Sunshine Boys: Keith Thurman learned his jab in the ring with fellow Floridian Winky Wright

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No one ever got to be the best by knocking around club fighters and tomato cans. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best—and it helps if you start by training with the best.

Winky Wright

Winky Wright takes a shot at Shane Mosley in 2004 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Keith Thurman, who faces Robert Guerrero on March 7 in the Premier Boxing Champions debut on NBC, got an early jump on the game at the age of 15, training at the St. Pete Boxing Gym in St. Petersburg, Florida—home to Robert "Winky" Wright.

The former 154- and 160-pound champion was taken with Thurman from a young age, but he also noted one key difference between them.

“When I was at my peak and he was coming up, he was a sharp little kid. He was a strong little kid. He’d spar with anybody and he was good,” Wright said. “I think both of us have that mentality that nobody can beat us. He’s a little more vocal about it. I was more quiet. I wanted my fists to do the talking.”

Keith Thurman and Winky Wright

Old sparring partners Keith Thurman and Winky Wright reconnect at the St. Pete Boxing Gym.

Thurman worked with Wright all the way through his 2012 retirement, sparring from camp to camp. Along the way, the experience helped mature Thurman into a more well-rounded boxer.

Wright’s defense was always one of the fighter’s strongest points, but that wasn’t the most important thing that Thurman took away from his sparring sessions.

“I remember him preparing a few rounds with his other sparring partners. From the outset, my trainer said pay attention to his jab,” Thurman said. "I remember seeing it land, but from the outside there was nothing spectacular about it at that moment. It’s going from his chin, out to their face and back to his chin. I get in the ring with him and within the first round he hit me with a triple jab. All three of them landed. In that moment I realized there was something real special about Winky.

“I adapted a certain technique that Winky used his whole career, which is not to show his elbow when he throws the jab. That’s one of the key things I learned from Wink.”

As for how Thurman will fare on March 7, Wright thinks good things are ahead for his old charge.

“Guerrero’s a tough fighter, but I see Keith boxing him. I see Keith moving and Guerrero trying to rough him up a little bit, but I see Keith wearing Guerrero down and catching him later on,” Wright said. “I see Keith knocking him down.”

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