A record-setting crowd filled Barclays Center on Saturday night for a historic fight as two undefeated welterweight champions met in the ring.
In just the 10th unification bout in the division’s history, Keith “One Time” Thurman brought his WBA belt and Danny “Swift” Garcia put the WBC title on the line. After pressing the action early and controlling it late, Thurman emerged triumphant by a split decision, winning 116-112 and 115-113 on two cards, while one judge went for Garcia 115-113 in the tightly contested battle.
“I thought it was a clear victory, but Danny came to fight,” said Thurman, who improved to 28-0. “I knew when it was split and I had that wide spread, I knew it had to go to me.”
“I came up short tonight,” said Garcia, who was making his sixth appearance in the Barclays Center ring. “I thought I was the aggressor. I thought I pushed the pace. But it didn’t go my way.”
Decisive wins by rising contenders Erickson Lubin and Sergey Lipinets warmed up the crowd for the featured bout. From the start, Thurman and Garcia didn’t disappoint.
The first few rounds were filled with powerful exchanges. Over the course of the fight, Thurman threw 136 more punches than Garcia – 570 to 434 – and that aggressiveness was evident early on.
Confident in his advantage, Thurman turned tactical, opting for defense and jabs to keep Garcia at bay. Pushing to close the gap, Garcia attacked but couldn’t make enough of an impact.
“I was not giving the fight away,” said Thurman. “I felt like we had a nice lead, we could cool down. I felt like we were controlling the three-minute intervals every round. My defense was effective – he wasn’t landing.”
The 21st boxing event hosted by Barclays Center was the arena’s biggest, but it’s also just part of huge 2017 planned by BROOKLYN BOXING. It began with another unification bout in January as super middleweights Badou Jack and James DeGale battled to a draw. A multi-fight schedule with Premier Boxing Champions at both Barclays Center and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum Presented By New York Community Bank is slated for the coming months.
“We will be host to multiple championship events between both venues this year,” said Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark, “and are also looking forward to creating more exposure for our BrooklynBoxingShop.com business through the nation’s best boxing series.”
Before boxing returns to Barclays Center, the face of BROOKLYN BOXING, Daniel Jacobs, will take on undefeated Gennady Golovkin, holder of four title belts, on March 18.
The WBA world middleweight title-holder, Jacobs will bring a 32-1 record with 29 knockouts into the ring against 36-0 Golovkin.
“If you believe in yourself, no matter how you feel about the situation, no matter how anybody else feels about the situation, you’ve got to take that leap of faith in yourself, and then you’ll see what you’re made of,” said Jacobs. “It’s about rising to the occasion. And all the greats always rise to the occasion. Even under that pressure. Even with feeling nervous. In so many different circumstances, you have to rise to the occasion. And, for me, I think that’s what I’ve been able to do very well.”
Next up at Barclays Center will be another welterweight battle between Shawn Porter and Andre Berto on April 22. Both fighters are former champions, with Porter having held the IBF belt and Berto the WBC title.
“They don’t have belts,” said PBC’s Lou DiBella, “but they’re champions.”
This will be Porter’s return to the ring after last year’s narrow unanimous decision loss to Thurman at Barclays Center. The 29-year-old has a 26-2-1 record, with the other loss to IBF welterweight champ Kell Brook.
“He’s got great speed, great counterpunching ability,” said Thurman of Berto. “I think that was something else that kind of got me in the fight with Keith Thurman. Good offense, but I left my head there a few times, a few times more than I needed to, which gave him a few rounds throughout the fight that ended up getting me the loss in the fight.”
Since undergoing shoulder surgery in 2013, Berto has won two of his last three fights, the only loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. The 33-year-old with the 31-4 career record responded to the Mayweather loss with a vicious seventh-round knockout of Victor Ortiz last April. Ortiz had handed Berto his first career loss in taking the WBC belt from him in 2011.
A different fighter than he was in 2011, Berto is looking forward to continuing his resurgence and reclaiming the title he once held.
“Make sure every move and every punch and every ounce of energy I generate is for a purpose,” said Berto. “I just had ridiculous athletic ability. I was strong, fast, didn’t know what I was doing with it though. They just let me out the cage and I would just go. Now it’s a lot more structure to what we’re doing. It’s making it a lot more effective.”
The Berto-Porter winner will get a mandatory shot at the WBC title, now held by Thurman after his victory over Garcia. Should Porter emerge victorious, it would set up a rematch with Thurman. Back in June 2016, the two waged one of the top fights of the year in a narrow decision that went to Thurman at Barclays Center.
“Only thing on my mind right now is the WBC title,” said Porter. “That is the only thing on my mind. Turned pro a long time ago and not long after I made it a goal of mine before I retired to win that WBC title. I feel like that’s about to happen. Obviously I got something to work on April 22nd, not looking past through you at all Andre Berto. Respect you as a man, respect you as a fighter, you know that. We are friends. But like you all saw me and Keith Thurman, good friends too, night of the fight it’s all about the business. Now it’s all about getting that WBC title.”
After Thurman-Porter and Thurman-Garcia, it’s the latest powerhouse welterweight matchup to come to Barclays Center. Until Thurman’s win over Garcia, the division’s four belts belonged to four different men. And there’s a wealth of contenders in the loaded division, such as rising star Errol Spence Jr.
“Let’s map something out so maybe at the end of ‘17 or early ‘18 we could be talking about something pretty close to an undisputed champion,” said Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president at SHOWTIME. “It’s guys like this who are cooperating, and Kell Brook and Danny and Keith. It takes them cooperating, because there’s certainly no contract in place. Let’s clarify things. We have one of the deepest divisions in the sport. Let’s get to work here and find out who’s the best.”
“This thing’s been building for about four and a half years,” said Yormark. “We made a major commitment to boxing. Fortunate enough to work with Stephen and Lou and tonight I think is indicative of what this thing can become on a regular basis. April 22nd should be another special night, and there’s more to come.”