Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia brought a sense of symmetry to the boxing ring in the middle of Barclays Center, two 28-year-old undefeated welterweight champs in their prime squaring off in prime time on free TV for a unification bout.
Thurman put up his WBA belt and came with favorite status for last night’s fight. Garcia put up his WBC belt. And they fought for 12 rounds in front of a CBS audience and 16,533 in the seats, the largest boxing crowd in Barclays history.
Now both belts belong to Thurman.
The win came via a split decision. The judges who went for Thurman had it 116-112 and 115-113. The math also came out to 115-113 from the judge who had it for Garcia.
“I finessed my way to victory,” Thurman said. “ . . . Danny Garcia did challenge me. But I passed. He did not pass the Keith Thurman test.”
Garcia landed a higher percentage of punches (30-26 percent), and a higher percentage of power punches (40-37 percent). But Thurman landed more punches, 147-130, and more power punches, 102-89. “I thought I pressed the fight,” Garcia said. “I thought I did enough to get the decision.”
He took the loss better than his combustible dad and trainer. Angel Garcia, who delivered a vulgar and racially tinged rant at Thurman during a January news conference, labeled Thurman’s strategy as “running” — as in running away from the sixth round on.
“You can’t win a fight running, bro,” the elder Garcia said. “ . . . You can’t be the world champion like that. I’m just disgusted right now with boxing. I want Danny to retire . . . Rematch, no.”
This marked only the third unification fight between undefeated opponents in welterweight history and the 10th overall in the 147-pound division. Thurman, a Florida native, moved to 28-0. Garcia, a Philadelphia native, dropped to 33-1. “It’s a learning experience,” Garcia said.
Thurman came out aggressively in the first round and landed a solid punch to Garcia’s head. “It didn’t hurt me,” Garcia said. “It woke me up.”
The fans got restless in the sixth, wanting more flurries to fly. They did in the seventh. Thurman began to connect more and Garcia had a couple of low punches. But in the final minute of the eighth, there were boos as the crowd waited for more action.
“Defense, defense,” Thurman said.
There were more boos in the ninth until there were more punches exchanged in the last minute.
Chants of “Dan-ny” erupted in the 10th. Garcia closed with a shot to Thurman’s ribs at the bell. But Thurman felt he had “a nice lead” and wasn’t risking a big mistake in the later rounds. “I’d give him an A-plus,” trainer Dan Birmingham said.
Garcia said he would love a rematch. And Thurman’s thoughts on what’s next?
“To be honest, I’m not sure,” he said. “His father said no rematch. Danny might want a rematch. The fans might want a rematch. Who knows? There’s a lot out there.”