In boxing, there are different varieties of world champions. You have belt holders with little or no true legitimacy. Liam Smith was such a “champion” heading into last weekend’s clash with Canelo Alvarez. He had won the vacant WBO title by knocking out John Thompson, a fringe contender who did not even belong in the division’s top 20.
Above mere belt holders, a distinction needs to be drawn between being “a” world champion and “the” world champion.
Keith Thurman is “a” world champion at welterweight. Danny Garcia is another. Thurman has the WBA version of the 147-pound crown, while Garcia hoists the WBC flag. It would be a mistake to dismiss either man as being only a belt holder. Thurman defended his strap earlier this year against Shawn Porter, one of the division’s top five. Garcia earned the vacant WBC belt earlier this year with a great performance over Robert Guerrero. The Ghost might be a faded version of himself, but he is still at least close to a top-10 contender at welterweight, and a former world champion.
However, there is a big difference between being “a” world champion and “the” world champion. And any fighter who truly wants to be a superstar should have his sights set on becoming “the” world champion.
Thurman seems to understand this. In an article published on BoxingScene Monday by Ryan Burton, Thurman made clear that he wants Danny Garcia as soon as possible: “I am pro unification bouts…If you are fighting at 147 and you ain’t talking about Keith Thurman, you ain’t no champion.”
This is an attitude Garcia needs to display, as well. Since winning his title, Garcia has seemed anxious to float against lower-level opposition, as he did frequently when he held the title at 140. Earlier this year, he tried to talk up a defense against Andre Berto, a faded former belt holder. More recently, the talk has been that Garcia will face John Molina in the fall.
Molina is a respectable fringe-contender, stepping-stone level of opponent. He’s a tough guy who puts on some decent fights and had a big win over Ruslan Provodnikov earlier this year.
He is not the sort of opponent a young champion like Garcia should be fighting. Not if he wants to be a true champion, instead of a mere belt holder.