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Thurman vs Garcia: Fight preview and breakdown

You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that this is a must-see fight, but I’ll tell you, anyway.

Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Keith Thurman vs Danny Garcia

Keith Thurman

Keith Thurman v Shawn Porter Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images

Record: 27-0 (22 KO) ... Streak: W27 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7½" / 69" ... Age: 28

Thoughts: Keith Thurman has advantages in this fight. He’s perceived as the bigger puncher, for instance. Whether or not that’s really true, I’m not totally certain. Plus, well, he’s better-liked. Garcia is half a villain in the boxing world. Thurman is pretty well regarded. It matters, at least in terms of how people think about matchups a lot of the time. There is an instinct to root, and Thurman probably has more people rooting for him than Garcia does.

That, of course, won’t matter once it gets going. But Thurman is a good, well-rounded fighter, and he showed us basically everything in his toolbox last time out against Shawn Porter in June 2016, his lone fight of the year. He had to box. He had to brawl. He had to think. He had to maneuver and plan and execute various plans.

Porter tried to make it a rough fight. He succeeded. Thurman scraped by, winning on unanimous scores of 115-113, a totally fair decision. Garcia probably won’t try give Thurman the same troubles, but he’s going to give him troubles. And now we’ll have to see how Keith does against someone who is a top fighter, and doesn’t come charging forward much of the time. Probably, anyway. I have no idea if perhaps Angel Garcia has cooked up a kamikaze game plan. Who knows?

This fight pretty much sells itself, so I don’t really have a ton to say. Let’s move on to Garcia.

Danny Garcia

PBC on Spike: Danny Garcia v Samuel Vargas Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Record: 33-0 (19 KO) ... Streak: W33 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'8½" / 68½" ... Age: 28


OK, I needed to yell that. I feel, perhaps wrongly (?), that Garcia is being a little overlooked here. As if he’s a clear underdog. As if he doesn’t present some serious potential matchup issues for Thurman.

Garcia is one of the smartest top fighters out there. He knows his way around the ring, doesn’t get himself in big trouble often, and his struggles have come against fellow crafty fighters like Mauricio Herrera and Lamont Peterson, guys who also don’t often look to do more than is presented to them.

But Keith Thurman has some of that in his game, too. He talks a big game about being “One Time” and bringing the action, but Thurman is no reckless dummy. When he doesn’t see a path to a KO, he doesn’t push it, as evidenced when he faced Leonard Bundu, who tried to play keepaway, basically.

So it’s perhaps up to Garcia to try and bait Thurman into making aggressive mistakes. Danny’s a good counter puncher, and he’s got more pop than his record might indicate, though his power has been questioned a bit as a welterweight, even though he’s 3-0 (2 KO) at the weight.

The biggest question for Garcia is level of opposition at the weight. He’s beaten Paulie Malignaggi, Robert Guerrero, and most ridiculously, Samuel Vargas. Thurman is a whole new level for him at 147. But Garcia has proven himself plenty already. He’ll look to do it yet again.

Matchup Grade: A. Not much more you can ask. A unification fight between two unbeaten, in-prime fighters, both still fighting like they have something to prove, both of whom want to be recognized as the best in the world. Fair or unfair to Manny Pacquiao, the winner of this fight might well be seen as that guy, simply on the level of competition faced in this fight alone. This is the sort of fight we wanted to see headlining network TV when PBC made a big deal of buying time on the networks. This is what PBC is supposed to be. This is what boxing is supposed to be.

Erickson Lubin vs Jorge Cota

Erickson Lubin

PBC on NBC: Jermall Charlo v Wilky Campfort Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Record: 17-0 (12 KO) ... Streak: W17 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'11" / 76" ... Age: 21

Thoughts: A great prospect, Lubin has stayed busy and improved his game as a pro thus far, not always looking super demolishing or anything, but working on his craft. That’s probably better in the long run.

That’s not to say he doesn’t still have some flaws. He does. Some are youthful exuberance. Some are inexperience. Some are just flaws, like everyone has. And they may be flaws that Jorge Cota can expose, at least to some degree.

In 2016, Lubin went 4-0, beating Jose de Jesus Macias, Daniel Sandoval, Ivan Montero, and Juan Ubaldo Cabrera, the last win coming on December 10, via second round knockout. All of those fights were good steps on the path for Lubin, and that’s what this fight is, too. He should win, and it’s what it is, meant to be a showcase, but he’s not been matched easy, either. If he makes it easy, it’s his talent talking.

Jorge Cota

Alex Menendez/Getty

Record: 25-1 (22 KO) ... Streak: W9 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: N/A / N/A" ... Age: 29

Thoughts: Cota has power, as evidenced by his KO rate. He’s not got the natural talent of Lubin, but he also doesn’t have the natural talent of Yudel Jhonson, and he beat Jhonson in his last fight.

The big red flag is that Cota’s last fight came in August 2015. So it’s worth wondering what kind of shape he’ll be in, how prepared he’ll be for a tough fight, and so on. Also, the Jhonson win was by far the best of his career, and Jhonson isn’t exactly a world beater. Cota’s loss came back in 2012 against Marco Antonio Rubio at middleweight, a TKO-7 defeat. He’s fought between 147 and 160 in his career, settling in at 154 for his last couple of outings.

Matchup Grade: C+. It’s a perfectly fine step for Lubin on paper, and could be more danger than we recognize. That last win of Cota’s was solid. Lubin is a blue chip prospect, but we’ve seen those guys fail before.

Andrzej Fonfara vs Chad Dawson

Andrzej Fonfara

Andrzej Fonfara v Nathan Cleverly Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

Record: 28-4 (16 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 3-2 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'2½" / 77" ... Age: 29

Thoughts: A tough, scrappy fighter, Fonfara is nonetheless coming off of a TKO-1 shocker defeat at the hands of Joe Smith Jr, who would go on to knock Bernard Hopkins’ career out of the ring six months later. So that loss doesn’t really look so bad. Smith can thump. We know that.

But where is Fonfara’s head at? Losses can do unseen damage, especially losing in 2:32 in your hometown in a fight where you were so clearly favored that the bout was all but laughed off by a lot of alleged experts, including alleged me, allegedly. (Not that I allege I am an expert, necessarily, but then that’s a whole other discussion, and this is not about me, it’s about these fights. Right? Right. Good. Let’s move on.)

I like Fonfara. For one thing, his 2015 was just fantastic. First, he beat Julio Cesar Chavez Jr from pillar to post, then Chavez complained about Fonfara being too big. This was comical, and I was greatly amused. Then he had a fantastic fight with Nathan Cleverly, a real blood and guts type of war, the sort of thing that the revered Saint Arturo Gatti would look down upon from his perch in the great beyond, no doubt, smiling through bloodied teeth, nodding that it was Good.

Then came Smith. Now Fonfara is in a pickle. And this is an absolute must-win scenario for him. To stay in contention at 175, he needs the win. I mean, that’s good narrative, at least. I don’t know that it’s true. He could probably lose or draw and get a world title shot of some sort, because boxing is kinda dumb and throws logic out the window when at all possible. But it’s important that he win. Or at least it should be.

Chad Dawson

Chad Dawson v Cornelius White Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Record: 34-4 (19 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 3-2 ... Last 10: 5-4 (1 NC) ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 6'1" / 76½" ... Age: 34

Thoughts: Five years ago, Chad Dawson was recognized as the best light heavyweight in the world. He’d beaten Bernard Hopkins in a rematch of their farcical first bout, and less than five months later, he took a risk, moving down to super middleweight for a big fight on HBO with Andre Ward.

That did not go well. Whether he was drained or whatever, Ward took Dawson apart and made him quit in the 10th round. The fight wasn’t competitive. Dawson moved back up to 175 nine months later to defend his WBC title, and Adonis Stevenson put him away in 76 seconds. His career has never recovered.

Dawson is one of the most curious fighters of his generation. He’s always had talent, and his crafty southpawness made him a bad style matchup for the likes of even Hopkins. But there have always been questions about his desire and focus. He’s changed trainers like most of us change socks, which is never a good sign. Those trainers have in turn questioned how much he really cared about boxing at all, at least sometimes.

Now 34, Dawson’s career is at the brink. Either he wins this fight and finds his way back into the mix at 175, or he’s basically irrelevant. Since losing to Stevenson, he’s gone 3-1, beating George Blades, Dion Savage, and Cornelius White, but he also dropped a decision against Tommy Karpency, a guy who plain should not beat Chad Dawson.

The question now is whether he really has anything left at all against a relevant opponent, or if he’s just done. That’s what he’ll answer one way or the other on Saturday.

Matchup Grade: C. This is desperate times for Chad Dawson. A loss here, and you can write him off for good, basically, as far as ever being a contender again goes. But with a win, he’s alive and in the game. Fonfara also cannot afford the loss. The fight isn’t a marquee attraction, and there’s a chance Dawson is just plain dunzo as it is, so I can’t give it a higher grade. But I’m interested.

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