By Jason Pribila: On Saturday Night boxing fans filled the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to witness a historic night of boxing. For the third time in the history of the welterweight division we had two undefeated fighters in a unification bout. Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KO) proved to be too much for Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KO) as he dominated the opening half of the fight en route to a unanimous decision victory.
From the opening exchange it was clear that Thurman had the faster hands. Garcia, on the other hand appeared to be the bigger fighter, despite campaigning the majority of his career at junior welterweight.
Garcia overcame an opponent with faster hands in the past. When he faced Amir Khan, he was being out-classed throughout the early rounds, but he eventually caught Khan and knocked him out. Garcia seemed to be relying on lightning striking twice.
Unfortunately for Garcia, there are few fighters who make it to this level with chins like Amir Khan. Another difference is that this version of Garcia did not appear to have the quickness or snap on his punches.
Thurman, while dominating from the outside, did not hesitate to press the action. I’m sure that even he was surprised by the lack of head movement Garcia displayed. Thurman landed one-twos whenever he decided to let his hands go.
Garcia attempted to counter early, but his punches were wild and wide. He had some success to the body, but those opportunities were few and far between. By the end of the seventh round, he seemed as if he was involved in a fight against his will.
Being in the arena, I have no idea what kind of advice Garcia’s father/trainer Angel was offering. Whatever it was, it
Sensing he was comfortably ahead on the cards, Thurman used his legs only choosing to infrequently trade. Garcia was able to take advantage by landing a few single shots upstairs, but he was never able to land anything that would change the momentum of the fight.
The pro-Garcia crowd began to chant his name til the final bell, but Garcia’s fate would be decided by the judges at ringside.
The official cards 116-112 Thurman, 115-113 Garcia, 115-113 for Thurman.
Thurman did enough in the opening half of the fight to ensure his victory. However, he almost allowed history to repeat itself.
The first unification bout between undefeated welterweights saw Donald Curry stop the Kronk Gym’s Milton McCrory. The most recent bout of its kind was between Oscar De La Hoya and Felix “Tito” Trinidad. In that bout, De La Hoya raced out to what seemed to be a huge lead. He then got on his bicycle unwilling to engage during the championship rounds. That miscalculation cost De La Hoya his perfect record. A bout he probably wins 8 out of 10 times, but he was never able to avenge that defeat.
I agree that the right man won the fight this evening, however, I don’t believe Thurman won himself any new fans. While he is now the clear number one welterweight in the world, he I always going to need a strong opponent to fill an arena. He did what he needed to do to win the fight, but fight fans want their champions to do more. Rather than running out the clock, why not put the pressure on and try to get a guy you were beating to the punch out of there?
I believe that the best welterweight was in the building, but not in the ring. Showtime announced that Errol Spence Jr.’s title shot against Kell Brook will be televised on Showtime this Spring. Spence was in the building to promote that fight.
Erickson Lubin (18-0, 12 KO) took a few rounds to warm up, but once he did it became “Hammer Time”, which was bad news for Jorge Cota (23-2, 20 KO).
With the victory Lubin is now in position to face Charlo for the WBC junior middleweight title.
Action picked up in 3rd round as Lubin landed a big straight left. Cota’s natural instinct was to return fire, but he would soon realize that he was facing an opponent with hand speed that he could not compete against. Frustrated by being continually beaten to the punch, Cota threw his hands to his side as if to tell Lubin, you won that battle, but I’m here for a war.
That war would only 1:35 into the fourth round. Lubin backed Cota to the ropes, and then gave a Roy Jones-like pause with his hands to his side. As soon as Cota pushed a jab toward Lubin, he launched a left hook that dropped Cota and ended the bout.
“I baited him with the jab. I knew he was going to come with the big shots early. I put a few tricks on him”, Lubin explained from the ring.
I landed that overhand right and it was night-night. I put my hands down to bait him in, I did a squat and then it was night-night. I was ready to follow-up with a right but he was already out.
Although he now has the opportunity to become the youngest titlist in boxing, Lubin proved that he is a student of the greats who fought before him.
After disposing of Cota with a move that a Roy Jones-owned pigeon would have been proud of, Lubin paid respects to the royalty who was seated ringside.
“This is my second time knocking someone out in front of Ray Leonard,” Lubin confessed. “He’s one of my favorite fighters of all time.”
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the BWAA. He could be reached for questions/comments at email@example.com and followed on twitter.com @PribsBoxing.