He's Back! Keith Thurman Aims to Reclaim Pole Position at Welterweight

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Two years ago, "One Time" sat atop the 147-pound division. On Saturday night when he faces Josesito Lopez on FOX—the WBA champion plans on reminding the boxing world just how good he is.

It’s time for Keith Thurman to remind the world of who he is. They had lost track for a while, probably quite a bit longer than “One Time” Thurman would like.

So, he sat there behind the black table and flashed that mega-watt smile of his, going through all the perfunctory prerequisites to re-entering the spotlight.

For a moment, Thurman looked down and balled his left hand into fist, as if trying to convince himself of something. The undefeated WBA welterweight champion had just finished a press conference in mid-December announcing his upcoming title defense this Saturday night, January 26, when he faces Josesito Lopez on a PBC on FOX & FOX Deportes card (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Thurman was his usual confident self. However, the frustrating remnants of being off for 22 months, and 22 days from his matchup with Lopez (36-7, 19 KOs) began to rise.

Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) last fought in March 2017 at Barclays Center, when he edged Danny Garcia by split decision to unify 147-pound titles.

“One Time” has been through a hard time.

On April 19, 2017, he had surgery to remove irritating calcium deposits from his right elbow. In March 2018, he suffered an injury to his left hand, forcing him to take more time off—and further time to build trust in his right elbow and left hand.

“The only thing that kept on motivating me and keeping me semi-out of depression, and I had my lows, was every doctor saying that I will be back in the ring,” Thurman said. “I’ve had injuries before. I’ve had a 14-month layoff, when I hurt the meaty side of my left hand, even before I was on any major networks like HBO and Showtime.

“I’ve dealt with the frustration before. I’ve fought all my life. I thought I was used to it, then [came] this; the last two years.

“Everyone has levels of depression. To have any negative thought, that’s a form of depression. Taking any punch to the head is a form of concussion, right? It wasn’t a real deep depression, but when I was stagnant, I wasn’t working and not making money, I wasn’t living my dream. You can develop morbid thoughts. It’s the mind. It goes left and right and up and down. What brings me back to being me is this, fighting again; being back in the gym. You get natural, feel-good endorphins.”

I'm fighting Josesito Lopez to remind the world who Keith Thurman is, what it looks like when he's fighting, how entertaining he can be. Undefeated WBA Welterweight Champion, Keith Thurman

Thurman’s depression came from doing nothing; from losing the WBC welterweight title he worked so hard to achieve; from knowing the boxing world was revolving without him. Thurman knew he would come back, that he could reacquire his belt. Until then he did a lot of thinking and sitting, thinking and sitting, thinking and sitting—two things Thurman does not like doing.

He was getting plump, soft, the inactivity was working its way to his head.

“The real morbid thinking and the real frustration didn’t hit until the second injury, when I hurt my hand and postponed me even further,” Thurman said. “I had to get support from my wife and I had to talk to my team and my trainers, I had to reach the point where I eventually felt good.

“I started to feel better when I started getting in better shape, losing 10 pounds, feeling lighter on my feet and moving better. I didn’t like the inactivity. I didn’t like being stagnant. I want to get my title back. I would love to bring a title fight to the Tampa Bay area. I need to get back to who I am. It starts with beating Josesito Lopez.”

Thurman admitted the fear of having his left hand flare up exists somewhere in his mind, but overall, he feels good. He’s going to push it whether it’s 90-percent back or not. 

“You reach the highest level in the sport and then the setbacks happen. I had to believe in myself.” Thurman stressed. “The truth is I’ve been out of the ring for two years. I was 28 years old the last time I fought. I'm 30 now. It’s a little disappointing, missing some of those years of my youth. But luckily, I still am in my prime. Being in shape now motivates me for my future. Watching Manny Pacquiao win a fight at 40-years-old motivates me. There were some moments when I had some morbid thinking and negative thoughts, but we're back in action and really excited."

“I'm fighting Josesito Lopez to remind the world who Keith Thurman is, what it looks like when he's fighting, how entertaining he can be.”

And he looked down again, balled his left hand into a fist and smiled. The convincing time is here.

“I’m ready,” Thurman said. “I can’t wait.”

For a closer look at Thurman vs Lopez, check out our fight page.

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