For Keith Thurman, it's all part of the games

With 21 knockouts in 24 fights, you know you’re going to get power out of Keith Thurman. What might not be immediately evident is that the man deploying that power has a strategic mind for when and how to use it—honed in no small part from learning cerebral games at a young age.

Keith Thurman and Leonard Bundu

Keith Thurman throws a right at Leonard Bundu during their December 13, 2014, fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Thurman might be diving into the I Ching and the Torah these days to keep his intellectual fires stoked, but he developed his respect for thinking his way around situations when he was 4 years old and his father introduced him to chess and pool.

“I was also 4 years old when my father taught me how to shoot pool. All these little games I used to play as a kid, he used to explain how you needed to use your head, “ Thurman said. “I was 8 years old the first time I beat my dad in a game of chess, because he would never let me win. I checkmated him with my pawn.”

Channeling his inner Garry Kasparov helped develop Thurman in the ring. He may have been a one-dimensional teenager when he first got going, but he says learning things like how to use the angles on a pool table equipped him to be able to expand the scope of his thinking about the ring.

“Boxing is a game. It’s a sport, and a sport at the end of the day is a game. To play the sport or to play the game, you need to do so wisely. Especially in games where one could be knocked out physically, he said. “I learned that I have power, and I learned to be comfortable in the fact that I have power and it doesn’t need to be a secret, but I don’t have to show it with every blow. I can choose when to use my power just like you can choose when to bring your queen out. Until then, I’ll see how you handle my pawns and keep throwing jabs at you.”

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