March 1, 2017
March 1, 2017
Keith Thurman vs Danny Garcia

Amanda Westcott/Showtime

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WEEKS of deliberation has led me to this potentially damning conclusion: Danny Garcia will defeat Keith Thurman this Saturday (March 4).

Before you gather stones, hear me out. Here are several reasons why Garcia upsets the odds at Brooklyn, New York’s Barclays Center.

DISCIPLINE

Garcia’s camp has repeatedly uttered one word since this 147lb unification was announced: Discipline.

WBC champion Garcia is always in shape. He’s a 28-year-old family man whose Snapchats center around his daughter, workouts and Angel pretending to be the Puerto Rican James Brown. The Garcias do frequent Philly hot spots but like Floyd Mayweather, the clear stuff in Danny’s glass is water, not Grey Goose.

Thurman, also 28, doesn’t go all Ricky Fatton between fights, but he does walk around at 170lbs per his trainer Dan Birmingham. The WBA titlist has fought over the 147lbs limit 17 times in 28 bouts. His midsection looks cut on fight night but it probably resembles a post-40 Russell Crowe during the off-season.

Perhaps the weight cutting is why Thurman doesn’t react well to body blows. Luis Collazo and Shawn Porter doubled him over with rib shots. Thurman has hired a vegan chef to prepare daily meals during this camp. Too late maybe?

QUALITY OF OPPOSITION

Garcia has defeated Lucas Matthysse, Amir Khan, Lamont Peterson, and an underrated Mauricio Herrera among others. Naysayers moan that Herrera and Peterson deserved those decisions; but where they see losses, I see lessons. Garcia is battle-tested, having bested 10 past or present world champions.

Thurman’s resume isn’t as impressive but Shawn Porter is the best welterweight win on both records. They share one common name: Robert Guerrero. Thurman’s win was more convincing although he took more punishment.

STYLES

Garcia can box off his backfoot, as shown against Matthysse and Guerrero. He’s equally comfortable coming forward. However, his lead feet are a weakness—one that plays into Thurman’s strengths. Herrera’s boxing befuddled Garcia; Peterson’s movement gave him fits.

The athletic Thurman is dangerous when an opponent is stationary, utilizing his fast hands to unload combinations to the head and body with full force on each shot.

But aside from footwork, Thurman’s defense consists of little else—his wide punches are open for counters if you dare stand in the eye of the storm and return fire. Garcia is a natural counter-puncher willing to do just that, for better or worse.

The left hook is Garcia’s calling card but his overhand right is underrated. He used it more versus Guerrero and Samuel Vargas; a harbinger of Saturday night…

Thurman is susceptible to that shot. Porter tagged him several times, Jesus Soto-Karass rocked him and Julio Diaz stunned him with the right as well.

POWER

Has Garcia carried his power up to welterweight? He hurt Guerrero, stopped a career junior middle in Vargas and is still growing into the division. His power is respectable at worst.

Thurman’s reputation as a knockout percentage has taken a hit of late. He’s stopped one fighter since 2014; a bad cut over Luis Collazo’s right eye forced their bout to end early. Amir Khan says Thurman should change his moniker from “One Time” to “Sometimes.” Even so, he’s probably the hardest puncher Garcia has faced. Thurman has the edge here.

CHIN

Garcia is a proud owner of a Philadelphia chin. Aside from being briefly buzzed by Judah and maybe Peterson, he’s eaten plenty of heavy leather and barely taken a step back.

Thurman recovers well but was wobbled by Soto-Karass and Diaz stunned him. Not to mention Porter and Collazo’s body shots. Garcia’s greater punch resistance may be the difference—if he can handle a true welter’s power. On the other hand, Thurman has fought only once in 18 months. Can his whiskers withstand a war?

We’ll soon find out. Thurman-Garcia is only the third welterweight unification between undefeated boxers, De La Hoya-Trinidad and Curry-McCrory being the other two.  The Premier Boxing Champions card airs on CBS and could draw the highest U.S. TV viewership since 2005, when eight million tuned in for the “The Contender” season finale.

Here’s how I expect the action to play out: Thurman will reel off combinations and move. Garcia must be wary of his body attack. He’ll need to use his jab, close the gap and land his own downstairs. It’s a dangerous strategy but if he’s defensively responsible, his chin should be able to absorb the punches that slip through. Oddsmakers say it’s a longshot but I expect Garcia to land enough hard blows to keep Thurman on his bicycle long enough to win a split decision.