The Rebirth of Keith Thurman

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The undefeated World Welterweight Champion is hungry as ever as he seeks to enhance his own legend with an emphatic win over boxing icon Manny Pacquiao Saturday night on FOX Sports PPV.

For nearly 700 days, the man who made his living destroying other men with his fists was physically unable to ply the craft that made him one of the best in the world at what he does.

Injuries to his right elbow – he had surgery on it in April 2017 – sent Keith “One Time” Thurman to the sidelines for two of the most prime years of a spectacular boxing career that began when he was seven. The non-activity also forced Thurman to relinquish one of the two welterweight belts he had earned through years of sweat and hard work.

But Thurman, now 30, who has never lost in his 12-year professional career, wasn’t content to just sit at home in Clearwater, Fla., and wait for the injuries to heal. There were places to go, things to do and people to see. He reconnected with a beautiful Nepalese woman he had met during a trip to Tokyo in late 2016.

Soon after unifying the WBA and WBC 147-pound titles against Danny Garcia in March 2017, Thurman asked Priyana Thapa to marry him. A little more than two years ago, they tied the knot in Kathmandu, Nepal. Three months ago, the new Mrs. Thurman finally came to live full time with her husband in Florida.

It may be no honeymoon, but this week the Thurmans are headed to Las Vegas where Keith (29-0, 22 KOs) will take on 40-year-old legendary eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) for the super WBA welterweight title. Priyana will get her first taste of Sin City.

The highly anticipated Premier Boxing Champions bout takes place Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and will be televised on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 PT).

Thurman’s longtime trainer Dan Birmingham says the married Thurman is different from the single Thurman, but in a good way.

“Yeah, love kind of makes you serious,” Birmingham said by phone. “He takes it very serious. His wife comes to the gym sometimes to watch the workouts, and now he has even more to fight for. She loves Keith and she’s going to support him in whatever he wants to do in life. It just happens to be boxing. She’s here sometimes during the workouts cheering him on. She’s all for Keith.”

Thurman says his “life partner” has been a great support to him throughout this whole training camp.

“I was a little nervous about how she would take it all, and it’s been great having her here because before that we would have to spend time doing face time and this camp is so important, she won’t even get much of my face on face-time,” Thurman said by phone. “So now she sees me in real life, and even though she doesn’t get much of my time, at least we’re still together.

“She’s very supportive, she takes care of all my dirty clothes; she makes sure I’m training twice a day, that’s two pairs of sweaty clothes every day. My aunt (Kimberly Doehnert) is my nutritionist, so my wife is happy to have her around for this camp.  . . . I’m resting in between, but it’s good, man.”

When Thurman got married, he said that perhaps in two years, which is now, they might look at starting a family. But his boxing career, which could explode after the Pacquiao fight if Thurman wins and wins impressively, has taken precedence, what with undefeated welterweight champions such as Errol Spence Jr. waiting for their “One Time” shot.

“There’s not time to talk about [babies], I’ve been too busy,” Thurman said. “I’m just really focused on my career right now. It could happen, it could pop up spontaneously after the fight, you never know. But at the end of the day, I married her so she will be the mother of my children, and I look forward to that one day. But there’s just so much that I want to do.

“Kids become your life. I still want to live mine, and I want to enjoy having my wife by my side. I like kind of being the center of her world, and when we have kids, the kids will be the center of her world. So, for now, there is no rush.”

This is what I’ve always wanted to do, this is what I always wanted to be. Undefeated World Welterweight Champion - Keith Thurman

Saturday’s blockbuster PPV battle comes six months after Thurman ended his two-year hiatus on January 26 with a surprisingly tough majority decision victory against longtime title contender Josesito Lopez.

Thurman knocked Lopez down in the second but failed to finish him off, then was badly hurt by a series of punches in the seventh. Otherwise it was Thurman sticking and moving for 12 rounds, showing skills that might be a harbinger of things to come against Pacquiao.

“Against Lopez, he got caught, he got hurt in the seventh round but he weathered the storm,” said Birmingham. “But all throughout the fight he was quick, sharp and he moved well, and he won the fight, that’s the main thing. Move on.”

Thurman moved on, all right, but his less than stellar showing led to rumors and innuendo that his injuries were not that severe, and that he had simply lost his hunger for the sweet science. He swiftly put those rumors to rest.

 “Well, those weren’t quotes from Keith Thurman, now, were they?” he snapped. “I’ll let the world know when I don’t want to box anymore. It’s my life, it’s my career. I’m the one making money. I’m the million-dollar fighter, you know? You think it was fun not making millions of dollars just sitting on the bench (after) you’ve accomplished the highlight of your career by unifying the WBA and WBC?

“People just want to report boxing, and they wish there was something to report about Keith Thurman. And because there was nothing to report, they created rumors. It is what it is, I couldn’t care less. I’m living my dream, and at that time, my dream was suspended, you know?”

Birmingham says his fighter still has the drive and motivation to get back to where he was before his unwanted time off. “Most definitely. He’s kind of like an animal. He’s very focused, hasn’t missed a workout, hasn’t missed a beat, always asking for more,” the trainer said.

Thurman, who quit school at 15 to pursue his lifelong love, is motivated these days simply by living the dream.

“This is what I’ve always wanted to do, this is what I always wanted to be. Keith Thurman never had a Plan B. Keith Thurman never had a college education. This is the sport I love. This is 23 years of hard work. I’m a boxer, I’ve prepared for these kinds of big fights my whole life. And I’m still in my prime. I just want to live out my prime. I want to see it to the end, you know? I would’ve been very disappointed if the last fight of my career had been against Danny Garcia.”

Thurman’s last three fights, against Shawn Porter, Garcia and Lopez, have all been slugfests, but Birmingham has not seen any ill effects from Thurman going the distance and taking (as well as giving) a lot of punches.

“Not at all. He’s a tough-natured guy. He’s not the average, run-of-the-mill human being,” Birmingham says. “He’s very rugged, very tough, he will take on any challenge. I don’t see a burned-out fighter in Keith at all. I see a renewed, reinvigorated, rejuvenated Keith Thurman that’s ready to show the world that he’s the best welterweight out there.”

And in doing that, Thurman, who says he is unlikely to fight again until 2020, is unafraid of risking his “0” against Pacquiao or anybody else.

“If you can beat me, beat me,” Thurman explains. “If the legend Manny Pacquiao is that great of a legend, and at the age of 40 can beat the undefeated welterweight champion of the world, then so be it. But this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to destroy a legend and create my own legacy. How can I not go for it?

“If Pacquiao is the man that beats me, I'm going to shake his hand and congratulate him. But when Keith Thurman steps into the ring, you're dealing with Keith Thurman and he's a bad man.”

For a closer look at Keith Thurman, check out his fighter page.

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