The CBZ Newswire

Keith Thurman Edges Danny Garcia with Split Decision Win, Fonfara Crushes Dawson

by on Mar.07, 2017, under Boxing News

By ‘Ice’ John Scully

Former Light Heavyweight Contender and ex-trainer of ‘Bad’ Chad Dawson

Editor’s Note:  This report was delayed because Scully had to fly up to Montreal to work with light heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev.

BROOKLYN, NY — I love going to fights. I don’t care where they are or who is fighting in most cases. For me, attending fights is not just about the boxing matches. It’s more often than not a very simple way to reconnect and stay in touch with friends in the game as we hang out in our element and watch the show together. Fights in the greater New York City area are especially effective in this way as a great many of my boxing connects reside in the Northeast and highly publicized world title fights like Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia on February 4th at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn. They are the perfect type of event to draw them out.

As I drove to New York City this past Saturday for that fight, the closer I got to the arena in Brooklyn, the more filled with anticipation I became. Now I had originally planned to find parking at a no-doubt very expensive lot near the arena, but as luck would have it, a spur of the moment phone call with a longtime friend in the game, Jean Manon, resulted in her directing me to an area within walking distance to the arena that was safe and, just as importantly, free of charge. And as I parked on a particular street within the general area where she directed me to go, I looked at the street sign so that I could write the address down for when the fights were over. And as I caught sight of the address next to where my car was sitting I recognized it instantly as the former home street of a friend in the game, 1984 Olympic Champion Mark Breland.

If omens are real, I considered this development as one of the good ones.

Moments later, as I found myself half walking, half jogging through some of these Brooklyn streets, it occurred to me that I was only blocks away from the now famous arena where I would soon witness a welterweight unification match that would be broadcast to millions of homes. In my mind, in my way of thinking, I can’t possible have the words “welterweight unification match” go through my mind without automatically thinking of the first one that ever captured my attention, that being the September 16, 1981 welterweight unification match between Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy “Hitman” Hearns at Ceasars Palace in Las Vegas. From where I sit, you can never have any two guys match up for more than one piece of the welterweight title without comparing it in some way to that epic fight from 36 years ago.

At the very least, you have to at least contemplate as to whether the two welterweights you are about to watch do battle can put on the type of battle to at least somewhat rival the legendary “Showdown” between Tommy and Ray.

If the fight between Danny and Keith is even half as good as the one from 1981, then tonight is going to be more than alright with me.

After arriving at the Barclay and being issued my official press-row credentials for the night I stroll around the arena, first through the hallways that surround the main arena at the center and then inside the arena down near press row and ringside looking for familiar faces. It’s like a fight night ritual for me. At each and every show I attend, I always at some point find myself roaming around each area of the arena, looking for friendly faces from within the game.

First familiar face I see is that of my old friend and Showtime announcer Steve Farhood, one of the very best guys in the boxing game. We catch up for a few minutes, talking fights, talking old times. Good guy, Steve is.

Next up was former IBF junior middleweight champ Raul Marquez, yet another of boxing’s good guys, who was sitting at the front of press row with a headset on, getting ready to take care of his business in a little while as a ringside television broadcaster. I don’t want to hold him up so we chat for maybe 60 seconds before I let him get back to his pre-fight prepping.

Left to right: 'Iceman' John Scully, former 154 pound champ Winky Wright, world ranked light heavyweight contender Seanie Monaghan and Gentleman Gerry Cooney take in the Thurman-Garcia fight on Saturday.

Left to right: ‘Iceman’ John Scully, former 154 pound champ Winky Wright, world ranked light heavyweight contender Seanie Monaghan and Gentleman Gerry Cooney take in the Thurman-Garcia fight on Saturday.

As I’m heading back towards the outer hallway that surrounds the arena I run into former #1 heavyweight contender “Gentleman” Gerry Cooney who has just arrived. Gerry, here in his role as the co-host of the weekly Sirrius XM “Friday Night At the Fights” radio show along side Randy Gordon, is no stranger to the pre-fight scene in arenas and when he suggests we go down in search of the media room (and the buffett that comes with it) I know for sure that this is the move I want to make with him. Turns out to be a good one, too, as the pasta and sauce there that night turns out to be more than pretty good.

As I survey the press room I see many familiar faces. Boxing writer Tim Smith is at the next table while Muhammad Ali biographer Thomas Hauser is at ours, along with myself, Randy and Gerry. Former champ Lamont Petersen is up against a wall, laying back, checking the scene while another former champ Shawn Porter (and his dad, Kenny, both great guys) is a few feet away in the middle of a video interview. Self made Internet reporter/videographer Elie Sechback is there, too, making the rounds and he even interviews Gerry and I before we head out to ringside.

Yet another old friend, Reading, PA. based trainer/promoter Marshall Kauffman (his son is heavyweight Travis Kauffman) is there bringing me up to date on upcoming show he’s doing in Pennsylvania in a few weeks with his son and former cruiserweight champion Steve ‘SSS” Cunningham set to go in two of the main bouts of the night.

 

Fonfara vs. Dawson

At around 8:30 p.m. as I’m finally making my way towards ringside to settle in for the night, I glance up at the ring and see two guys going at it in the center of the ring. The marquee tells me their fight is in the 6th round. It only takes a few short seconds to recognize the stance and the moves of one of them as a man I trained previously at two junctures of his career, former WBC light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson. He’s boxing Andrzej Fonfara, the Polish kid from Chicago who had lost in a huge upset last year to the now world ranked Joe Smith. Chad was brought in, I guess, as an opponent who could catapult Fonfara back into the rankings. While I had missed the first five rounds, it seemed safe to say that Dawson was ahead. He seemed to be outmaneuvering Fonfara for the most part and while he didn’t seem to have much snap on his shots anymore, Dawson was landing the cleaner blows overall while evading the majority of the ones coming back at him.

If I hadn’t seen the rest of the fight and you asked me what I figured happened, I would have said that Chad probably went on to win a unanimous 10 round decision over an opponent who just couldn’t close the gap on him quite well enough to get anything significant done. It wasn’t super exciting but if you had to give one or the other the rounds that I saw, you would have to give them to Dawson. From the sixth round to the 9th round he was just one step ahead of his man.

Then came the 10th. It was like a movie. It was like a fairy tale ending for one guy.

Fonfara never gave up.  Maybe Dawson tried to coast through an easy final round, I have no idea, but the surprising and unexpected end came suddenly and violently. I didn’t see it clearly when it originally happened because my view was obstructed by the referee — and the fact that Fonfara had Dawson trapped in the furthest corner from me to the point where I couldn’t see Chad at all. All I could see was the image of Fonfara suddenly blasting away at something directly in front of him.

Watching the replay on the huge monitor above the ring right after, though, it was very clear that it was a good stoppage. Dawson got visibly hurt with a shot that caused him to badly sag.  You could see his body go limp on impact, and despite what some have said to the contrary, letting it continue would have been wrong. There was too much time left in the round and Fonfara’s adrenaline was sky high at that point. The last blow that caught Chad was especially heavy and flush and it was extremely clear that there would be no recovering at that point.

 

THURMAN-GARCIA.

Now for the main event of the evening: 12 rounds or less for the WBA and WBC welterweight titles live on SHOWTIME.

Now, I must tell you that for as long as I have been watching fights (since I was around 10 years old in 1976) I have never kept a round-by-round scorecard and I wasn’t about to start now (I prefer to just watch a fight and make a pick based on my overall impression of it) but for the first time in my life, I will watch a fight and jot some notes down for future reference as each round concludes.

Round 1: Both guys started out tentatively enough, trying to get the jab going, feeling each other out when all of a sudden, BOOM, Keith catches Danny with a hook that obviously stuns him enough to send him back pedaling away, trying to not get caught again as he clears his head. Keith was excited, of course, but still a little too tense to finish the job.

 Round 2. Danny appears as if he is spending most of the round trying to get himself back together. On the huge overhead monitors above the ring you could see that Danny often had a look of uncertainty on his face during the round.

Round 3. Both guys are missing quite a bit, especially with counter shots. Watching them try as they night only to miss and have to start again it reminds me of an analogy I often use when trying to explain to people what it is like to be a frustrated fighter.

You can clearly see that both guys are eager to get their offense going. They both want to settle into the fight so they can perform as they are accustomed to, and as they pictured themselves doing so many times in the days and nights before this fight actually came to pass. They want to do it but are often waiting to find themselves only doing it when forced to, when the other guy lets a couple wild shots go and they instinctively react and let their own go more out of reaction than anything.

I often equate it to being on a high diving board, dry as a bone, while your friend are below you, already warmed up and playing in the pool. You see the fun and you want to jump in, too, but the fact of the matter is that you’re afraid that the water might be too cold. You want to jump in head first but you end up instead creeping into the shallow end of the pool, inch by inch, until you’re warmed up and ready to join the fun.

In boxing terms, sometimes you’ve got to just jump, head first, get yourself wet all at once and deal with whatever may come.

They both looked like they were struggling with that analogy in round 3.

Round 4. Best round for Danny so far. He suddenly looks looser and more accurate, landing his best shots of the fight thus far.

Round 5. Slowest round of the fight thus far. Only half-jokingly, I tell Micky Ward’s nephew, Sean Ecklund, who has just come over with a few friends to watch the fight with me, that neither guy is winning the round. Like they both happened to take the same round off at the same time.

(Note: Sean is the young guy from that scene in “The Fighter” who excitedly comes rushing in to the bar to let everyone know that Micky and the cops are brawling down the street at the very moment)

Round 6. Another relatively slow round, its hard to pick a winner, when suddenly for the final 30 seconds of the round the action picks up in a big, big way, punctuated by a very solid single shot from Keith that lands pretty much right at the bell to end the round.

Round 7. Keith is definitely moving forward trying to press Danny in the 7th but with no consistent jab leading the way. I get the feeling that both of them are eager to loosen up but just can’t seem to pull the trigger the way they want to. A lot of reactionary punches being thrown and a lot of them missing. Both guys trying to counter with big shots but it seems that both of their trajectories are kind of off tonight.

By the end of the round the two have reversed roles, with Keith boxing smoothly around the ring and Danny in the role of the pursuer.

Round 8. The first boos on the night rain down on two occasions. Maybe each guy is taking a bit of a breather this round as the action has slowed. Sean and I both agree that neither of us would like to be an official judge for this one. Some of these rounds appear to be extremely close, too close to call.

 Round 9. Big booing now, much bigger than in the previous round. However, over the last 20 seconds or so of the session both guys let big, big bombs go with very bad intentions. Swinging for the fences. Keith is visibly energetic and highly motivated as the round ends. Definitely one of the best, if not the best, sequence of the fight thus far.

Round 10. Garcia looks better this round. Over the last 20 seconds of the session both guys again banging it out toe-to-toe. Both champs have launches numerous counter shots but have missed most it appears. This is a definitely a fight featuring numerous missed opportunities.

 Round 11. Danny is backing Keith up this round. Keith is boxing well, actually, but not throwing enough punches in my eyes. It reminds of something I always advise fighters. You’ve got to keep busy in there, even when you think you already are because the fact of the matter is that no matter how it feels and looks to you there in the ring, it is always looking different to everyone outside the ring, especially the judges. Sometimes when you are back pedaling and using lateral movement while not getting touched very often it feels good.  It feels as though you are outboxing your opponent. But you have to keep busy when its a close fight like this. The vibe is that Keith is ahead, but the fact of the matter is that with three judges sitting at different angles at ringside, you never know what they see or what they favor or prefer. Unless you’re a Sweet Pea Whitaker or a Floyd Mayweather, Jr. or a Lomachencko where the defensive prowess is very clear to all viewers by the way your opponents are repeatedly swinging and finding nothing but air, it’s generally wise to keep your offense going at a sufficient rate. Not all judges prefer or give points for the ability to negate the action rather than instigate it.

 Round 12. My gut feeling during this round as I watch Keith moving rapidly from side to side is that he assumes he is well ahead on all three judges scorecards. He seems to feel that he has the fight under control while Danny has apparently taken on the role of the guy who feels he needs to finish extremely stronger in order to steal what may or may not be a deciding last round. He just cant find Keith with anything substantial. Both guys do well in the 12th in spurts but the feeling is that Danny felt he was losing and was more desperate while Keith feels he is ahead and is essentially just protecting his lead.

After the final bell ends the night, the crowd erupts in screams and applause. It wasn’t the greatest technical showing by either guy, lots of missed opportunities, but they both had their moments and they both let some bad intentioned bombs go along the way. It was a mostly energetic fight where each guy had their moments. Lots of close rounds that were hard to call. I felt like the overall vibe was that Keith had done enough to win it but, at the same time, there were many Puerto Rican fans situated right near where I was standing and they were adamant that the Philadelphia Kid had done enough.

Photo courtesy of Keith 'One Time' Thurman's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman’s Facebook page.

While I had remarked to a friend who was standing close by me that if Danny didn’t get the decision we might actually see a mini-riot take place, the decision that went to Keith Thurman was met mostly with cheers and screams. Very few boos were heard in the arena and if a few people near me were upset with the decision, they weren’t overly vocal about it.

 

 

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