With boxing’s structure being what it is, there are currently four men on the planet who can legitimately call themselves 147-pound world champions. Keith Thurman begs to differ.
Owner of one of those crowns, Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs) believes he is a cut above fellow 147-pound titleholders Danny Garcia, Jessie Vargas and Kell Brook. For that matter, the 28-year-old native of Clearwater, Florida, is certain he’s superior to the men who for years ruled the division before recently semi-retiring: Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.
From Keith Thurman’s vantage point, he’s the new undisputed king of the 147-pound mountain—a mountain everyone else is still scaling.
“The only way to get real respect in the division is you have to [mess] with me,” Thurman says. “I’m the No. 1 welterweight champion, [even though] there are four of us who can say that. I want that opportunity to eliminate the others.”
Now three months removed from his biggest victory to date—a narrow unanimous decision over former champ and longtime friend Shawn Porter on June 25—Thurman is currently in a holding pattern as he plots his next move. We recently checked in with “One Time” to get his opinions on the state of his division.
Have you given any thought to who your next opponent will be? Will you go forward with your mandatory defense against David Avanesyan or fight someone else?
Keith Thurman: I don’t know if I’m going to do a [mandatory defense]. I’d rather make something more meaningful happen. But I enjoy looking down realizing that after a power struggle, I’ve attained the top spot.
I have time to step into the ring this year and I’m open to that, but I’m also willing to sit back and reflect on the fact that I’ve worked 20 years of my life to get where I am. If we sit out the rest of this year, we’ll walk into the ring early next year at 28 years old as the undefeated welterweight champion of the world in our prime.
What makes you so sure you’re the world’s top 147-pound fighter?
Thurman: I made [Julio] Diaz, [Luis] Collazo and [Diego] Chaves quit. Who else did that to all three of those Latin fighters? I also beat [Robert] Guerrero and Shawn Porter.
I believe your boy “One Time” is the most exciting of all the welterweights. But my legacy has room for growth, and the easiest road for improving my legacy is through a legend.
Are you talking about Mayweather and/or Pacquiao?
Thurman: We still have these two legendary shadows who keep [talking about] stepping back into the ring. Take them away and you’re blessed with the new generation of fighters who need to go after each other.
But I remember when I first talked about fighting Floyd Mayweather and the reasons I expressed being deserving of the match. I have a better argument today.
“ The only way to get real respect in the division is you have to [mess] with me. ” Keith Thurman
Mayweather has danced around the topic of returning to the ring, but he has mentioned Danny Garcia as a possible opponent he would target if he did come back. Why do you think he didn’t mention you?
I’ve looked at the fantasy of stepping into the ring with Floyd Mayweather. On paper, he’s never fought anyone like me, but he doesn’t have a lot of rodeos left.
Back in August, Errol Spence Jr.—an unbeaten blossoming star in your division—won a title eliminator with a fifth-round knockout of Leonard Bundu, who went the distance with you in December 2014. What did you make of Spence’s performance?
Thurman: Errol Spence did pretty much exactly what I thought he would. I’m a right-handed fighter who dropped Bundu in the first round with a left hook from the southpaw position. I knew if I could do that, Spence (who is a southpaw) could do it. But even at his age , Bundu gave Spence the most competitive four or five rounds of his career.
When I got the knockdown [of Bundu] in the first round, I decided not to finish him so easily—I knew it would come later since I was dominating. But Bundu’s rhythm was a little awkward, so I utilized my skills and movement. I knew when Errol got the knockdown, he would finish it.
When Errol hurts somebody on the ropes and unleashes power punches, he finishes like he did with Chris Algieri. He was impressive and exciting for all five rounds against Bundu.
With that victory, Spence put himself in position to challenge Brook, who has talked about vacating his 147-pound title and moving up in weight after suffering a broken orbital bone in last month’s loss to 160-pound champion Gennady Golovkin. What did you think of Brook’s decision to fight GGG?
Thurman: Brook is one of the best athletes in his weight class, but he’d never moved around with 15 extra pounds for 12 rounds. I wanted to get in his head like, “Why are you doing this? You haven’t faced a 147-pounder like myself yet, and you haven’t even faced a 154-pounder like Canelo [Alvarez], and you’re going to go in there with Triple G?”
I hope that he received the best paycheck of his career and invests in the best doctors and physical therapy, [because] it could play out as a very horrible business and career decision.
I would love to see him return to [147 pounds], where they can market him as an undefeated welterweight. I hope he’s not vulnerable to easy injury or to other left hooks from power punchers.
Do you believe Spence vs Brook will happen?
Thurman: One way or another, Errol Spence is getting that title. Kell Brook can vacate if he wants no part [of Spence], and Errol could get it by fighting a non-champion. But I’ve always loved the idea of an Errol Spence-Kell Brook fight or Thurman-Kell Brook.
I wish Kell a full recovery so we can give fight fans and the world of boxing what it truly needs.
- Keith Thurman