It’s got to be one or the other.
Either Danny Garcia has a world-class poker face, or the Philadelphia-based welterweight title claimant is honestly viewing his Saturday night appointment in Brooklyn, New York, as just another business trip.
“I feel the same as any other fight. I’ve prepared the same. I trained hard,” he told CBS Sports.
“I think this one probably has the most hype to it, more than any other one as far as the media and the TV networks and things like that. But I’m preparing mentally like it’s the same as any other fight.”
Realistically, though, it’s not.
Garcia will head to the Barclays Center to meet Keith Thurman in a scheduled 12-rounder from which the winner will walk away with both Garcia’s WBC championship belt and Thurman’s WBA strap.
Neither man has lost across professional careers that began eight days apart back in 2007, and they’ve combined for 60 wins and 41 knockouts while winning titles across two weight classes.
The bout will be carried as part of a CBS broadcast that begins at 9 p.m. and marks the network’s second primetime boxing telecast since it showed Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks in 1978.
Oh, and former five-division champion “Sugar Ray” Leonard -- whose own professional debut was televised by CBS in 1977 -- will be part of the Saturday announce team, too.
“These are the type of fights that are going to bring boxing back to where it used to be,” Leonard said. “It’s going to require these type of fights, these type of individuals, these type of athletes, these type of potential superstars, to really change and make boxing what it used to be.
“These two young men, these two champions, these undefeated fighters, they fit the mold. I talk to people all of the time about what fights they want to see and this is a fight that has star-quality to it.”
To Garcia, though, it’s the latest in a long line of high-profile tests.
“At the end of the day, it’s a fight,” he said.
“I can’t think about the belts. I can’t think about the people who fought for the belts before. I can’t think about the legacy. I’m going to go in there and do what I always do, take it one round at a time. To me, in my head, it’s just another fight where I’ve got to go in there and perform.”
The 28-year-old Garcia became a champion at 140 pounds with a 2012 defeat of Erik Morales, then defended the belt five times -- including a unification KO of Amir Khan -- before making a full-time rise to welterweight in 2014. He’s won five straight fights in the new weight class and picked up the WBC’s vacant 147-pound title with a unanimous decision win over Robert Guerrero.
Garcia’s penultimate title defense at 140 pounds, against Lucas Matthysse, was on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Canelo Alvarez undercard in Las Vegas, and he’s defeated seven reigning or former world champions in 13 overall fights since 2011.
Thurman, he suggested, doesn’t have the same sort of big-stage street cred.
“It definitely is an advantage,” Garcia said.
“Mentally, you’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to have great composure. He might try to go in there and do something he’s never done before, trying to impress people. I’ve been here before. I know what I’ve got to do. I’m composed. I feel good. I’m anxious. I can’t wait to fight. It’s going to be epic.”
For his part, Thurman has been a champion at 147 pounds since Mayweather’s retirement in late 2015 and defended it once – defeating Shawn Porter by a close unanimous decision last June, also on CBS.
The defeat of Porter, a former IBF welterweight belt-holder, was the second top-10 win of Thurman’s career per the Independent World Boxing Rankings and came five fights after a ninth-round stoppage of then-No. 6 Jesus Soto Karass in 2013.
And regardless of resume, his confidence rarely wanes.
“There hasn’t been one opponent who’s gotten in the ring with me and said that my power isn’t for real,” Thurman said. “I think my power and my boxing IQ will be the same. I can change it up. I can do what I need to do, so you are unable to do what you want to do.”
The welterweight match is preceded by a 154-pound encounter between unbeaten 21-year-old Erickson Lubin and once-beaten foe Jorge Cota. Lubin has 12 KOs in his 17 career wins, while Cota has won nine straight since his lone career defeat and has 22 KOs in 25 professional victories.
The Independent World Boxing Rankings have Lubin 17th.
Cota, fighting for the second time outside his native Mexico, is unranked.
“If you don’t know me now, you will after Saturday night,” Lubin said. “I’m going to make my mark in the division. I will become the youngest champion this year. Mark my words.”
Thurman is a narrow main event favorite, while Garcia would return a nice profit with a victory.
Garcia is labeled third in the world at welterweight by the aforementioned independent world rankings -- trailing only Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley -- while Thurman is two slots behind at No. 5.
By contrast, Ring Magazine ranks Thurman as the world’s No. 2 welterweight behind reigning IBF champ Kell Brook, five spots ahead of Garcia at No. 7.
Leonard, who earned the very same WBA and WBC welterweight belts with a unification defeat of Thomas Hearns in 1981, perceives a razor-thin difference between the two fighters.
“I do favor Thurman because he just seems to be a little bit more poised and collected,” Leonard said. “He just seems to be that kind of guy. My gut that tells me that Keith is a little bit more solid than Danny. Both guys are great champs and both of them could take punches. So, I don’t know. Put it this way, I wouldn’t bet my house.”
CBS fight card
Class / Title
Keith Thurman (c) -200 vs. Danny Garcia (c) +160
Welterweight / WBA vs. WBC
Erickson Luba -1000 vs. Jorge Cota +600
How each fighter wins
Garcia: The more rugged the fight gets, the better it’ll presumably be for the Philadelphian. Leonard described Garcia’s powerful left hook as “a neutralizer,” and his ability to cut down the distance and land the shot consistently will go a long way toward blunting Thurman’s attack. In what’s probably his signature win, he was being outpunched by Khan before dropping him with a hook and stopping him a round later.
Thurman: The WBA champ has long been billed as an offensive machine, and his “One Time” nickname is a clear reference to his punching power. However, Garcia has never shown a significant susceptibility to his opponents’ shots, so Thurman may be better served in using boxing acumen to build a lead and force Garcia into a situation where he’ll need to sell out to land – leaving him open to get caught.
Thurman probably lives up to everything that people say. And he’s got no reason to apologize for any of his 27 pro wins. Still, there have been a few recent causes for concern, if not outright alarm.
He was hurt badly to the body by Luis Collazo before winning their 2015 bout on cuts two rounds later. Then, last summer against Porter, there were multiple stretches in which he looked uncomfortable with the pressure being applied -- though he ultimately got through with a narrow unanimous decision, winning seven of 12 rounds on all three official scorecards.
The guess here is that Thurman will start strong and take a lead thanks to superior athleticism but won’t be able to completely dissuade Garcia. Eventually, the fight-altering shots that land will come from the WBC title-holder’s side, and he’ll break Thurman down to score a middle-rounds stoppage. Pick: Garcia wins by TKO in Round 9