One of the year’s most anticipated fights failed to deliver on its promise, as Keith Thurman on Saturday won a narrow decision in a mostly-limp showdown with Danny Garcia that aired on CBS.
The long-awaited welterweight match-up started well enough, with Thurman coming out like old-school aggressive Thurman, and actually hurting Garcia, who doesn’t get hurt easily. In the early rounds, Garcia appeared confused by Thurman’s hot pace and unconventional timing, and wasn’t firing back much.
Garcia, though, began to get his patented left hook counter going, and began digging into Thurman’s ribs, an area where Thurman has shown vulnerability before and the spot where Garcia placed many of his overall hopes.
By the middle rounds it had devolved into a defensive exhibition marked by the occasional single shots or flurries, but the average snowfall wasn’t enough to mount to anything like a storm. Both men were well aware each could damage the other, and fought like it.
Garcia, finally becoming impatient, began to pick up the pace, and may have hurt Thurman badly to the body after all late in the 10th. Thurman’s corner apparently told him after that he had the fight in the bag, and he fought like it.
Thurman’s metamorphosis from an all-offense knockout artist… to a knockout artist with some boxing skill… to a guy who wants to outbox everyone and never try to knock them out… hit another level of dismal fan satisfaction Saturday. By the 11th and 12th, he was just plain running. And he damn near gave away the win. This writer scored it a draw.
In the end Thurman got a split decision win: 116-112, 113-115 and 115-113.
Neither man did himself any favors with this showing. Garcia didn’t punch enough until too late. Thurman didn’t punch enough late. It added up to an unappetizing tactical fight, with neither man much interested in taking risks to impress. That hit happened on a big stage made it all the more disappointing. There are tactical fights that are fun or interesting (see: Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev). This was the kind of fight you boo, and the kind of fight the live audience did.
(NEW YORK: Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia exchange punches during their welterweight bout at the Barclays Center; Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)