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Thurman unifies 147

NEW YORK (AP) — Sometimes, even for a knockout artist, defense is the best option.

Keith Thurman went that route Saturday night, building a big lead over Danny Garcia and holding on to add the WBC welterweight title to his WBA championship.

Yes, Thurman has 22 knockouts in 28 fights, all wins. He won this unification bout, though, by getting tactical and going somewhat conservative.

“I was not giving the fight away,” he said. “I felt like we had a nice lead, we could cool down. I felt like we were controlling the 3-minute intervals in each and every round.”

Thurman handed Garcia his first loss in 34 bouts.

“I thought I pushed the fight like a true champion and did enough to get the victory,” Garcia said.

After five furious rounds to open things at Barclays Center, the pace slowed — even bringing boos from the large crowd at times. But it ended with a flourish of exchanges in the 12th and final round. And with Thurman holding up two belts.

“I thought I outboxed him, I thought it was a clear victory,” Thurman said. “But Danny, he came to fight.”

Thurman won a split decision, getting scores of 116-112 and 115-113. Garcia, favored by a majority of the fans who loudly derided the announcement of the winner, won one card 115-113.

The AP scored it 115-113 for Thurman.

“I knew with a wide spread it had to go to me when I heard,” Thurman said about the decision.

Using powerful rights, including straight leads that stopped Garcia in his tracks, Thurman dominated early. Garcia landed the occasional bomb, particularly one shot to the body that had Thurman grimacing at the end of the 10th.

“There might have been one left hook to the body that he landed that I felt,” Thurman admitted. “But we know how to endure these punches. This isn’t just about outboxing an opponent, you have to take a punch, too.”

Garcia came on from there, but it was too late.

“It was a tough fight,” he said. “I thought I came back strong. I can’t cry over anything, I’ll come back strong like a true champion. I would love to have a rematch to get my titles back.

Thurman won a terrific bout with Shawn Porter at Barclays last June. This one wasn’t of such high quality throughout, but it had its moments.