Standing Eight: Keith Thurman

The former unified world welterweight champion is itching to get back into the ring following an eventful 2019.

Keith “One Time” Thurman is on a mission. Thurman, the former unified world welterweight champion, vows to “come back stronger” and “better than ever” following surgery last month to fuse the metacarpal bones on his left hand.

Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) eschewed a potential operation prior to January’s majority decision victory over Josesito Lopez, which ended a 22-month ring absence. In his next bout, last July, he dropped a 12-round split decision to Manny Pacquiao in a thrilling back and forth.  

Currently on the mend, Thurman is eager to get back into the 147-sweepstakes and reclaim his position as “The Man.”

Keith, would you like to say anything regarding Errol Spence Jr. and his recent car accident?

My thoughts and prayers are with Errol and his family at this time. My family and I are praying for a speedy recovery for him. Heal quickly, brother.

You were an analyst on FOX’s Inside PBC Boxing and also were ringside for Errol’s tremendous win over Shawn Porter on September 28 on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View.

It was great to be there for such a tremendous event, working alongside Danny Garcia and the other personalities. I feel as if I was a part of history and that I was contributing to the fans’ interest in the action and the various story lines within the welterweight division.

I have been receiving great feedback from the fans, I really enjoyed it and I had a lot of fun, and I welcome any more opportunities to work as a contributor to future PBC boxing broadcasts.

Where do you rank yourself at 147?

I was No. 1 when I was the unified champion and I feel Errol Spence should be No. 1 right now. I’m definitely in the top five. Manny Pacquiao’s top three, if not, No. 2. Terence Crawford’s another champion, and then there’s me and Shawn Porter.

What would you do differently in a rematch with Pacquiao?

I’d have to commit to a game plan. The moment I decided to be conservative in the first round, he landed a punch while I was going backward at the right moment. That put me in the position I hadn’t been in, which was to not be winning the fight after round one.

It  came down to really going for the home run. Late in the fight, my trainer said I needed to win every round, and I felt like a knockdown would put me back in control or at least shift the tide toward a decision or the draw. 

Pacquiao fought a very smart fight, demonstrating he’s every ounce the legend that he is. I didn’t knock him out, so I have to accept the verdict. In a perfect world, I’d get my rematch with Pacquiao. 

If I don’t get it, then that’s obviously a sign of respect for the fact that he realizes he was in a dog fight the first time. Regardless of whether or not I get Pacquiao, I’d fight any of the champions and there’s a lot of other talent in the division.

How does a Spence-Thurman fight break down?

Fighting Spence is a great option. There’s a lot of merit in fighting Errol, who has both titles. Errol  is a trader, and once we start trading on the inside like he did with Shawn, getting caught by certain right hands, I’d be like, “Let’s fight.” 

Spence took shots from Kell Brook, but I still think there are punches he’s yet to take from a Danny Garcia or a Keith Thurman. I want to land that punch. I think Danny does, too. Errol will fight anybody, toe-to-toe, yet he’s not gotten hit first. 

I think Danny’s thinking, “Hey, Shawn hit him a lot, and Shawn doesn’t crack an egg.” Danny’s a real power puncher, and I think he can hurt Errol. So, he’s thinking, “Shawn hit him with a lot of rights, so let me hit that boy, and I’ll show him what’s up.”

My hunger is re-sparked: I ain’t going nowhere. Former Unified World Welterweight Champion - Keith Thurman

What was the nature of your surgery and its bearing on your decision to face Lopez and Pacquiao?

Before the Lopez fight, my doctor told me my hand was jacked up the way those bones were hitting and sitting on top of each other, at times, poking at the wrist and causing so much inflammation that I was always going to experience pain until and unless I got surgery. 

But there was also a part of me that was nervous thinking if I got the hand surgery, I might not be able to fight anymore. The doctor was at my fight against Lopez, having said that as long as you can keep going, that’s on you.

Win lose or draw against Pacquiao, I had an opportunity to climb back to the top, which really sparked the flame. I also had to go out and make some money this year, so I got back into the ring and had my best financial year so far. 

So, I wasn’t at 100 percent for either Lopez or Pacquiao, but after the surgery, my doctor said, “You’re going to be a lot better.” It’s been almost five weeks out, now, from the surgery, which required two staples in my left hand, fusing bones together. 

After the surgery, when I connect with a punch on the heavy bag or something, the small metacarpals that were colliding against each other will no longer collide. They’ll instead take the impact as one solid unit. So, I think we’re talking about six months of rehabilitation.

I really believe that I’ll come back stronger with my left hand, using it, hopefully, to the fullest with more left hooks and jabs. I’m just looking forward to making myself better than ever so that I never lose again, which is just evidence that I’m a world class fighter. 

Do you imagine what might have been were it not for your injuries?

There would have been no 22-month layoff without the injuries. After the neck injury, I won the fight against Porter. I fought hard and finessed that victory over Garcia through bone spurs, still making him fight off his back foot. 

I would have probably stopped Josesito Lopez. I could have not taken the fight against Pacquiao, feeling some rust for the lack of activity over two years. I was one-handed against Pacquiao, otherwise, I would have found a way to beat him also. 

Would the Thurman who beat Porter and Garcia beat Pacquiao?

The Keith Thurman who fought Shawn Porter beats Pacquiao any day of the week. But the Thurman after the Garcia, having to have elbow surgery and then left-hand problems, had to give up a world title rather than hold those belts hostage. 

If you look at my Lopez fight, you’ll see that my jabs were touching jabs, setting up my right hand. I was only able to spar six rounds to prepare for a 12-round fight, otherwise going more than that, I’d hurt myself. 

So, I figured I’d save the action for the fight. You’ll notice the seventh round was the round that Lopez caught me in. I did train harder for the Pacquaio fight, and I gave it all of the effort that I could. I performed, grew my fan base and I’ll redeem myself in 2020.

It’s Keith Thurman versus the world, baby. I believe I can still reach No. 1. There are two champions, Spence and Crawford, I’ve never fought. My legacy involves getting one, if not, two rematches among Pacquiao, Porter or Garcia.

My fans enjoy watching Keith Thurman like a drug, action so intense it leaves you on the edge of your seat.  I fought twice this year, and I want to fight twice more next year, if not, have a get-back fight at the end of this year. My hunger is re-sparked: I ain’t going nowhere.

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

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