Keith Thurman returned to the ring over the weekend, sparring for the first time since a February car accident postponed his upcoming 147-pound title defense against Shawn Porter.
Thurman sparred a combined seven rounds Saturday with boxers Edner Cherry and Clarence Booth at the St. Pete Boxing Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, as he resumed formal preparations for his June 25 fight against Porter at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (CBS, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“It went well,” Thurman said. “That was really just the test day, because real sparring begins this week, and we just wanted to get our first day in Saturday so that I could rest over the weekend and see how everything felt.
“Everything is moving and feeling great, and my neck held up in sparring, so we’re happy and looking forward to busting out these next five weeks and putting up a great performance.”
Keith Thurman (26-0, 22 KOs) originally was scheduled to defend his title against Shawn Porter (26-1-1, 16 KOs) on March 12, but the 27-year-old Clearwater, Florida, native suffered neck and back injuries when his Mustang hydroplaned and ran off the road, deploying the side airbag, which struck Thurman in the side of the head.
Thurman suffered whiplash in the crash, and X-rays and an MRI revealed microtears in the tendon of his neck, forcing a postponement of his long-awaited showdown with Porter.
“I still see my chiropractor once a week. He cleared me to start training but he just told me to monitor myself, and now we’re going strong,” Thurman said. “He just asks me how I feel after throwing heavy punches on the bag, but we feel good, confident and the range of motion is a lot better than before.”
Thurman’s longtime trainer, Dan Birmingham, said his fighter had already been doing “a lot of cardio, pad work and strength work” in addition to daily cycling trips of up to 25 miles prior to Saturday’s sparring session.
“The first thing we’ve done is consulted our doctor to assure us that Keith is 100 percent ready to go,” Birmingham said. “Keith does all of the little things: His diet is great, he works his butt off in the gym and he gets his rest at night. Otherwise, that’s when injuries can happen.”
Thurman said he expects to spar three more times this week as he ramps up his training for his delayed meeting with Porter.
“It’s tough for a year to start out like this," Thurman said. "We were presented an opportunity that was taken away for health reasons. At the end of the day, this fight is still happening, and the timing might end up being better.
"We’re going to recover and give you guys a world-class boxing performance like we always do.”
For complete coverage of Thurman vs Porter, visit our fight page.