Story and photos by John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Saturday’s showdown between WBC welterweight champion Danny Garcia, 33-0, 19 KOs, and WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman, 27-0, 22 KOs, is generating a lot of buzz with boxing fans. The scheduled 12-round bout, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, is one of those all too rare matches that pits two undefeated champions in their prime. Usually we’re forced to wait until the match loses its luster or is no longer at the peak of its competitiveness. This is not the case with Garcia-Thurman. The timing couldn’t be better on this one. In fact, it is the timing of the bout that makes this fight so attractive.
Thurman is coming off his most entertaining fight to date, an exciting unanimous decision over Shawn Porter. He’s been a welterweight since 2013 (after coming down from 154), and a world champion (or interim champion) over seven fights, or three years and eight months. This probably tipped the betting odds to his favor.
Danny Garcia had a steady rise through the 140-pound division. He won big fights, mowed down several favored opponents, and with his tour de force performance against Lucas Matthysse in 2013, proved, without a doubt, that he was the best junior welterweight in the world.
In his follow up to Matthysse the following year, Garcia came close to losing his crown to Mauricio Herrera. Garcia escaped with a controversial decision on that night, but ever since the near slip, great care was taken in choosing Garcia’s matches.
He blasted an over-matched Rod Salka in two rounds, took an uncomfortably close majority decision from Lamont Peterson next, and then stopped Paulie Malignaggi in nine rounds. Garcia remained undefeated, but took a hit with the fans who thought the Philadelphian was suddenly a cherry-picker.
Fourteen months ago, Garcia captured the vacant WBC crown by unanimous decision over Robert Guerrero. Danny won the fight by a comfortable margin, although it wasn’t his easiest night’s work. Garcia followed that fight with a tune up against Samuel Vargas, and won by seventh round TKO to set up the meeting with Thurman.
“There’s been a lot of bad blood,” Garcia said. “A lot of trash talk, but come March 4th, that’s all over and we got to go in there and do what we do best – win.”
Thurman will be Garcia’s toughest opponent since Matthysse, and Danny will have questions to answer in the fight. Over the past few years, Garcia has padded his bank account and generally faced a lower grade of competition than he did leading up to the Matthysse bout.
“I’m always motivated,” Garcia said. “But I feel extra motivated because it’s a big fight. The media says it’s a big fight. I know it’s a big fight, and we got to be ready for it. I fought 120 amateur fights for free. I’m getting paid now and I’m cool with that.”
Garcia has enjoyed his status and success as a world champion. Sometimes the spotlight softens a fighter. Against Thurman, Garcia will have to prove that he still has the hunger that helped him achieve his many accomplishments.
Therefore, in addition to Saturday’s showdown being a high-level contest between two excellent young boxers, the fight will also test if the wealthy, successful Garcia still has the desire and ability to fight at the level he did on his way up. At nearly 29, Garcia, for the first time, faces a real crossroads fight on Saturday night.
“There’s a lot of pressure on me to be the best,” Garcia said. “That’s what keeps me focused. That’s what gives me that push. When I don’t feel like doing it, I think that the world is going to be watching me. I’ve got fans. I’ve got family. I can’t let them down. I got to go in there and look my best. I got to be prepared. That’s what keeps me focused, the love of the sport.”
Thurman looks good, but Garcia’s experience is stronger and his skills are deeper than his opponent’s. Danny has the power and style to beat Thurman, but he’ll have to be in tip-top mental, emotional, and physical condition to have success. Successful champions must retain their edge and fight hard to stay on top.
“I need that chip on my shoulder,” Garcia said. “The pressure of performing, living up to the stage. That’s what will make me fight the best. These are the type of fights that bring out the best in me. When I’m not under pressure, those are my bad days. So I need that chip on my shoulder to bring out the best in Danny Garcia.”
Garcia has been locked away at his DSG Boxing Gym preparing. Usually the place is loaded with young fighters, but not this time. A sign on the door says that the gym is closed and that no one is allowed in. Team Garcia is working hard and keeping their heads down.
“This has been a hard, tough camp,” Garcia said. “We’re pushing ourselves to the limit. We’ve done everything we could do. We’re working smart and hard. We’re working on sharpening up. We’ve got a good game plan. It’s fight time. I’ve been in a lot of big fights in my career. Come, March 4th, I’m going to show the world again why I’m world champion.”
And if Garcia can top Thurman, he’ll be a unified champion once again.
“There’s no better feeling than to unify the titles,” Garcia said. “I did it at 140, and my dream was to do it again at 147. This is my opportunity and I got to take advantage of it.”
Garcia feels that he has the edge over Thurman in many areas.
“I have a lot of advantages,” Garcia said. “The Barclays Center is like my second home. I feel I’m the sharper boxer. I’m the more patient fighter. I’m the battle-tested fighter. We’re going to work everything – body, head, everything we can possibly work. We’ve got a good game plan and body shots are definitely part of the game plan.”
Garcia’s father and trainer, Angel Garcia, as usual, has many opinions about the fight and his son’s chances of coming out with another win.
“It’s a good fight for Danny, a fight to take us forward, but it’s a bad fight for Thurman,” Angel Garcia said. “At the end of the day, he never fought a guy like Danny. He’s just undefeated. Just because they call him “One Time”, that don’t mean he’s going to do that to Danny. Danny’s got a chin, and we know his (Thurman’s) chin is shady.”
Angel Garcia has made a career of talking trash about his son’s opponents, and this match is no different. It seems he feels that the fact that the betting odds favor Thurman are a sign of disrespect toward his son.
“Danny’s been the underdog since the amateurs,” Angel said. “I’m not going to stress on it. There’s nothing I can do about it, because that’s the people. The people can do whatever they want to do. It’s a free country. We don’t have to change nothing; we don’t have to add nothing. Danny’s just got to be Danny. He’s just got to go in there and be him. We don’t have to change anything for him. He’s nobody special for us to get worried, threatened of change. We don’t have to bring Superman from the moon to train him. We don’t need any of that.”
They might not be changing their routine for Thurman, but you can still sense that Angel knows the fight is a big one.
“To me, every fight is big,” Angel said. “Every fight that Danny has is important. We always train the same way. We don’t take nothing away. We got to take everybody very seriously. When you expect less, you fall asleep on somebody and think it’s going to be easy. Nothing’s easy in life. So everything is important. From the beginning of his career until now.”
In the end, Angel feels that Danny is the better fighter.
“Let me put it to you this way,” Angel said. “A person who drinks and smokes hookah ain’t beating Danny. If you want to smoke hookah, you can smoke all the hookah you want but don’t get in the ring with Danny. Danny is 100%. It’s going to be a great fight for Danny, and at the end of the night it’s going to be, ‘And the new WBA champion of the world’.”
Garcia-Thurman will be nationally televised, live on CBS.
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