Trust the Process: Danny Garcia vs. Keith Thurman
By: Kirk Jackson
March 4th, Saturday night at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York, the world will witness history.
We will witness a clash between two undefeated welterweight champions in a unification championship bout.
The participants are Keith “One Time” Thurman 27-0 (22 KO’s) the current WBA welterweight champion vs. Danny “Swift” Garcia 33-0 (19 KO’s) the current WBC welterweight champion.
It may seem blasphemous to some, comparing this fight to the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns, Leonard again vs. Roberto Duran, Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad, Floyd Mayweather vs. Ricky Hatton, Pernell Whitaker vs. Julio Caesar Chavez, among many other significant welterweight bouts.
But like many of the great welterweight match-ups just listed, this is a fight featuring two elite fighters and in this case, they happen to be undefeated and in their physical primes.
This fight also happens to be on free network television via CBS-Showtime. Just like the good ole days. And like the good ole days, this should be a classic.
Garcia and Thurman are among the elite fighters of the sport and in one of the deepest divisions in boxing.
Garcia should be on the top pound for pound list based on his levy of accomplishments; his achievements exceed those of Vasyl Lomanchenko, Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez – guys who are on the pound for pound list.
If Thurman is to defeat Garcia, he certainly will have earned a spot on the p4p list in his quest to unify the welterweight titles and of course this will change the outlook of the entire division.
The winner can make legitimate claim as the premier guy of the division and potentially (fingers crossed) lure the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley or the winner of Errol Spence vs. Kell Brook in the ring next.
Regarding this fight, Thurman is slightly favored and here is why.
Thurman is known for his explosive punching power. He lives by the phrase “KO’s for life,” even if he doesn’t always deliver the knock out.
But along with his piercing power, he is also a very good boxer, with outstanding athleticism. He is very intelligent and when he decides to use the jab, his jab serves as a great range finder and helps him defensively as well.
He’s no Pernell Whitaker by any means but knows how to slip a punch.
When he can’t get the knockout, he has no qualms about scoring points and winning by decision. This will be a fight of adjustments; ability Thurman displayed in bouts against Shawn Porter, Leonard Bundu and Diego Chaves.
Another important factor is Thurman is the bigger man. He started his career back in 2007 as a junior middleweight (154 lbs.).
“I’ll never back down. I’m bigger than Danny naturally,” said Thurman.
“He was always smaller than me in the amateurs. He’s smaller than me in the pros. He’s moving up. He might hold his weight well but I’m just a little bit bigger.”
Great points emphasized by Thurman and if the fight wears on when they meet Saturday, it’s easy to see how this may favor the bigger man. Thurman will have to force his weight on Garcia and let him know he is in the ring with a full-fledged welterweight.
“Boxing is all about is making history,” Thurman says.
“That’s my ultimate goal is to not just make a living for myself, not just live my American dream and accomplish my goals as an athlete but my ultimate goal has been, ever since I was a child, is to make history in the sport of boxing.”
Garcia aims to end the streak of L’s for his fellow Philadelphia brethren.
From the sports spectrum, the Philadelphia 76er’s have been abysmal since the Allen Iverson days, the Philadelphia Eagles are rebuilding and the Phillies are almost a decade removed from their last World Series.
Philadelphia Hip-hop artist Meek Mill is still in recovery mode from the Drake debacle and the ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins finally called it a career after losing to Joe Smith.
In essence of carrying on the tradition of the underdog and displaying the fighting spirit of a blue-collar city like Philadelphia, Garcia once again has his opportunity to prove the critics wrong.
“It feels good to represent my city,” says Garcia. “This is what Philadelphia fighters are all about. We rise to the occasion. I’ve been doing it my whole career.”
He was counted out against Amir Khan, Lucas Matthysse, Erik Morales and now Keith Thurman.
Garcia’s name and reputation was ruthlessly dragged through the mud (some criticism valid) for his opponent selection, questionable decision victories and overall ring performances.
But leading up to this point, the most important fight of his career and an important fight that will change the landscape of the welterweight division, there is a method to this madness.
To borrow a phrase made popular by Philadelphia 76er’s rookie sensation Joel Embiid, “Trust the process.”
One of the biggest perceived advantages many believe Thurman has over Garcia is his size. Garcia has prepared for this moment dating back the last two plus years.
The fight against Rod Salka was above the 140 lb. limit – Garcia’s first fight above the junior welterweight division. Albeit against terrible opposition, this was a barometer for Garcia to see which direction his career would go.
He struggled making the weight due to his body growing over time – which may have negatively affected his performances.
It’s a part of boxing, it happens.
An eventual move up had to take place.
With that realization, Garcia and his team moved up in weight gradually, at a calculated, measured pace, in spite of criticism from fans and boxing writers.
Even though there are plenty of fighters throughout the course of history who had soft touches in between major fights.
For those not old enough to remember the soft touches countless legends of yesteryear had, Google and Boxrec are helpful.
Back to Garcia, part of his process was fighting Lamont Peterson at 143 lbs., fighting Paulie Malignaggi and Robert Guerrero at welterweight, etc.
Gradually upping the weight and the level of opposition, staying active, getting acclimated to the weight, growing into the weight and leading to this moment.
Garcia states, “There’s a lot of pressure on me to be the best. That’s what keeps me focused.”
“I think about the eyes that are going to be on me and I have to go in there and look my best. These kind of fights really bring out the best in me.”
Garcia has a great chance to win but he must implore and stick to a brilliant game plan.
A noticeable weakness for Thurman is the body and he leaves himself open for right hand counters. Shawn Porter and Luis Collazo noticeably hurt Thurman to the body and Jesus Soto-Karass caught Thurman with a straight right hand and staggered Thurman.
He is still an excellent fighter, but these are weaknesses Garcia will aim to capitalize on.
Garcia is typically a slow starter and it will take him a few rounds to get used to the speed and explosiveness of Thurman.
Thurman hinted at using lateral movement and intelligence to control this upcoming fight. With that in mind, Garcia will cautiously have to find his range and establish his rhythm before unleashing his patented left hook.
While finding his range, Garcia will have to jab and feint his way into position to better avoid Thurman’s incoming punches.
Thurman, can dispose his jab and control range; use it as offense to set up right uppercuts, right crosses and he can even use it as a defensive weapon as well. One of Thurman’s best punches is his quick, step-back, left check-hook counter.
Establishing a successful jab will allow for Thurman to hook off his jab and switch his attack up. In essence, the jab is a crucial weapon for both fighters.
Thurman has to be weary of not throwing a lazy jab because Garcia is an excellent counter-puncher and his right hand over the top of Thurman’s jab will be a deadly weapon.
Garcia is known for his left hook power; Amir Khan can attest to it. But people are sleeping on his sneaky right hand – whether it’s a right hand counter over a jab, a looping hook-like counter or a laser straight right hand lead punch as he displayed against Zab Judah, Guerrero and others.
The devious right hand can be a punch Thurman doesn’t see coming.
The advantages Thurman holds with athleticism and explosiveness can be offset with the technical ability, timing and the well-roundedness of Garcia.
Garcia is more compact offensively; he stays calm under pressure and is better on the inside. He has the propensity to dig shots to the body; whether its left hooks or straight right hands to the body, expect him to create openings and find a way to land effective shots.
Breaking down the body will also take the steam off of Thurman’s power punches. Remember, Thurman hasn’t scored a knockout since Soto-Karass back in 2013.
When you step in class and face a higher tier of fighter, knockouts are more difficult to score. Garcia withstood punches from Matthysse who was regarded as one of the top punchers of the sport.
If we look at how Errol Spence annihilated Leonard Bundu, it’s fair to question the extent of Thurman’s power. Yes it’s like comparing apples to oranges, but it’s plausible we may see this encounter go the distance.
This will be a fight of adjustments. Garcia excels at in fight adjustments; he fine-tunes his approach according to opponent and can make mid-round modifications with his ability to counter-punch as well as catch and shoot.
Thurman never fought from behind, Garcia has and it’ll be interesting to see if Garcia can force Thurman into some kind of deficit to test how he responds.
The spotlight and the occasion should not be too big for either fighter. Garcia has a history of rising to the occasion and Thurman displayed the same with his last fight against Porter. Both fighters appear to embrace the bright lights and the attention.
Garcia fights to the level of his opposition and the greater the opposition, the better he performs. This should be an excellent fight this weekend, Garcia’s right hand counters and his tendency to go to the body may be the difference.
“This is something that the fans are excited about and I’m truly looking forward to this fight,” says Thurman.
“I just want to keep living my dreams and working to become the best fighter in the world.”
We’ll see if Thurman can continue his path to achieving eternal greatness, or if Garcia can live up to his aspirations to unifying the titles in his second division.
“There’s no better feeling than unifying the title. I did it at 140 and now I have the chance to accomplish my goals at 147. It’s up to me to take advantage of it.” Garcia said.
Final Prediction is Garcia by majority decision.