BY BARRY WILNER
NEW YORK (AP) — A combined record of 60-0, with 41 knockouts. A likely full Barclays Center. Network television.
Boxing can always use an event that makes folks take notice. And this welterweight unification bout figures to be quite a show Saturday night when WBA champion Keith Thurman fights WBC titleholder Danny Garcia .
Both can punch. Both can box. Neither backs up.
Thurman is 27-0 with 22 KOs. Garcia is 33-0 with 19 knockouts.
“This fight has been brewing and that’s the reason why this is happening,” said Thurman, who then proved he knows the ways of the ring by referring to himself in the third person. “I’m really happy to be in this moment. Keith Thurman’s had a dream since he was a little boy, to be not just your average champion, but a great champion.”
Beating Garcia might put him at that level. Even though Garcia has more bouts and some very impressive victories, he’s considered something of an underdog. But he’s as good as anyone Thurman has faced, including Shawn Porter, who lost a unanimous decision in a terrific fight in Brooklyn last June.
Thurman has held some version of the WBA crown since 2013. Garcia’s been the WBA champion since outpointing Robert Guerrero 13 months ago. He’s also held a variety of lightweight belts.
He promises he is ready for what could be a career-defining night.
“I’ve been the underdog before,” Garcia said. “All underdog means is that there are a whole bunch of people who don’t know what I can do. I rise to the occasion every time. I win because I’m better. On Saturday night, I’m going to prove it again.
“I fight to win. I fight to secure my family’s future and that’s what it’s all about. That’s what we train so hard for. I’m going to give the fans something to watch on Saturday.
“Legacy is very important to me. I have more milestones than Thurman. This is his biggest fight. I’ve been in big fights before. Every championship fight is a part of history.”
Ah, history. Way back in 1981, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns fought for the same titles, an instant classic bout that solidified both of their credentials as Hall of Famers. No one is claiming Thurman-Garcia will be the stuff of legend, but it’s rare in boxing nowadays to get clearly the top two guys in a weight class together in the ring. That’s particularly true when both fighters are in their primes — each is 28 — and are big-time knockout artists.
It’s also rare to see such a fight not on pay-per-view television; CBS has this one, using Showtime’s crews.
“The fact that this fight is on broadcast television on CBS is a huge plus for our business and anyone who loves boxing,” promoter Lou DiBella said. “For a fight of this magnitude to be available to so many people is a tremendous thing for boxing.”
The undercard has some intriguing fighters, too.
Erickson Lubin carries the nickname “Hammer” and has stopped 12 of his 17 opponents in a spotless three-plus year career. At 20, he recognized he has an excellent opportunity to establish himself as a super welterweight force against Jorge Cota of Mexico.
“If you don’t know me now, you will after Saturday night,” he said. “Come Saturday night, I’m going to make my mark in the division. I will become the youngest champion this year. Mark my words.”
Cota is no slouch, though, with a 25-1 mark and 22 knockouts. Until an August decision over Yudel Johnson in Florida, Cota had never fought outside Mexico.
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