Thurman defeats Garcia by split decision to unify welterweight titles

Keith Thurman punches Danny Garcia, right, during the third round of a welterweight championship boxing match Saturday, March 4, 2017, in New York. Thurman won the fight. 

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

NEW YORK -- Keith Thurman built a big lead over Danny Garcia and held on to add the WBC welterweight title to his WBA championship Saturday night.

Thurman won his 28th straight fight and handed Garcia his first loss in 34 bouts. After five furious rounds to open things at Barclays Center, the pace slowed - even bringing boos from the large crowd at times. But it ended with a flourish of exchanges in the 12th and final round. And with Thurman holding up two belts.

Thurman won a split decision, getting scores of 116-112 and 115-113. Garcia, favored by a majority of the fans who loudly derided the announcement of the winner, won one card 115-113.

The AP scored it 115-113 for Thurman.

“I knew with a wide spread it had to go to me when I heard,” Thurman said about the decision.

“I thought I pushed the fight like a true champion and did enough to get the victory,” Garcia countered.

Thurman won a terrific bout with Shawn Porter at Barclays last June. This one wasn’t of such high quality throughout, but it had its moments.

Both fighters opened up without reservation, each missing several haymakers, but also landing solid punches. Thurman’s right leads were particularly effective, while Garcia, whose right eye was getting red by the fourth round, used his right hand to keep Thurman off-balance.

With each fighter capable of landing the one punch to end it, the crowd of 16,533 roared with every shot - until the sixth, when both guys got cautious. Despite all the previous action, the fans booed what clearly was the worst round of the bout.

It was nearly impossible to live up to the fury of the first five rounds, anyway, and only occasionally the rest of the way did the fight do so.

But Thurman tactically was being smart.

“I was not giving the fight away,” he said. “ I felt like we had a nice lead, we could cool down. I felt like we were controlling the 3-minute intervals in each and every round.”