Keith Thurman wanted to bring his own two judges to the ring and not rely on the ones sitting ringside Saturday night.
But when he couldn’t land a clean power punch and spent the final few rounds playing defense rather than being the aggressor like he was early on, the winner of his 12-round championship bout with Danny Garcia was left to the three officials.
And in a controversial split decision that a record 16,533 boisterous fans at Barclays Center did not agree with, Thurman emerged as the WBA and WBC welterweight champion of the world.
"I thought it was a clear victory, but Danny came to fight. I knew when it was split and I had that widespread, I knew it had to go to me.”
“The judges are judges,” Thurman said in the ring immediately after the decision came down. “I thought [I] out-boxed him. I thought it was a clear victory, but Danny came to fight. I knew when it was split and I had that widespread, I knew it had to go to me.”
Judge John McKaie had it in favor of Thurman, 116-112. Judge Kevin Morgan scored it 115-113 for Garcia. Judge Joe Pasquale had it 115-113 in favor of Thurman. Complex Sports scored it 7 rounds to 5 in favor of Thurman.
"I thought I won and I was pushing the fight,” Garcia said. “But it is what it is.”
It was the best matchup boxing had to offer in 2017 so far and while it may not have quite lived up to the hype, it was entertaining, technical, and historic nonetheless. The nationally televised unification match was just the third bout between unbeaten welterweight champions and just the second between champions with a perfect record.
Thurman, who told us two days before the fight he would look to land a home run in the first, just missed landing devastating blows at the start. He easily won the early rounds before Garcia found a groove and started to chip away at the lead. After a scintillating ninth round, Thurman mostly spent the final three rounds playing defense, avoiding unnecessary hits and risks.
“I was not giving the fight away. I felt like we had a nice lead, we could cool down,” Thurman said. “I felt like we were controlling the three-minute intervals every round. My defense was effective—he wasn’t landing.”
Thurman landed 37% of his power punches, connecting on 17 more than Garcia while throwing significantly more (570-434).
In the undercard, a WBC super welterweight elimination bout at 154 pounds, Erickson “Hammer” Lubin (18-0, 13 KO) clocked Jorge “Demonio” Cota (23-2, 20 KO) with a left cross 1:35 into the fourth round. It was a lopsided affair from the opening bell as Lubin peppered Cota with his jab then landed flush shots in the second and third rounds before leveling him with the left in the fourth.
“I baited him with the jab. I knew he was going to come with the big shots early,” said Lubin. “I put a few tricks on him.”