Keith Thurman celebrates his unanimous decision win over Shawn Porter in June 2016Keith Thurman celebrates his unanimous decision win over Shawn Porter in June 2016 (AFP Photo/Ed Mulholland)
New York (AFP) - Unbeaten rival world welterweight title-holders Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia each vowed to grab the global spotlight that once shined on Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao by winning their unification showdown next week in New York.
The March 4 matchup of US fighters at Brooklyn's Barclays Center will be only the third unification bout between unbeaten welterweight champions, the first since Oscar de la Hoya faced Felix Trinidad in 1999.
"The winner of this fight is the man at 147 (pounds, 66.7kg) and whoever has been the man at 147 lately with Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, has been the face of boxing," Thurman said.
"The winner of this fight is going to get a little of that spotlight priority. They are going to step up in the world of boxing. The spotlight is going to be on them a little more. I'm looking forward to making history at 147 and holding down this weight class for a few more years."
World Boxing Association champion Thurman, 27-0 with 22 knockouts, and World Boxing Council champion Garcia, 33-0 with 19 knockouts, are stars of the welterweight division, long the domain of Mayweather, who retired undefeated at 49-0 in 2015.
"If I win this, I'll be the face of boxing," Garcia said.
Filipino icon Pacquiao, 59-6 with two drawn and 38 knockouts, holds the World Boxing Organization welterweight throne, but the 38-year-old southpaw's next opponent is uncertain.
Britain's Kell Brook, 36-1 with 25 knockouts, owns the International Boxing Federation welterweight title. Brook will defend the crown for a fourth time in May against unbeaten American Errol Spence (21-0, 18 knockouts).
"Kell Brook has a terrific opportunity to showcase his skills to the division," Thurman said. "Errol has the opportunity to make a big statement. I'm just waiting to see who wins."
Brook, 30, suffered his first loss last September, stopped by undisputed middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin after jumping up two weight classes for the bout.
Garcia hopes his fight and the Brook-Spence bout set the stage for delivering an undisputed welterweight champion, something the division has not seen since Zab Judah held three of the four belts in 2006.
"I know (Spence) wants to bring the belt back home. I know he wants to face the winner of our fight," Garcia said.
"Through a few more eliminations, hopefully we'll have an undisputed welterweight champion of the world, something we haven't had in a long time. I think the sport of boxing wants that."
- 'He wasn't being racist' -
The Garcia-Thurman fight took on extra emotion last month at a news conference when Garcia's father and trainer, Angel Garcia, screamed racial insults at Thurman, who moved towards the elder Garcia before security personnel intervened.
"I've seen worse things happen at press conferences before. Nobody got hurt. It's freedom of speech in America," Garcia said. "My dad is from the inner city of Philadelphia. He wasn't being racist. People talk like that every day. He was just talking like where he's from."
Asked if the fight was more personal, Garcia said: "We don't go in there to hug each other. It's a fight. It's always personal to a certain level."
Asked if the fight was more personal, Thurman replied: "This fight is more amateur for me. This is a fighter I've known since we were kids. We're like two pit bulls. We were bred for this at a young age.
"I believe I'm something Danny has never faced before. I have to prove that."
Garcia was confident as well.
"We've done out homework and we're confident we're going to win," Garcia said. "I definitely feel I'm at my strongest right now."