Mancuso: Garcia vs. Thurman: Heyday of Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran

Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia will cement their names in boxing history Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn New York because one of the premier welterweights will become a unified champion.  In boxing fights like this are anticipated though disappointment is also known which was witnessed with the fiasco and outcome of Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao.

Sugar Ray Leonard will be at ringside analyzing the 12-round showdown for the CBS/Showtime Premier Boxing Champions prime time telecast, the second boxing show on the network in 40-years.  And ratings, which are so important for the sport are sure to surpass Thurman and Shawn Porter last year that was also held at Barclays and viewed by 4 million.

That was a fight of the year candidate and this one has that potential to be.  Importantly this a championship fight that makes boxing special and reminiscent of that strong era of the 1980’s when Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Leonard had their epic wars in the ring.

Said promoter Lou DiBella who plays a major role in these PBC events, “The fact that this fight is on broadcast television on CBS is a huge plus for our business and anyone who loves boxing. For a fight of this magnitude available to so many people is a tremendous thing for boxing.”

Back then it was Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran fighting for one or two major titles that were prominent in the sport and the venue was a spacious outdoor arena at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Of course, the boxing industry was also a prominent part of the Vegas strip and revenue from those mega fights made the venue a logical option to promote the top fighters in the sport that were televised on closed circuit and later with a profitable pay-per-view industry.

The scene has shifted. Pay-Per-View fights, with exception of that Mayweather-Pacquiao disaster, are not as lucrative and the promoters are making fights for the fans and available on prime time television networks. If not a part of HBO Championship Boxing there is this one that Showtime, a subsidiary of CBS will televise for free.

The PBC was a key factor in putting Garcia and Thurman together and all expectations are fans will see that potential fight of the year.  Both fighters are credible champions with Garcia, 33-0, 19 KO’s, holder of the WBC title and more comfortable fighting at 147 for the fourth time after a title reign at junior welterweight. Thurman, also undefeated, 27-0, 22 KO’s, has been fighting as a welter most of his career and looks to keep his portion of the WBA title.

Yes, unification of boxing titles and that is a rare commodity in the sport. Go back again in boxing history and those Hagler-Hearns, Leonard, and Duran fights all had title ramifications and the major titles up for grabs, with the fighters, kept the sport of boxing busy and a bonanza at the box office.

Barclays Center expects to break the bank for Garcia-Thurman Saturday night. Executives are expecting the gate to surpass as they say, “to be one of the biggest non-Nets sporting event in terms of gross revenue in Barclays Center history.” The Nets of course the NBA team and Barclays Center as their home court but this is a promotion and also reasonable ticket prices that will also lure in the fans.

So there is that difference for this welterweight unification showdown at the box office. Those epic fights in the division back then were for the boxing fan but catered more to the casino player known as “high rollers” that would leave the fight and head right to the gaming table.

And with the 147-pound division as one of the hottest in the sport, Garcia and Thurman became the anticipated fight and New York as the host.  A few months ago with a million dollar bond issue on the table in New York, with the New York State Athletic Commission, this was a fight that was not happening at Barclays or across the river at Madison Square Garden.

But this anticipated fight is here and the memories of Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran will be revived in a different time with two interesting fighters. Garcia says the 147 weight makes him stronger and Thurman uses his ability to box and punch.  

“What really matters is how the fight starts,” said Thurman. “You find out if the fighter carries momentum, or if it shifts. What happens, when we land our first big punches? I feel that I can box my way to victory. I visualize outcomes. I don’t think Danny wins without a stoppage. If it goes to the scorecards, it’ll favor me.”

Of course, Garcia sees the fight going his way. Just like Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran who were always confident days before a mega fight in Las Vegas.

“People say he’s the bigger man because he’s been at this weight longer than me,” said Garcia. “I’m taller than him, I’m wider than him and I have a bigger back than him. I feel like I’m the fresher welterweight.”

This one could go the distance and in hands of the judges. Of course, Thurman and Garcia want the stoppage to avoid any controversy because a fight of this magnitude does not need controversy that always seems to ruin a good fight that goes the distance.

Take your pick and watch this one carefully.  Instincts say this fight goes the distance and it will be a barn burner and toss up as to who prevails. Will Thurman become a two-time champion or will there be the inevitable return bout?

 More so, boxing is again televised on prime time television and reminiscing about those memorable fights of the past will resurface in a ring at the Barclays Center .

Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso


About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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