When Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia clash in a matchup of 147-pound world champions, the unbeaten 28-year-old titleholders will do so with lineal connections to legends Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns while competing in just the 10th title unification in division history.
Keith Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs) holds the title Hearns once possessed, while Danny Garcia (33-0, 19 KOs) holds Leonard’s former crown heading into their meeting Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (CBS, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Working as a ringside analyst for CBS, Leonard will have a front-row seat for a battle whose winner he calls “the man to beat in the welterweight division.”
“This fight reminds me of my incredible bout against Tommy Hearns. There’s nothing better in boxing than when champions meet to unify a division,” says Leonard, whose September 1981 Fight Of The Year with Hearns is among the most celebrated 147-pound bouts of all time.
“I’ve watched Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman develop as young men and mature both inside and outside of the ring. Now they are both champions facing their biggest test. I truly believe this fight could go either way.”
Thurman-Garcia will be just the third 147-pound title unification between undefeated fighters in boxing history. In the other two, Donald Curry (23-0, 17 KOs) scored a second-round KO of Milton McCrory (27-0-1, 22 KOs) in December 1985, and Felix Trinidad (35-0, 30 KOs) won a close majority decision over Oscar De La Hoya (31-0, 25 KOs) in September 1999.
Both fighters made weight Friday, with Thurman hitting the scale at 146¼ pounds and Garcia coming in at 146½.
Thurman is 2-0 at Barclays Center, and the Clearwater, Florida, native is fighting there for the second straight time after earning a unanimous decision over former world champion Shawn Porter in June in a Fight Of The Year candidate.
“For the Shawn Porter fight, that arena was full of electricity. I could hear the fans throughout the entire fight,” Thurman says. “I think I'll be able to enforce my will on [Garcia] more than I was able to against Shawn Porter. The third time is the charm. We're coming for that knockout.”
Garcia is 5-0 with three KOs at Barclays, and earned a ninth-round TKO of former two-division titleholder Paulie Malignaggi in his last fight there in August 2015. The lifelong Philadelphia resident has also defeated current and former champions Lamont Peterson, Zab Judah and Erik Morales at the Brooklyn arena.
“The atmosphere at Barclays Center is amazing. I can't wait to fight in front of those great fans again,” Garcia says. “I'm definitely a better fighter than Keith Thurman. He's never been in the ring with a guy like me. I'm the better counterpuncher. I'm sharper and I'll prove it on Saturday night.”
“ This fight reminds me of my incredible  bout against Tommy Hearns. There’s nothing better in boxing than when champions meet to unify a division. ” Sugar Ray Leonard
Thurman (March 2015) and Garcia (January 2016) both earned unanimous decisions over southpaw former champion Robert Guerrero, who was dropped in the ninth round by Thurman.
“I know Guerrero picks Thurman, who got to Guerrero before Danny did, but I don’t think there’s much to learn from that,” says boxing historian Steve Farhood, who will serve as CBS’ unofficial ringside scorer.
“With the stakes the way they are, I see a long, probable distance fight. If it's a chess match, it will be a high-level, fast-paced chess match.”
A tactical counterpuncher with power, Garcia’s best weapon is his left hook, which earned consecutive fourth-round knockouts of Morales (October 2012) and Amir Khan (July 2012). It was with that same punch that former world champion Luis Collazo caught and nearly knocked down Thurman before “One Time” came back to earn a seventh-round TKO in July 2015.
Garcia can also box, looking spectacular during a unanimous decision over Lucas Matthysse in September 2013 in the fourth of his five 140-pound title defenses. In that bout, "Swift” Garcia endured a mouthpiece-ejecting right to the jaw in the 10th round but came back to floor Matthysse in the 11th.
“Garcia has a big left hook, but I don’t know that he'll be able to rely on one punch since Thurman’s been a full-fledged welterweight for his entire career,” Farhood says. “Garcia must be aggressive, put punches together and force Thurman into a volume-punching type of a fight.”
Thurman’s best chances at winning might stem from using his lateral movement and turning Garcia’s aggression against him much in the way Peterson did in the second half of his fight with the Philly native in April 2015.
“Thurman’s a slightly better boxer, throws slightly straighter punches and may be happy with a chess match,” Farhood says. "Danny’s got to rev up the pace like Porter forced a fast pace.
“Danny will try to box his way inside, but Thurman’s shown he can handle that. Ultimately, I think whichever fighter backs up the most severely hurts his chances of winning.”
For a complete look at Thurman vs Garcia, visit our fight page.