In recent months we have seen the two leading champions in the welterweight division defend their titles against Kell Brook and Danny Garcia respectively. One former belt holder says those opponents are an inferior product to himself.
“Sometimes a cheap product is that a cheap product. Another product that is expensive is the higher quality product. That’s just how I view myself.”
Keith Thurman was referring to Kell Brook, Danny Garcia and Bob Arum when he spoke to Boxing Social recently. Two fighters and a promoter that have been in amongst the column inches regarding the 147lbs class. Brook and Garcia were handled comfortably by champions Terence Crawford and Errol Spence towards the tail end of 2020.
The “higher quality product”, Thurman, took to Instagram and its Live function not that long ago to lay into Crawford’s promoter Bob Arum. The Top Rank supremo and the 32-year-old have different ideas when it comes to the valuation of ‘One Time’. The back and forth has resulted in strong words and nothing more.
“At the end of the day I think Bob Arum has a certain budget for opponents and I just don’t think he wants to budge from that,” says Thurman. “I don’t think he wants to recognise if talent is worthy of x, y and z. I think he’s just playing a mathematical game and he wants to keep everything in a certain box. You pay Keith Thurman you’re going to get a way better fight. You get what you pay for sometimes.”
It has been 18 months since Thurman dropped his WBA title to Manny Pacquiao, the only loss in his career, in an action-packed fight that proved the fountain of youth still has a 42-year-old regular customer. The split decision verdict and competitive nature of the fight inevitably and rightly led to calls for a rematch.
“Pacquiao definitely doesn’t want ‘One-Time’ two-time, he doesn’t even talk about it, but I still want my [WBA] belt,” said Thurman.
“I still want to be champion so at the end of the day I’m just in a little bit of an awkward situation. People could fight Keith Thurman, but do they wanna fight Keith Thurman? Are they gonna fight Keith Thurman? I don’t know.”
In 2021, we will see Thurman back in the ring. Hand surgery and Covid-19 have delayed his return. It is anybody’s guess who his 31st opponent will be. Thurman was clear on who he wanted to face if not next then definitely this year.
“I want Errol Spence; I don’t see why he doesn’t want to fight me. I think we can make a great fight happen; I think it would be one of the most exciting fights of the year. Highly anticipated. Just one of the biggest matchups.”
He added: “I want great fights, that’s what I like. I like great fights; I like action at 147. I like fighting the best fighters in the world, it’s something I’ve been doing my whole career so I’m just waiting for the opportunity. If I’ve got to take a stay busy fight, then so be it. I feel good and I love to showcase my skills and talents against the best fighters in the world. I’m just waiting to see what kind of opportunities open up, what kind of negotiations we can get into.”
Fans may have noticed that Thurman’s signature hairstyle has been clipped and cropped for a new shorter look.
“For me it’s symbolic,” he says.
This was in part an answer to the chat about his own 2020. Thurman has adapted to a new way of life like we have all had to.
“We gotta be able to change and just move on into the future whatever it may hold. The one thing you can do, you can’t control the world, but you can control yourself so that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to be better than I ever have been with myself, by myself, with my team, everything that I can possibly do to manifest better fights once I get back in the ring.”
The Floridian has had time to reflect. Such as how he could better himself, his weight management and playing his part to better the world has been at the forefront of his thoughts. Thurman can strike up a conversation that goes down a different path to what you initially started off with. One or two sentences don’t do it for him. It’s fascinating and engaging. It’s what makes him one of boxing’s more colourful personalities.
“I worked with an interesting team of people that work with athletes, some that are concussion-based athletes like [American] football players. I got put on to a few different protocols. I started doing ice baths. There’s been a lot of studies and talks about what this does for the body, the brain and the whole complex and to feel good. It’s weird to say but apparently there’s some good stress out there in the world. You don’t want to be in this cold ice tub but what it does to the brain mentally is it helps you endure higher levels of stress which in retrospect can help you in your everyday life when someone cuts you off in the road and screams at you all of a sudden. No pun intended but you’re cool headed.
“The year has really been rough on a lot of people’s families. I’ve been taking care of my own family. My city is still thriving here in the south. We’ve got beautiful sun out; it almost feels like winter is leaving. It feels like it’s warming up every day. I know spring hasn’t hit yet but we got some good weather out here in Florida. People are still riding their bikes, jogging outside, sitting down in restaurants, doing a lot of outside dining. People feel less intimidated with Covid in the fresh air and close environments. The gym was closed for a while [so I was] doing a lot of self-workouts. I even have a little bit of regimen now that I do a lot more by myself just because of what happened with Covid. It’s not a bad thing. We’re out here doing the best we can and trying to be mentally strong, ready for change.”
The philosophies, the new hairstyle, the Instagram Live are all well and good but we need Thurman back in the ring. On his day with the right mentality, he is still one of the best welterweights in the world. Write him off against your peril on such a day against Crawford or Spence. His fights against Pacquiao, Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter are some of the best drama the welterweight class has seen in the last five years.
“I feel like I’m the greatest competition for any welterweight,” he says. “I don’t think it gets any better than Keith Thurman just because of the way I fight, what I’m going to bring into the ring and the magnitude and intensity… knock me down I get up with a smile. I get right back in your face. No quit in me. I’m always loving a great fight, always looking for a great fight, I love going toe-to-toe, blow for blow and I just think my action is unprecedented. I really do. I think you can put a lot of great fighters in with other great fighters and you’re not going to get the kind of great fight that you’ll get when that great fighter fights Keith Thurman. I’m old school. Put me in the ring and let’s get it done.”