Thurman vs. Lopez: The King Returns or The Kingdom Crumbles

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Keith Thurman says he’s still the top dog of the welterweight division, but if he’s lost anything—Josesito Lopez says he will expose him tomorrow night on PBC on FOX.

In a welterweight division already packed with intrigue and possibilities, its undefeated, one-time king plans on making his presence felt once again.

Saturday, January 26, live from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) returns after nearly two-years away from the ring to take on tough veteran spoiler Josesito Lopez (36-7, 19 KOs) in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card on FOX and FOX Deportes (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).

Before Thurman went on the shelf from elbow surgery and a litany of other injuries and setbacks, “One Time” was considered by most the top dog of the welterweight division and heir to Floyd Mayweather’s 147 lb. throne. With high-profile wins over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, few could dispute his status as leader of the pack.

In his absence, however, others, such as Errol Spence Jr. have risen to prominence, obscuring his accomplishments and pushing his name away from the public eye. Porter would even step up to claim the WBC belt Thurman was forced to vacate, defeating Garcia for the strap in a battle of former Thurman conquests.

The last time the Clearwater, Florida native entered the ring, he defeated Garcia via split decision to unify the WBA and WBC titles. That was 22 months ago. While a lot has happened in the high-stakes 147 lb. glamour division since, the fighter once pegged as the “next big thing” in American boxing has been notably absent.

Thurman, 30, will change that this Saturday. He’s looking to make up for lost time with a stellar, headline-making performance atop a nationally-televised card.  

Thurman will be defending his WBA title versus Lopez. Not only is Keith considered one of the top fighters at welter, he is ranked among the best in boxing overall. He is gifted with great athleticism bolstered by an all-around solid skill set.

But, despite a nickname that promotes his one-punch power capabilities, Thurman is more of a boxer in temperament with solid, but not overwhelmingly, heavy hands.

He knows, however, that the quickest way back to the forefront of boxing fans’ minds is not via skillful unanimous decision, but with a brutal stoppage of a tough, game, veteran opponent.

"I feel great physically,” Thurman said. “We're working really hard and just getting back into everything we did before the injury. It feels tremendous and I'm so happy to be able to do this back in Brooklyn. January 26, you will see the return of the number one welterweight in the world.

"I'm going to remind everyone this year why I'm one of the baddest men on the planet. At the end of the day, I'm here to make a statement that 'One Time' is back.”

Josesito Lopez, meanwhile, will be showing up to ruin Thurman’s plans.

Playing the underdog spoiler is a familiar role for the Riverside, California fighter, nicknamed “The Riverside Rocky.” In 2012, as an 8-to-1 underdog, Lopez broke the jaw of heavily-favored Victor Ortiz to claim a stoppage victory.

Although he hasn’t always emerged victorious in his valiant underdog efforts over the course of 15-years as a pro, he’s brought some tough times to the likes of Ortiz, Saul Alvarez, Jessie Vargas, Marcos Maidana, and Andre Berto.

"I've been in this position before and I've never shied away from big battles,” Lopez said. “This is another big one and I'm going to be ready for it and become world champion…I don't need anyone to believe in me but myself. I'm going to give it my all to come out with that title."

On paper, Thurman-Lopez seems a fairly easy fight to predict. A more mobile, more talented Thurman should be able to safely outbox a straight-line, come-forward battler, especially one like Lopez, whose 34-year-old body has some mileage on it.

But Lopez is 3-0 since his 2015 TKO loss to Andre Berto and looked pretty solid in defeating prospect Miguel Cruz in April. Thurman, on the other hand, hasn’t had a real fight since March of 2017 and spent his downtime working around injuries and enjoying life as a newly married man.

Even in top form, with his skill and ability running on all cylinders, Thurman has shown vulnerability. As evidenced in his bouts with Luis Collazo and Shawn Porter, he can be hurt to the body and taken out of his game for extended periods of time. He can also be drawn into firefights that negate his edge in hand and foot speed.

All those liabilities play into Lopez’s strengths.

Ring rust might also be a major factor in a bout pitting a precision-minded boxer like Thurman against a battler like Lopez, who would benefit from a bit of sloppy chaos in the pursuit of an upset. If Lopez can get to Thurman early and keep the returning kingpin on the defensive from that point forward, a huge upset could be in play.

But if everything plays out true to form, Thurman will be looking to make a statement this Saturday with his performance against Lopez. He’ll be looking to tell the world—and all those at the top of the welterweight division—that the 147 lb. king is back and ready to re-seat himself on his throne.

For a closer look at Thurman vs Lopez, check out our fight page.

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