Keith Thurman built his “One Time” reputation by piling up knockouts on his way to winning a world title. But to beat Danny Garcia and pronounce himself as the true king of the 147-pound division, he had to rely on his full array of skills for 12 rounds.
Thurman had just enough in his toolbox to finish the job Saturday night and earn a split decision over Garcia to unify 147-pound world titles before a crowd of 16,533 in the highest attended boxing match at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
In an increasingly tactical fight, Keith Thurman earned winning scores of 116-112 and 115-113 from judges John McKaie and Joe Pasquale, respectively, while Kevin Morgan had it 115-113 for Danny Garcia.
“I thought I outboxed him,” Thurman said. “I thought it was a clear victory, but Danny came to fight. I knew when it was split and I had that widespread [score], I knew it had to go to me.
"This was the first time I fought a real undefeated fighter and I demonstrated my skills tonight. I made my team proud.”
The bout was just the 10th title unification in division history, and only the third between a pair of unbeaten fighters.
“I came up short tonight,” said Garcia, a former unified 140-pound champion who was fighting in his eighth world title bout. “I thought I was the aggressor. I thought I pushed the pace. But it didn't go my way.”
Both 28-year-old champions were uncharacteristically aggressive early on as Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) looked to establish his power and Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) used his left hook with effectiveness in a pair of action-packed rounds to open the bout.
The fight became more measured as it progressed with Thurman relying on his lateral movement to disrupt Garcia’s timing before attacking. By the end of Round 4, Thurman had caused swelling under his opponent’s right eye.
Garcia continued to score with his left hook through the middle rounds, although he was warned for a low blow in the seventh.
It was in the second half of the fight that Thurman showed the extent of his talents as he doubled up on his jab and landed a couple of solid right uppercuts in Round 9.
“ This was the first time I fought a real undefeated fighter and I demonstrated my skills tonight. I made my team proud. ” Keith Thurman
With Garcia resigned at times to sit back and wait for Thurman to provide openings, the Barclays crowd grew restless in the 10th and tried to exhort the Philadelphia native with chants of “Dan-ny, Dan-ny.”
Following that round, Thurman’s trainer, Dan Birmingham, encouraged his charge to “box smart” down the stretch with the belief that he was ahead on the cards.
Thurman pulled back the reins over the final two rounds and was content to use his movement to stay out of range. Garcia forced Thurman to engage him over the final minute, but in the end it wasn’t enough to pull out the victory.
"I know I was backing up and being defensive, but I feel like a lot of Danny's power punches were ineffective,” Thurman said. "I was controlling the fight from the outside. There were some rounds that I was dominating. I knew that I had pulled ahead. We felt like we definitely earned the victory tonight.”
According to CompuBox statistics, Thurman landed 147 of 570 total punches (26 percent) compared to 130 of 434 (30 percent) for Garcia. The Clearwater, Florida, native also connected on 102 of 275 power shots (37 percent), while Garcia landed 89 of 222 (40 percent).
“It was a tough fight,” Garcia said. “I thought I came back strong. I thought I won the fight. It was close, but I thought I did enough to win.
“It is what it is. I can't cry over anything, I'll come back strong like a true champion. I would love to have a rematch to get my titles back.”
For a complete look at Thurman vs Garcia, visit our fight page.