NEW YORK - Keith Thurman handed Danny Garcia his first professional loss Saturday night in a meeting of previously undefeated welterweight champs at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Thurman won a split decision over the Philadelphia fighter Garcia to consolidate control of the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association welterweight titles. Garcia dropped to 33-1. Thurman is 29-0.
Thurman came out swinging in Round 1 and jarred Garcia with a huge overhand right to establish early dominance. Garcia recovered and the battle subsequently became tactical and defensive, as the fighters made the other miss with big swings, Thurman landing left jabs and hooks, keeping Garcia from establishing a rhythm and raising some swelling around Garcia's left eye.
Garcia has been known to surge late in his fights, but Thurman successfully thwarted any comeback, moving laterally and parrying Garcia with long rights. There was little bombast in the fight, and no knockdowns. Garcia came on strong in Round 12, but it wasn't enough.
"I thought it was a clear victory, but Danny came to fight," Thurman said in the ring afterward. "If a judge likes his fight style, I understand." Thurman said he felt he had built an early lead and then battled to protect it.
The judges scored it 116-112 for Thurman, 115-113 for Garcia, and 115-113 for Thurman.
"I though I was the aggressor and I was pushing the fight like a true champion," Garcia said. "I thought I did enough to get the victory. It is what it is."
Garcia and Thurman, both age 28, brought similar resumés to their title-unification bout. During their careers, both have have displayed not just punching power and stamina but a ring intelligence that has allowed them to figure out opponents and take control as a fight wears on.
Both fighters had been known for measuring opponents in early rounds, then surging to score knockouts or to win close decisions. Garcia showed that skill against Amir Khan, who was outclassing underdog Garcia in the first two rounds of their 2012 fight.
Garcia turned the tables to score a fourth-round technical knockout. Last year, Thurman beat relentless challenger Shaun Porter with his own late-rounds adaptation.
Garcia, nicknamed "Swift," learned to box at the Harrowgate Boxing Club in Kensington. He's still trained by his father, Angel Garcia. He became an amateur champion before turning pro in 2007. In 2012, Garcia won a world title at 140 pounds by beating aging champion Erik Morales. Last year, having moved up to 147, he surged in late rounds to defeat Robert Guerrero and win the WBC welterweight crown that Floyd Mayweather had vacated upon retiring. Garcia won his previous fight, a Round 7 stoppage of Samuel Vargas. at Philadelphia's Liacouras Center in November.
Before last night, undefeated welterweight boxing champions hadn't met since 1999, when Felix Trinidad outpointed Oscar De La Hoya in what was promoted as the "fight of the millennium."
The Garcia-Thurman clash aired on free network television, marking a return to prime time for the sport. The attendance of 16,553 was said to be the biggest boxing audience at the Barclays Center since it opened in 2012.