Keith Thurman deftly sidestepped one trap after another to outpoint Danny Garcia and shoot to the top of the welterweight pecking order.
Thurman, the undefeated puncher from Florida’s Gulf Coast nicknamed One-Time, hurt Garcia in the opening round, built an early lead on the scorecards and held on for a split decision to retain his WBA welterweight title and add Garcia’s WBC strap. Two ringside judges scored it for Thurman by scores of 116-112 and 115-113, while a third had it 115-113 to Garcia. (The Guardian scored it 114-114.)
“I knew that today would be the day I accomplish my dreams,” Thurman said. “People know I fought my way up the amateurs. This was the first time I fought a real undefeated fighter and I demonstrated my skills tonight. I made my team proud.”
The result marked Garcia’s first loss in 34 professional fights.
“I came up short tonight,” he said. “I thought I was the aggressor. I thought I pushed the pace. But it didn’t go my way.”
The bigger and stronger Thurman was quick to assert himself from the opening bell, throwing wildly and with bad intentions early while Garcia fought off the back foot. But Thurman caught Garcia flush with a heat-seeking left before the round was out, sending the Philadelphia reeling backward. “It woke me up,” he said. “But it didn’t hurt me.”
Garcia absorbed the shot well and continued to contend with Thurman’s pressure in the first three rounds before a rollicking crowd of 16,533, a record turnout for boxing at Brooklyn’s five-year-old Barclays Center. Thurman’s speed and in-and-out movement left Garcia behind early on the scorecards.
He was able to score with counters and had moments in every round – Thurman was just having more of them. And by the fourth round he’d started to control the pace of the action.
By the fifth Garcia began putting his right hand out to guard against Thurman’s left hook and started to turn the tide of the fight.
Many of Garcia’s most memorable victories – knockouts over Lucas Matthysse, Amir Khan and Eric Morales – came when his opponents finally walked into the traps he patiently set. But Thurman, to his credit, refused to accommodate. It was a compelling display of situational awareness.
Thurman was satisfied to circle and move away from his increasingly frustrated opponent in the final three rounds. That’s where Garcia was able to narrow the margin, though by then it was too little too late.
“It is what it is,” said Garcia, who landed 130 of 434 punches (30%) compared to 147 of 570 punches for Thurman (26%). “I can’t cry over anything, I’ll come back strong like a true champion. I would love to have a rematch to get my titles back.”
Angel Garcia, Danny’s outspoken trainer and father, expressed disgust with the result and was less inclined to agree to a second installment.
“He ran in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th,” Angel said. “You got to be kidding me. I’m disgusted with boxing right now. I want Danny to retire.”
Thurman was uncertain about his next opponent in the aftermath: bandying about the possibilities of a rematch with Garcia, a stay-busy fight or the winner of the just-announced fight between Kell Brook and Errol Spence. What’s far more certain is the road to welterweight consolidation now goes through him.