By Cliff Rold
Hardcore boxing followers may have been intrigued. Having seen far worse fights, they’ll easily convince themselves that ‘it wasn’t that bad.’
It would miss the point.
In the most anticipated fight so far of 2017, after a string of exciting fights this year including a blazing upset earlier in the day when Tony Bellew beat David Haye, boxing laid an egg. It was exactly the wrong kind of fight in front of the wrong mass of audience.
Last summer, Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter drew boxing’s biggest US television audience since Mayweather-Pacquiao. Free network television matters. Let’s hope some of that good will remains because any channel surfers on Saturday night wouldn’t have seen much to get them fired up about boxing in Thurman’s win over Danny Garcia.
No, it wasn’t a bad fight.
It was just pedestrian.
And, given a CBS stage and some solid promotion, that’s bad enough.
Let’s go the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Thurman B+; Garcia B+/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Thurman A-; Garcia B/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Thurman B; Garcia B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Thurman A; Garcia B+/Post: A; B
It didn’t start out that way. Round one was compelling stuff. Thurman rocked Garcia hard with Garcia seeming to buzz him shortly before the bell. By the midway point of the fight, the fight had lost a lot of that sizzle.
Much of that came down to a difference in speed. The hand speed wasn’t dramatically spread, but Thurman’s foot speed was a decided edge. He figured out early that Garcia could be handcuffed by movement. In a low output fight, that meant Thurman controlled the pace and often dictated when the exchanges would occur.
For most of the night, that meant it was his fight to lose.
Could he have tried to be more compelling? Yes, but in the end he got the victory without it. There were several rounds that could be circled in the swing category but it was hard work to try to find reasons to give them to Garcia. At the end of the night, the split decision came out right but it was still wrong. Thurman won the fight.
Garcia, who has been both the stunning underdog and the lucky receiver of scores, was more the latter on Saturday. Some fighters just have a consistent ability to draw scores even when they don’t appear to be winning. Garcia was just too ordinary this time for the judges to let him get away with it and Thurman had the name value men like Lamont Peterson and Mauricio Herrera didn’t.
But the closing scorecards were still aided a bit by the victor. Thurman gave away at least a couple of the last three rounds.
It might have been even closer than that if Garcia had ever really fought with urgency. Perhaps not realizing how much he needed to change the flow of the fight, the desperation he showed in the last minute of the fight was absent when it could have helped a lot more. To his credit, Garcia still showed some canny accuracy in counter punching, and was solid defensively in the pocket. However, he showed no ability to cut off the ring and made the mistake of following a moving target with one punch at a time too often.
In the end, some fighters just don’t mix for great action. These two appear to be that kind of pair. Split decision or not, nothing here screamed rematch. For Thurman, a mandatory against Lamont Peterson could be intriguing while a rematch with Shawn Porter would be welcome. Garcia can always chase the winner of Kell Brook-Errol Spence or perhaps take what would be an interesting fight with Adrien Broner.
Every fight can’t be a classic. This one was not. Get both men back in with opponents who bring out their more exciting qualities and this will just be one more night that folds into boxing’s past.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2017: 3-4
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]