Thurman Looking to Continue Welterweight Ascension This Weekend

IMG_0534By Alex Beard (@alex_beard17)

Perhaps it’s different over the pond, but it seems that this weekend’s welterweight unification clash between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia is receiving a criminally meagre amount of publicity, at least in the UK. It speaks to Sky Sports’ stranglehold over British boxing that we are hearing more about a bizarre heavyweight bout between a man who hasn’t fought a competitive fight for four and a half years and a current cruiserweight world champion than a title fight between two unbeaten champions in the sport’s marquee weightclass.

Those whose attention has not been diverted by the Sky hype machine are aware of the magnitude of the fight going on at the Barclays Center on Saturday night. It’s rare in modern boxing to see two undefeated world champions going toe to toe with the tag of ‘best in the division’ on the line. We saw it recently with Andre Ward facing Sergey Kovalev and James DeGale against Badou Jack and look how those fights turned out.

Keith Thurman (27-0-KO22) has been on a steady rise up the welterweight rankings, starting with his stoppage of then-unbeaten Diego Chaves in July 2013 whereby he earned the WBA interim title. Since then he’s earned victories over the likes of Jesus Soto Karass, Robert Guerrero and most recently Shawn Porter. Although his knockout power hasn’t quite translated to the elite level, he’s clearly one of the hardest hitters in the weightclass.

His win over Porter last June showcased his boxing skills though, as he adapted mid-fight to accommodate his less subtle opponent. Porter’s style is very straightforward – literally. But it’s proved extremely effective and it takes a talented fighter to beat him. Thurman showed that he could take a step back and use his footwork and counter punching to outpoint the rugged Porter.

It was a career-best victory and showed that Thurman is indeed an elite welterweight. Some punters are still sceptical, however, but they will surely be convinced if he emerges victorious from his fight with Danny Garcia (33-0-KO19) this weekend. It could be argued that Garcia has faced a higher level of competition throughout his career, with ‘Swift’ claiming notable scalps from Amir Khan, Zab Judah and Lucas Matthysse amongst others.

His welterweight career has lasted all of three fights thus far, stoppages of Paulie Malignaggi and Samuel Vargas and a decision victory over Robert Guerrero that mirrored Thurman’s. He claimed the vacant WBC title against Guerrero and he will put that on the line on Saturday along with ‘One Time’s’ WBA strap.

Garcia has a tendency to step up his game when the odds are against him. He was fancied by few going into his breakout win over Khan and favoured by even less ahead of his tilt with Matthysse. Both times Garcia produced excellent performances and he has continued to do so even when he’s written off. He doesn’t have the power of Thurman but he does everything well, from boxing to brawling.

It will be interesting to see which fighter claims the centre of the ring this weekend. Both men have shown they are capable of boxing on the back foot, and counter punches have resulted in some of their best moments inside the ropes. But someone will have to come forward and it may well be Thurman. If he senses that Garcia’s punches don’t have enough to hurt him, then Thurman may fight going forwards much more than he did against Porter.

A victory this weekend will rubberstamp Thurman as a top three fighter in the 147lb. weightclass, alongside Kell Brook and Manny Pacquiao who both have intriguing fights coming up soon. The pecking order of the division could soon become clear, but if Thurman can claim back-to-back wins over Porter and Garcia then he may well emerge as the no.1 welterweight in the world.

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