Thurman vs Garcia preview: Last man standing

Callum Rudge
02/03/2017 8:56am

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Undefeated top welterweights Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia meet on Saturday at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn in a top-class showdown. Callum Rudge previews the action... 

In March 2015, the Premier Boxing Champions was born and while it has had its ups (6m viewers for Errol Spence Jr vs Leonard Bundu last August) and downs (half-empty arenas and plenty of inactive fighters), 2017 feels like the year the handbrake has finally been taken off the organisation, with an impressive slate of contests for the first few months of the year now in full swing.

At the birth of the ground-breaking venture, fights between Keith Thurman and Robert Guerrero and Danny Garcia and Lamont Peterson were announced and, while there has been an interlude of inactivity since then, as well as other fights for both boxers, it now feels like we have found the last two men standing at 147 lbs. (Albeit, Manny Pacquiao and the winner of Kell Brook vs Spence Jr. may have something to say about that).

Thurman and Garcia are both young (28), undefeated (27-0 and 33-0) and in the prime of their careers. While both have had their scares (Garcia vs Herrera and Peterson and Thurman vs Porter and Collazo) the winner of this WBC/ WBA 'Super' unification fight has a decent claim to be considered number 1 in the welterweight division.

Starting with Garcia, the former lineal 140lbs champion has seen his career stagnate somewhat since impressively defeating Lucas Matthysse on the Floyd Mayweather vs Canelo Alvarez undercard back in 2013. While he has since accumulated solid wins over Paulie Malignaggi (TKO 9 in 2015) and Robert Guerrero (UD12 in 2016), it was expected that the Matthysse win would push Garcia into truly big fights with the likes of Mayweather and Pacquiao.

Such contests failed to transpire, however, and instead Garcia has let himself be talked into ticking over fights vs Sammy Vargas and, infamously, Rod Salka, boxers well beneath his level.

Thurman, in comparison, in his run as WBA champ has also defeated Guerrero by unanimous decision, as well as stopping Collazo. His most recent appearance saw him defeat the in-form and accomplished Shawn Porter in the outstanding fight at 147lbs last year.

Thurman heads into this fight as the betting favourite (2/5 compared with 7/4 for Garcia), and you can see why: ‘One Time’ definitely has power, having scored 22 stoppages in 27 wins. However, his step-up to world class hasn’t coincided with scintillating knockouts, and on occasion recently he has been content to box his way to decision wins.

Despite stopping Collazo he received some criticism for his performance in that fight; after being hurt to the body in round five he seemed to become more cautious and be content to box going backwards. Similarly, in his showdown with Leonard Bundu in 2014, he was happy to put rounds in the bank, sailing to a 120-107 shutout on all three scorecards.

Both boxers would be best described as boxer-punchers and, despite the unsavoury build-up, I don’t expect to see a wild shoot-out here. Garcia started well vs Peterson in his toughest fight since Matthysse, and Thurman did likewise vs Porter last year. I also anticipate a tight start here and I think that whoever gets the edge early on will ultimately win the contest.

While Thurman is understandably the favourite given his recent form-line, I expect Garcia to start quicker, using his jab early on to throw Thurman off his rhythm and quickly attack the body. Garcia’s team have made no effort to hide this tactic and I expect it to pay off.

Despite his sometimes soft matchmaking my hunch is that Garcia has more guts for a dogfight than Thurman. My pick, therefore, is for Garcia to hurt Thurman to the body and eventually stop him somewhere around the tenth round.