The first thing Keith Thurman ever wanted to be as a child was an astronaut. He used to build model rockets as a boy and launch them with his father, fantasizing about parting the clouds aboard a real one some day.
All these years later, stars remain in Thurman’s eyes, figuratively speaking, light years away in the skies above but fully present in this particular moment, as he recalls being in the Young Astronauts program when he was in first grade in his native Clearwater, Florida.
“I was fascinated with the universe,” he says, his hometown a little more than a two-hour drive from Cape Canaveral, home to the Kennedy Space Center, where many spacecraft are launched.
This memory is more than anecdotal: It directly informs the kind of man, the kind of fighter, that Keith Thurman (25-0, 21 KOs) has since become.
He’s an inquisitive dude, a head-in-the clouds kind of guy, in a good way, in that it seems to have motivated him to think big—and dream bigger.
In the ring, Thurman is gladiatorial yet calculating.
He’s a fighter with hands as heavy as cinder blocks, but who’s evolved significantly as a boxer, becoming both more canny and patient, a chess player with fists in place of rooks and pawns.
Outside the ring, this more searching, sagacious side of Thurman is not only palpable, it’s a defining characteristic.
In the span of a few minutes during a recent conversation, for instance, he references a research project done at Middle Tennessee State University in which it was discovered that sound can travel faster than light; elucidates upon the documentary What The Bleep Do We Know!?, which examines quantum physics through a spiritual prism; references string theory and finishes it all off with a bit of musing on subatomic particles like a bartender plopping an olive into a freshly mixed martini.
Thurman didn’t go to college; he was ensconced in the gym instead, so beginning in his early 20s, he began hitting the books on his own.
“I just acknowledged what school really was, what education really was, and I decided to become self-educated,” he says. “I got to learn exactly what I sought out, what I wanted to seek out.”
This meant lots of math, philosophy and science, subjects that are easy to get lost in, which was the point.
As a kid, Thurman was grounded in the sometimes harsh realities of his surroundings.
This manifested itself into a yearning for something bigger.
“Like most people who are brought to boxing, I’ve been through some things early on in my life with the neighborhood that I grew up in. I saw things that made me mature quickly,” he says.
“Seeing the ways of the world fluttered my heart in a certain way to where I was questioning a lot of things,” he continues. “I’m one who is not afraid to question the way things are or why things are happening.”
As Thurman grew older, boxing and books began to provide some of the answers to said questions—or at least put him in a position to answer them on his own.
These days, he’s still got plenty to learn, about the sweet science and just plain old science alike, which is a big reason why he’s so drawn to both.
But the latter is never too far from his mind.
“I’m continually trying to grow,” Thurman says. “You don’t ever have to stop.”
For complete coverage of Thurman vs. Collazo, visit our fight page.