hope of occupying and stabilizing Porter enough to where he’s not completely overwhelmed. And once Garcia realizes that, he’s also going to pick up that Porter isn’t really hurting him that much, just scoring. And that’s when the toe-to-toe action will start.
Knowing that Porter’s aggression overload isn’t doing anything other than possibly wooing the crowd and judges, Garcia will have no choice but to answer back. And when he does, Porter won’t be deterred and will keep pressuring while trying to knock Garcia out with every punch.
The question then becomes how well Garcia can fight off of his back foot. We’ve seen that when he does it on his own volition, he can, but that’s a lifetime different then when you’re being forced to do it. The fact both Porter and Garcia love to fight, both have a style conducive to getting their hands on the other, and neither punches hard enough to really dent the other, the fight will come down to who’s in better shape and most capable of muscling and manhandling the other for the better part of each round.
Porter will push the fight, but Garcia is cagier and that’ll mesh well in what will be an all-out action-packed bout! That’s why Porter-Garcia can easily be a “Fight of the Year” candidate. And it doesn’t hurt that they seem to dislike each other and are driven to prove who is the superior fighter.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel