Keith Thurman ready to fight behind-closed doors
By Allan Fox: Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman says he won’t have qualms about fighting behind closed doors with live fans when boxing restarts this year. The former WBA/WBC welterweight champion Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) believes he’ll do well without fans being present when he sees action again.
It’s important for Thurman to come back strong in 2020 because he wants to recapture his lost WBA and WBC welterweight titles.
Thurman is coming off of a 12 round split decision defeat to boxing legend Manny Pacquiao on July 20. It was a fight that Thurman could have won had he not suffered a knockdown in round one. The judges scored it 115-112,115-112 for Pacquiao and 114-113 for Thurman.
That was a flash knockdown in which Pacquiao hit Thurman when he was backing up, and it knocked him over. Later in the fight, Pacquiao hurt Thurman with a body shot in the 10th.
If you take away those two instances, Thurman likely would have won the fight. Thurman was getting the better of Pacquiao in rounds one and ten, but with his bad luck, things went the other way.
The highly talented 31-year-old Thurman doesn’t have an opponent yet for his next fight in 2020, but that’s something that will be decided soon once boxing is given the green light.
For now, Thurman is putting his energy into coming back from surgery on his left hand. He wants to start light training with his left hand, and then work up to using it with full power.
Pacquiao fight came too soon for Keith
“It’s one of those situations of once you lose, they have to knock you down in the rankings,” said Thurman to Tobin. “Once when you’re not #1, who are you really? Being one of the top guys is very important in every sport. I know I’m one of the top, and I know I’m acknowledged as one of the top fighters in the welterweight division.
“It’s really hard to not. So really all I have to do is what I’ve always done and represented myself to the best of my ability. You know I’ve come off these challenging times. Let Keith Thurman get back to a position of power, strength, and health and see what develops with Keith Thurman.
“The Josesito Lopez fight was a tune-up fight, but was it enough? In retrospect, it was hard to say no to the Pacquiao fight. If I say ‘No’ to the Pacquiao fight on that date, do I ever get the Pacquiao fight in the future?” said Thurman.
The timing was bad for Thurman to face Pacquiao last July, as it was only the second fight for Keith in the last two years. Thurman was on the shelf with a hand and elbow injury from 2017 until 2019, when he came back against Josesito Lopez.
It wasn’t a good performance by Thurman in beating Josesito by a 12 round majority decision in January 2019. Lopez hurt Thurman in the seventh round, and he gave him problems with his power shots.
Thurman needed another two to three additional tune-up fights before he took on one of the top fighters at 147. But as Thurman says, he couldn’t turn the Pacquiao fight down because he may never have been given the chance again.
Thurman believes he can bounce back from loss
“This happens to fighters in their careers, and I believe the greatest of all champions can rise up again,” said Thurman. “That’s something that Floyd [Mayweather] never had to do. Floyd stayed #1 forever, but we’ve seen Sugar Ray Leonard get beat and come back.
“Other fighters throughout history have been beat, and they came back. Muhammad Ali, Tyson. Everybody wants to make a comeback. If you have greatness in you, then you can come back because it’s hard to take excellence away.
“As you say, it was a slip-up. It was a bad day. In football, they call it ‘any given Sunday.’ Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. That was a huge point of my career, but luckily for me, I’m not the age of Manny Pacquiao .
“I had it in my fight in coming back from the knockdown [in round one], and that’s what made it so entertaining. It wasn’t Keith Thurman got knocked down, and the fight was over.
“It was there was a tug and war. There was the real ‘I’m down, and I’m not out.’ I was a seven-time national champion as an amateur. I know what it’s like to lose and come back and show everybody that I’m capable of greatness once again,” said Thurman.
What Thurman needs is a few tune-ups fights against fringe contenders to get him ready for the likes of Pacquiao, Errol Spence Jr., Shawn Porter, and Danny Garcia. However, with Thurman’s popularity, he’ll likely be given lucrative offers from the management for the other top welterweights.
Fighting without fans no problem for ‘One Time’
“We don’t know when fans are going to be in arenas, but as long as they start mainstream sports in America like baseball, football, and soccer,” said Thurman in talking about the restart of boxing.
“They may not all get back right away on TV at the same exact time, but they’ll start trickling in. I think baseball will be one of the first ones that do it, in my opinion. I barely like being in the stands watching a game anyway.
“People will tune in. It’s a game, it’s live, and it can be recorded. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the sport. I’m open to performing in front of people via TV without the arena.
“Of course, it’ll feel different, especially for me coming off the Pacquiao performance. It was one of the most amazing, electric, and so much energy, and you could feel that. Fighters do so much training in the gym, and we do so much that fans didn’t get to see and witness.
“The moment you put a man and another man in the ring, and you say, ‘Box,’ they’re boxing, you know? But somebody like me, and I can’t speak for all fighters, but someone like me,
“I’ll still put forth my best foot, even without someone witnessing. I want to perform and make a statement to the person I’m fighting more than to the fans,” said Thurman.
It doesn’t sound like Thurman is concerned with fighting behind closed doors. Thurman will be losing money from the gate for his fights. However, it might be the only way that he can stay active during the short term.
Thurman feels confident about his left hand
“The [left] hand surgery has been really great, and this time has left me focus and let that rest,” said Thurman when asked about his injuries. “The wrist action feels really great.
“So I’m looking forward to hitting the heavy bag. That’s something I haven’t been able to do and make solid contact with my left hand. Just when I was getting ready to start light contact, that’s when it [the pandemic] hit. We shut down the gym.
“Next week, I’m going to come back to the gym because they opened up fitness centers, but there are certain rules and regulations. Our gym is tiny in comparison to a fitness center.
“So we don’t want to let amateurs back in quite yet, but when it comes to me moving around, I believe I can step into a gym with a one-man show, wipe the gym down, and I think it’ll be OK.
“Hopefully, when I take this [left hand] through the stages. I’m not worried about the first stage or the second stage. I’m concerned about the heavy-hitting. Is my left hook going to be as strong as it was?
“Am I going to be 100 percent? Fighters like Floyd Mayweather, he had hand issues. That’s one reason why he didn’t get knockouts anymore throughout his career, and he focused on finessing to get a lot of his victories.
“So am I going to have to work the jab and soften up my hook and do the heavy-hitting with my right hand? Is there going to be a change in my style due to my health? I’m going to be challenging everybody 100% to the best of my ability,” said Thurman.
Keith may need to become a finesse fighter to avoid reinjuring his left hand.
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