On March 4th history will be made, as Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia meet for the 10th welterweight unification bout in division history, and just the 3rd such match between undefeated fighters. To make matters even more historic, the card will be televised nationally on CBS, only the 2nd to get primetime billing on the network in the last 40 years (the first, of course, was the highly entertaining Thurman-Porter war in 2016). And here’s a little tidbit that might just titillate boxing fans even further: Garcia, the WBC titleholder, and Thurman, the WBA champion, will unify the exact same titles that Leonard (WBC) and Hearns (WBA) unified in their 1981 Fight of the Year. Here’s hoping for another ‘you’re blowin’ it kid!’ comeback win.
The fight itself pits two of the division’s most dangerous warriors. Thurman, the favorite, is as powerful as he is aggressive, and his accuracy is astounding given his bull-in-a-china-shop approach. According to Compubox, Thurman connects an average of 48.2% of his power punches, ranking him 4th amongst all current fighters and 10% better than the average welterweight. Known for his devastating power, Thurman also possesses surprising hand speed and excels at closing the distance without lunging forward the way so many fighters do, thus creating opportunities for short left hooks and uppercuts, the kind that stunned Porter numerous times in their fight together. If Thurman has a vulnerability, it’s his rib cage, an area that Porter attempted to exploit by focusing on body shots early. Expect the same from Garcia coming into this one.
Garcia, meanwhile, is no stranger to being the underdog in a big-time title match. In 2013, he squared off against Lucas Matthysse on the undercard of the Mayweather-Canelo fight for the vacant Lineal Light Welterweight title. Many were concerned about Garcia’s chin coming into the fight, thus he was a 2-1 underdog. But Garcia proved the haters wrong and dropped Matthysse for the first time in his career, then handed the hard-hitting Argentine his first ever loss. Clearly the more patient and disciplined fighter, Garcia’s challenge will be identifying when to engage and when to back away and play defense. If he lets Thurman drag him into a slugfest, it could be a swift night for the man they call ‘Swift.’
Adding to the drama of this fight is the fact that Danny Garcia’s father and trainer, Angel Garcia, made headlines by hurling racial slurs and homosexual epithets at Keith Thurman during a January press conference to promote the event. The elder Garcia took offense to Thurman’s insistence that he was going to knock Danny out (which is kind of an odd thing to take offense to… I mean, what else did you expect him to say?), and started screaming at Thurman calling him ‘ponytail.’ A verbal spat ensued, when Angel stood up and began shouting the N-word multiple times before both men’s mics were cut off. The fruckus continued after the presser with the two men yelling in each other’s faces amidst a sea of reporters and cameramen. The incident was enough to get Angel banned from all future fight-related press conferences, and sparked a series of apologetic tweets and press releases from officials on all sides of the fray. Though it’s hard to believe the promoters and TV personnel are crying a river over the controversial remarks, given that they’ve managed to add hype to an already big-time fight.
Thurman, for his part, claims he’s not letting Garcia’s words get the better of him. “Angel will talk to try to get people off of their game,” Thurman said. “Danny is an elite fighter, and he can talk for himself. These father trainers seem to like the limelight as much as the fighter, if not more. At the end of the day, I’m only fighting Danny Garcia.”
Regardless of who wins this bout on March 4th, boxing fans everywhere can celebrate a big victory as we get to watch one of the most anticipated fights of the year for free on CBS. It’s not often that great fights are distributed as mass entertainment the way fans of other sports are so used to enjoying. But Al Haymon and PBC have a long-term plan to raise awareness for a sport that was once esteemed as the most prominent in the world. As Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment and co-promoter of the event put it at a pre-fight presser: “Thurman vs. Garcia is the best against the best, which is really what we have to do to elevate our sport to the sport of kings like it once was. We have two kings sitting at this table.”
Two kings indeed. But after March 4, only one will be wearing a crown.