Last October, when Showtime Sports announced seven-marquee boxing matchups to end 2016 and start 2017, fans were elated. The bouts pit top 10 champions against top 10 challengers, and each fight had the star power needed to corral the old viewership and grow a new base of fight fans.
This weekend, we have arrived at the last of the seven matchups, when Keith “One Time” Thurman faces off against Danny “Swift” Garcia, and there couldn’t be a better culmination point.
Let’s start with the social media war between the two where Thurman, the current WBA Super welterweight champion, has assumed the role of ringleader for the fans that believe Garcia cherry picks his opponents. Online taunts of “Cherry Garcia” have produced subsequent fan memes of Garcia’s face appearing on the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream box.
At the January 18th pre-fight press conference, promoter Lou DiBella did his best to orchestrate a classy affair until Keith Thurman rubbed Garcia's father/trainer Angel all the way wrong during his podium time. What resulted was the elder Garcia grabbing the microphone and berating Thurman with insults and racially sensitive street epithets before attempting to fight Thurman on the dais.
The disgust was clear from Showtime Sports Executive Vice President and General Manager Stephen Espinoza and set the tone for a true bad blood feud between the two champions. The elder Garcia’s horrible choice of street vernacular aside, this is what boxing needs. The pressure to prove who is the best has never been higher and with the departure of Floyd “Money“ Mayweather from active competition, the top athletes are all vying to fill that void.
Thurman (27-0) has never been shy about self-promotion. Having trained with the late Ben Getty and currently working with Dan Birmingham at the St. Pete Boxing Club in Florida, Thurman was sparring with Winky Wright when he was a boy. He has the pedigree and after starting his career at light middleweight, he entered the welterweight division at the Barclay’s Center back in 2013.
It was a natural fit and Thurman won the WBA welterweight title that year with a 10th round TKO victory over Diego Chaves. Since then, he has knocked out Jesus Soto Karass and had wars with Robert Guerrero, Leonard Bundu and most recently Shawn Porter.
Thurman campaigned hard for a shot at Mayweather before his retirement but did not succeed. Welterweight supremacy is clearly his only concern right now. Enter Danny Garcia.
Garcia, unbeaten at 33-0, is the self-proclaimed “Philly Rican” who has always been half fan favorite and half villain. It is clear the father-son duo know how to win, having demolished the light welterweight ranks and racking up titles along the way.
But his fights against Mauricio Herrera and Lamont Peterson gave the fans fodder, dispelling them as unjust majority decision wins. Then Garcia entered the welterweight ranks, knocking out Rod Salka and then Paulie Malignaggi, both at the Barclay’s Center. After securing the WBC welterweight title against Robert Guerrero last year, the stage was set for the two top welterweights to finally meet.
Whoever wins this Saturday's bout, which will be broadcast live on CBS, will indeed wear the crown, not simply because of the two belts they will hold, but this meeting of undefeated champs in their prime is what the fans want to see most.
Aside from the man who walks out of the ring victorious, the true winners are the fans and Showtime Sports, who finally are in tandem with premier boxing offerings that should help create a newly insatiable appetite for pugilism.